• Big Trouble In Little China (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: December 3rd, 2019.
    Director: John Carpenter
    Cast: Kurt Russell, James Hong, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, Kate Burton, Victor Wong, Suzee Pai
    Year: 1986
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    Big Trouble In Little China – Movie Review:

    In John Carpenter’s 1986 classic Big Trouble In Little China, frequent Carpenter collaborator Kurt Russell plays Jack Burton, a tough guy truck driver and the owner of a big rig dubbed ‘The Pork-Chop Express.’ After he makes a stop in Chinatown, he winds up connecting with his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), who loses to Jack in a card game. Jack wants his money, but Wang doesn’t have it – though he promises to get it for him right after he goes to the airport to pick up his fiancé! Jack doesn’t trust him, so he decides he’ll accompany his pal to the airport, to make sure he pays up once this is dealt with.

    Of course, at the airport, things quickly spiral out of control when Wang’s lady friend, the beautiful green-eyed Miao Yin (Suzee Pai), gets grabbed by a group of Chinese gangsters. Jack and Wang give chase, but it’s too late and they make off with their captive. Soon enough, Wang figures out that she’s been kidnapped by a two-thousand-year-old sorcerer named Lo Pan (James Hong), who needs to marry a green-eyed Chinese woman to retrieve his new body and in turn prolong his life – but ol’ Jack Burton isn’t about to let that happen to his best friend’s girl. Shortly thereafter, the two guys team up with Gracie Law (Kim Cattrell), a lawyer with a connection to all of this, and a tour bus driver/sorcerer named Egg Shen (Victor Wong) to make their way into Lo Pan’s compound and hopefully get Miao Yin back before it’s too late!

    A B-movie with a budget, this one has it all – brave heroics, a beautiful damsel in distress, magic, martial arts, action aplenty, great set design, dastardly villains and a lot of very effective comedy as well. Carpenter and company channel pulp influences into one of the most entertaining genre mash-ups of the eighties, blending kung-fu movie action and fantasy/sci-fi elements funneled through the traits of what is essentially a modern day western. The set and costume design work all compliments this perfectly and the direction is tight and stylish.

    At the center of all of this, is Kurt Russell. Having worked with Carpenter a few times at this point in his career, he’s exactly the right choice to play Jack Burton. He’s dashing in his way, but also the perfect smart ass. A somewhat noble hero who is, on the surface at least, out for himself but still more than willing to help out his pals when they need him. Russell not only carries the film, he makes it look easy. The supporting cast is also top notch. Kim Cattrell is as good foil to Russell’s Burton, they have great chemistry here. Likewise, the back and forth between Russell and Dun is also handled really well, they make a great team. Victor Wong steals more than a few scenes as the surly, and very unlikely, magician whose powers rival Lo Pan’s own while James Hong flat out rules as the film’s main villain.

    Big Trouble In Little China – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings Big Trouble In Little China to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. Detail is quite good and there’s strong depth and texture to the image. Shout! Factory hasn’t advertised this as a new scan and it looks like this was the same source used for the Arrow Blu-ray release in the UK, but regardless, it looks nice. There’s no print damage to note, the image is super clean, and there are no noticeable problems with compression issues, edge enhancement or noise reduction. Colors look great and black levels are strong as well.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track on the disc is a strong one. Dialogue is always easy to understand and follow, the score sounds great, and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras are spread across the two discs in the set as follows:

    Disc One:

    There are two new audio commentary tracks on disc one, the first of which is with producer Larry Franco moderate by Justin Beahm. It’s an interesting talk that covers how he got into the entertainment industry, some of the early projects that he worked on, climbing the ladder, getting to know Carpenter and then working with him on this picture and lots more. The second new commentary is with special effects artist Steve Johnson, moderated by filmmaker Anthony C. Ferrante. Lots of talk here about how Johnson got his start in the effects business, some of the people that he worked with along the way, his training and background, meeting and collaborating with Carpenter on this project, what it was like on set, how some of the more impressive set pieces featured in the film were put together and more.

    Carried over from past editions is the excellent audio commentary with Carpenter and Kurt Russell. This was on the DVD and past Blu-ray editions but if you haven’t heard it before, like their other collaborative tracks it’s a lot of fun. Also carried over is a six-minute interview with John Carpenter where he gives a quick overview of the movie before talking about the stunts, effects and working with Russell again. The twenty-seven-minute Electronic Press Kit has a nice selection of vintage interviews with the cast and crew members, including Kim Cattrell (her only appearance in any of the extras on this release).

    The rest of the extras on disc one are also archival, including the film’s isolated score, seven-minutes of theatrical trailers, three-minutes of TV spots, a three-minute gag reel, a music video courtesy of The Coupe De Villes, eight different deleted scenes, the three-minute extended ending and a massive selection of still gallery material.

    Disc Two:

    Disc two has a lot of new material on it, starting with You’re The Hero, an interview with actor Dennis Dun that runs fourteen-minutes. He talks about how he got into acting, some of his career highlights and what it was like to collaborate with Carpenter, Russell and Hong. Speaking of, in The Soul Of Lo Pan James Hong himself shows up for a great twenty-four-minute piece where he goes into quite a bit of detail about how he got into acting, his childhood, some of the breaks he got along the way, landing the role in this film and what it was like on set. Great stuff. Able To Be Myself interviews actor Donald Li for eighteen-minutes. He talks about his character, getting the part, being inspired by none other than Robert DeNiro, working with Carpenter and the different cast members and more. The Tao Of Thunder gets actor Carter Wong on camera for twenty-six-minutes to talk about getting his start in the industry, getting his first big Hollywood part in Year Of The Dragon, landing his role in Big Trouble and what he’s been up to since then (he’s kept pretty busy!). The Tao Of Rain spends twenty-nine-minutes with actor Peter Kwong where we learn how he got his start as an actor, his family background, the early days of his career and then landing bigger parts like the one he got in Big Trouble. The Hatchet Man Speaks gets actor Al Leong on camera to talk about moving to L.A., his training and the role he played in the film for just over six-minutes. Damn Wiley Prescott sees writer W.D. Richter talks for twenty-one-minutes about working on The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai before then jumping onto Big Trouble In Little China, what the story was like before he got his hands on it, changes that he was required to make and how he helped shape the film into the movie that it turned out to be. It Was A Western Ghost interviews writer Gary Goldman for twenty-eight-minutes about his work on the screenplay, selling the story to the studio and what changed along the way. The Poetry Of Motion sees associate producer/martial arts choreographer James Lew talk about what went into helping out with so much of the fight choreography featured in the film and how his training helped him prepare for this. Into The Mystic Night gets The Coupe De Ville’s own Nick Castle to sit down for thirteen-minutes about his relationship with Carpenter, his musical training, the history of the band and how they wound up working on this picture. Since We Were Kids speaks with Tommy Lee Wallace, who was the second unit director and also a member of The Coupe De Ville’s, for twenty-nine-minutes. He got into a lot of detail here about his musical background and the band but also his relationship with Carpenter, as they’ve known each other for years and years. The last of the new interviews is Love And Art, which is a seventeen-minute conversation with movie poster artist Drew Struzan about his background and the work that he did on Big Trouble In Little China’s awesome poster.

    From there, a whole lot more archival featurettes are lined up, taken from the Arrow UK release. Return To Little China is another interview with Carpenter that runs twelve-minutes. It covers some of the same ground as his commentary but it’s always fun to see him pop up. Being Jack Burton is as twenty-one-minute interview Kurt Russell where he speaks very candidly about his role, working with Russell and the rest of the crew and his thoughts on the film. Carpenter And I interviews director of photography Dean Cundey for sixteen-minutes about his long standing relationship with Carpenter and working on this and other pictures with him. Producing Big Trouble spends fifteen-minutes with producer Larry Franco discussing how he came on board, working with Carpenter and his thoughts on the movie.
    Staging Big Trouble is a twelve-minute piece with stuntman Jeff Imada who, as you’d guess, talks about how he came on board the picture and some of the stunt work that was required of him. It’s quite interesting, stuntmen don’t typically get the recognition they deserve in extras like this. We also get a thirteen-minute interview with visual effects artist Richard Edlund that covers his work on the picture.

    Last but not least, there’s a seven-minute vintage featurette included here that includes some nice behind the scenes footage. Both discs include menus and chapter selection is provided for the feature attraction. Shout! Factory includes some slick reversible cover art as well as a slipcover (for the first pressing only).

    Big Trouble In Little China – The Final Word:

    Big Trouble In Little China is a blast from start to finish, a picture that packs an insane amount of fun into its hundred-minute running time and a film full of awesome characters and set pieces. Shout! Factory has gone all-out with their special edition two-disc set, presenting the film in very nice shape, with great audio and with a ridiculous amount of genuinely interesting and engaging extra features. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Big Trouble In Little China Blu-ray screen caps!