• Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin (88 Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: February 11th, 2019.
    Director: Chi Chen-hwa
    Cast: Jackie Chan, Nora Miao, Cheng-Lan Chin, Yung-Kuo Li, Ya Yung Liu, Kam Kong
    Year: 1978
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    Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin – Movie Review:

    Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin features a lot less comedy than most of Jackie Chan’s better known movies. In the movie, which opens with a seriously cool training sequence where Jackie shows off some of his best moves in front of a dramatic red backdrop, there’s a book written by eight masters that details ‘The Eight Steps Of The Snake And Crane.’ The knowledge contained therein would give anyone some serious kung-fu chops as it details not only the moves, but the training required for pull them off as well. As such, you can see how this book might wind up in high demand.

    Well wouldn’t you know it, soon enough the book lands in the lap of Su Yin-fong (Jackie Chan), a young martial artist who masters the techniques it holds. When word gets out that he’s got the book, it seems like every fighter in the area wants to take it from him, no matter the cost. As members of various clans confront him, he fights them off. It soon comes to light, however, that the real reason Su got the book in the first place was because his master is the only surviving member of the original eight and he wants his help in hunting down the men who killed off his fellow masters…

    There are some pacing issues here but Chan is in fine form and the final battle, which features Master Of The Flying Guillotine’s Kam Kong, is a lot of fun. The story is very much by the numbers, it really only serves to move the film along from one martial arts set piece to the next, but as the set pieces are decent enough, some won’t mind this so much. It doesn’t wind up being a particularly deep movie but it features a final battle strong enough to make this one worthwhile, and as an early showcase for Chan’s abilities it’s very impressive. There are some great hand to hand scenes here as well as some impressive moments where different weapons are used in some fairly creative ways.

    Director Chi Chen-hwa paces the movie well and the film is fairly well shot, even if the visuals never really reach the heights you might want them to. The production values don’t stand as exceptional or as particularly poor, they are merely average. Widely regarded as a transitional movie for Chan, in that he was perched somewhere between the early serious roles he would be cast in and the more comedic roles that would eventually make him famous, this is worth seeing and quite entertaining if you’re not in an especially demanding mood and in the right frame of mind for some light action.

    Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin – Blu-ray Review:

    Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin arrives on Blu-ray from 88 Films taken from a ‘2018 2K Scan from the original camera negative’ and framed in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35.1 with the feature taking up just over 33GBs of space on the 50GB disc. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer is not perfect, but it’s certainly better than past DVD editions of the movie. Skin tones look a tad pink and there’s some noticeable digital noise reduction evident throughout, though it stops short of making this transfer a wax-fest the way that the worst offenders can and do, and it is more sporadic than it is constant. Black levels are decent enough and color reproduction isn’t bad at all. There’s some noticeable print damage in spots but it isn’t drastic, neither is the crush that you may or may not spot in some of the darker scenes. You do have to wonder if the first fight scene was sourced from a different element than the rest of the movie as it has a green tint to it that is thankfully not present on the rest of the film and it also shows a bit more noticeable color fading. The final fight also looks more faded than the bulk of the film. Overall though, this looks decent and provides a nice upgrade over how the film has been treated in the past and clearly the materials that were available were less than ideal – given that, this is a pretty solid effort on 88’s part.

    88 Films goes all out and provides six different 24-bit audio options here:

    -DTS-HD Original English Mono Audio
    -DTS-HD MA English 5.1 Re-Mixed Audio
    -DTS-HD Original Mandarin Mono Audio
    -DTS-HD MA Mandarin 5.1 Re-Mixed Audio
    -DTS-HD MA Cantonese Stereo Audio

    The Mandarin Mono track would seem to be the closest approximation to the film’s originally intended sound mix and it sounds decent, if never amazing. The 5.1 option will be familiar to those who have followed 5.1 remixes from Hong Kong on vintage titles hitting DVD and Blu-ray, it’s not quite accurate and unnecessarily messed with. The mono track, while less than perfect, is synched fairly well and, if never perfectly clean sounding, it’s close enough. The Cantonese dubs are there for those who want them and the English options will no doubt provide a bit of a nostalgia rush for anyone who first saw the film via the different dubbed releases that have come out over the years. The Mandarin Mono track is legitimately the best and most accurate option here, however. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided.

    Extras? Pick Your Poison is a nineteen-minute interview with Hong Kong cinema expert Rick Baker, where he notes that when the movie came out, western audiences in the late 70’s didn’t really know the names of the martial arts stars, how the movie introduced a new way to begin the film with its opening sequence, the importance of the introduction of the eight masters in the film and how the action rarely pauses in the film. He also covers some of the more subtle aspects of the physicality of Chan’s performance in the picture, some of the other cast members that appear in the film, Chi Chen-hwa’s direction and the importance of his role in shaping Chan’s career, Lo Wei’s involvement in the film, the film’s release history and much more.

    Jackie Chan: Looking Again At The Lo Wei Era is a ten-minute featurette that includes input from filmmaker Steve Lawson, who starts off talking about the influence of Chan’s films on his own work before then talking about collecting his films in the 80’s when there wasn’t a lot of info around about them and how the quality of the pre-1980 films always looked terrible on home video and didn’t provide the comedic cops and robbers stories that his more popular films did. He then goes on to share his appreciation of Chan’s early work in the Lo Wei productions, starting with New Fist Of Fury and then Dragon Fist, To Kill With Intrigue and others as well as Lo Wie’s triad connections and skills as a director.

    A still gallery, menus and chapter selection finish off the extra on the disc itself. As to the packaging, we get a reversible cover sleeve with new artwork by The Dude Designs on one side and the original Hong Kong poster artwork on the opposite side. The first pressing also came with a slipcover that used The Dude Designs’ artwork on it. A set of collectible postcards is also included with the first pressing.

    Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin – The Final Word:

    Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin isn’t Jackie Chan’s best film but it’s a decent enough hour and a half of action-intensive entertainment with some solid fight sequences and some colorful characters. 88 Films’ Blu-ray release isn’t perfect, the transfer is far from immaculate, but compared to previous editions of the film it’s quite a nice step up in terms of quality and the extras are pretty decent too.

    Click on the images below for full sized Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Killer Meteor's Avatar
      Killer Meteor -
      Love, LOVE this film! If only 88Films included proper subtitles...