• Ebola Syndrome (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: November 26th, 2021.
    Director: Herman Yau
    Cast: Anthony Wong, Miu-Ying Chan, Edward Corbett, Meng Lo, Lori Shannon
    Year: 1996
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Ebola Syndrome – Movie Review:

    Kai San (Anthony Wong of The Untold Story and Infernal Affairs) is caught having an affair with his boss’ wife and when he’s caught by his employer, he winds up killing the both of them and going on the run. A few years later we find Kai working in a Chinese restaurant somewhere in Africa and while on a routine mission to buy some meat he comes across a very sick village woman. Sweetheart that he is, Kai brutally rapes the helpless woman and soon finds out that payback is a bitch – he’s contracted the deadly Ebola Virus!

    Luckily for Kai and not so luckily for everyone else, Kai is one of those rare people whose genes just don’t subside to the virus, meaning that he can carry it and give it to people but that it won’t kill him like it would ninety-nine percent of the world’s population. When he figures this out, he runs with it and uses his ‘gift’ to rape, kill and steal his way back to his homeland in Hong Kong. Once he’s home, however, Kai finds that it’s not so easy to give up on his devious ways. Soon he draws the attention of the local police who, once they find out about him, make it a priority to bring him in before he infects even more people.

    Completely tasteless and as crass as crass can be, Ebola Syndrome pulls no punches dealing with a reasonably sensitive subject in the most exploitative way possible. Front and center in all of this is Anthony Wong, who had previously worked with director Herman Yau on the notorious and exceptionally well made The Untold Story. In this film, as in quite a few others, Wong seems to revel in his character’s inherent nastiness, completely throwing himself into the role as if it were the part he was born to play. He’s absolutely over the top in every way he should be and it’s this manic intensity that he brings to the screen that makes the movie so much goofy, gory fun. That said, the script certainly affords Wong every opportunity to ham it up and sleazify things quite nicely, allowing Wong plenty of chances to strut his stuff and prove himself the undisputed King of Cat III Cinema! The rest of the cast are fairly unremarkable but it matters very little as this is Wong’s show all the way.

    Yau’s direction is solid from start to finish as the film moves along at a very quick pace. Rarely do more than a few minutes pass before he brings us the next atrocity to ogle. The camera leaves little to the imagination, as the film piles on the gore and the nudity with reckless abandon, leering tastelessly at the results of Wong’s mayhem. Even if the script (which is as ripe with plot holes as it is with nastiness) is a bit goofy, the film throws it all in our face with such nasty glee that it’s hard not to enjoy it and revel in it along with the filmmakers. It’s gross, it’s gory, and it’s great.

    Note that the previous DVD release from Discotek Media included a selection of deleted scenes from the film. For this new release, those deleted scenes have been put back into the film, which is why they’re not included in the extra features. This extended version of Ebola Syndrome runs 1:40:28 and in this version you get to see Wong gets his face pissed on, see him cut out a woman's tongue, beat someone with a rock, gouge out some dude's eyes, beat someone's head into a door, get head from a very pretty lady in a black bra and much, much more.

    Ebola Syndrome – UHD Review:

    This UHD 4k upgrade of Ebola Syndrome arrives in an HEVC encoded 2160p high definition transfer with HDR framed at 1.85.1 widescreen “newly scanned and restored in 4k from its original camera negative.” Not surprisingly, this is a pretty hefty upgrade over the past DVD editions. The colors look much better here, bright and bold without looking oversaturated at all, and the increase in detail is very substantial, not just in close up shots but in medium and long distance ones as well. Skin tones look perfectly natural and we get strong black levels too. There’s a load of depth and texture here, and while the film’s natural graininess is preserved, there isn’t much in the way of print damage at all, the picture is pretty much pristine.

    The only audio option for this release is a 24-bit Chinese language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, with optional subtitles offered in English and English SDH. No problems to note here, the audio quality is very good. The track is properly balanced and it doesn’t have any issues to discuss. There’s strong clarity here and good depth, particularly when it comes to the score, and the track is free of any noticeable hiss, distortion or sibilance.

    Extras start off with a new commentary from Samm Deighan where she covers why the film is important to her, being the first Cat III film she ever saw, and who this version includes some of the cut scenes that have been put back into the movie when it was originally censored during its initial release. She goes over the marketing of the film, what the Cat III rating is and how it functions as a genre in a way, and she offers plenty of detail about the lives and careers of both Anthony Wong and Herman Yau. As the track progresses, she discusses Wong's presence in so many of the better and more notorious Cat III films, the use of dark humor in the movie, thoughts on Wong's character in the movie and more.

    We also get a new introduction by Herman Yau that runs thirty-five seconds and which sees the director expressing his joy over the film getting this release. More subnational is a new interview with Herman Yau that runs for twenty-two minutes. Here he goes over the Hong Kong filmmaking scene of the early nineties and how busy it was in its heyday, working in the different category III films he's known for and the significance and history of that notorious rating, whether or not Ebola Syndrome is a parody of Cat III films or not, working with Wong Jing, collaborating with Puccini Yu and Chau Ting, improvisation on the set during the shoot, working with Wong, how the movie was received and quite a bit more.

    Cantonese With Dr. Yau is a new featurette with Yau that goes over the difficulties of translating Cantonese into English. This segment runs twelve minutes and in it Yau talks about reading the subtitles himself and having someone who is very good in English to work on them - but how in Ebola Syndrome this didn't happen, which is why the original subtitles that the film was released with were so off. He then talks to the interviewer about some of the translations and answers some questions about them.

    There are also a few archival extras here, starting with a commentary track from director Herman Yau and star Anthony Wong. Conducted in Chinese but subtitled in English, these two have obviously got a good relationship as they joke around a fair bit while talking about shooting the film, some of the effects work and casting the picture. Each participant gets roughly the same amount of air time, neither really dominates the track, and it's a quick paced and interesting discussion.

    We also get an archival interview with Herman Yau who is joined here by Anthony Wong (who leaves his black sunglasses on the entire time). Yau speaks in English about the powerful opening scene, whether or not the film is a parody, how Wong Jing came on board the project, and much more. This video interview, presented in fullframe, runs fifteen and a half minutes in total.

    This release also comes with a Blu-ray release of the film taken from the same new restoration and featuring the same extras. Packed away inside the keepcase is a full color twenty-page insert booklet that features an essay on Herman Yau by Ariel Esteban Cayer as well as a transcription of a roundtable discussion about the film with Yau, Wong, cult film programmer Cheng Yu Shing, Hong Kong Cult Film Festival programmer William Yuen and commentator Andy Willis. Additionally, this release comes with some slick reversible cover art and a very nice embossed slipcover.

    Note that the two commentary tracks are included on the UHD but the rest of the extras are only on the Blu-ray disc.

    Ebola Syndrome – The Final Word:

    A true classic of the Hong Kong Cat III exploitation era, Vinegar Syndrome gives Ebola Syndrome a ridiculously strong release. The film looks better than it ever has on home video up to this point, much better than the already nice DVD release from Discotek Media from 2007, and it carries over all of the extras from that release and throws some new ones into the mix as well. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Ebola Syndrome Blu-ray screen caps!