DirectorJimmy Wang Yu
Release Date(s)1970 (November 9, 2021)
Studio(s)Shaw Brothers Studio/Celestial Pictures (88 Films)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: C
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: B-
[Editor's Note: This is a REGION A and B release.]
Nearly a year prior to Bruce Lee’s reinvention of Hong Kong martial arts cinema, Jimmy Wang Yu had beaten him to the punch (so to speak) with The Chinese Boxer. Yu—who is mostly known for the One-Armed Swordsman films and Brian Trenchard-Smith’s The Man from Hong Kong—wrote, directed, and starred in this silver screen slice of chopsockey. It features much more violence and bloodshed than most of its ilk at the time (predating The Street Fighter starring Sonny Chiba by several years), while also maintaining a run-of-the-mill story of redemption and revenge that many other Asian films featured at the time. A sequel was made several years later, but the original film was particularly influential on not just Bruce Lee, but on the genre itself.
In a small peaceful village, a martial arts school is in practice when a man enters, challenging the school’s master and his students. He’s initially defeated, but vows to return with a group of men who know the deadly art of karate. Days later, he does just that. They kill nearly all of the students and their master, unknowingly leaving one of them, Lei Ming (Jimmy Wan Yu), alive. With everyone out of their way, the deadly gang takes over the village and its gambling parlor, bleeding it dry and terminating anyone who gets in their way. Ming, who has been slowly regaining his health in seclusion, waits for his revenge. He trains himself by building great strength into his hands, and combined with his fighting skill, it gives him a greater chance of stopping them.
The Chinese Boxer was shot by cinematographer Shan Hau on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and framed at the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. 88 Films brings the film to Region A and B Blu-ray with what is advertised as a “HD remaster from the original 35 mm negatives,” which according to the copyright, was produced in 2004. Most fans will be more than pleased with the presentation. It offers newfound clarity in the image, as well as a stronger color palette. Where it lacks is in its textures and contrast. The latter seems a tad too high most of the time. Grain is almost non-existent as the overall image appears to have been filtered with excessive DNR. It’s definitely excessive as details on skin, costumes, and environments are robbed of their finer textures, appearing waxy at times. What little grain there is tends to freeze occasionally. So while it’s definitely a bump up in quality, it doesn’t look very organic. Even the opening titles have been digitally recreated. There’s also extremely mild speckling leftover.
Audio options included English and Mandarin 2.0 Mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English. Both tracks feature the same score, but differ slightly when it comes to sound effects. For instance, the sounds of hammers hitting rocks in the quarry at the beginning echo on the Mandarin track, but sound more natural to their environment on the English track. The English track is also brighter with more apparent hiss, while the Mandarin track is more narrow with less punch to it, and also a bit quieter. The dubbing is louder on the English track as well. Each has its own personality, but both are satisfactory.
The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary with Samm Deighan
- One Hand Combat: David West on The Chinese Boxer (HD – 17:29)
- Wong Ching at Shaw: An Interview with Wong Ching (HD – 13:46)
- US Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:01)
- Hong Kong Trailer (HD – 4:04)
- English Trailer (Upscaled HD – 3:08)
- US TV Spot (HD – :31)
Writer and film critic Samm Deighan provides an audio commentary, offering her thoughts on the film, discussing Jimmy Wang Yu’s career, and analyzing many of the film’s facets. She hardly ever stops, providing a fairly breathless and well-researched commentary track. In One Hand Combat, film critic and journalist David West discusses the film and compares it to other films of the era in detail, specifically how it was one of the first Mandarin-speaking films to focus on hand-to-hand combat. Wong Ching at Shaw speaks to the martial arts actor at a restaurant about his career. The rest of the extras consist of three trailers and a TV spot, a couple of which present the film with its US release title The Hammer of God.
The disc sits inside a clear amaray case with double-sided artwork featuring new artwork by “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien on the front and the original Hong Kong poster art on the other. Also included is a 24-page insert booklet containing the essay Hong Kong’s Famous Fight Life by Andrew Graves, stills from the film, and a special thanks page. Next to it is a double-sided poster featuring the same artwork options. Everything is housed within a slipcover featuring the same new artwork.
The lineage of influence that The Chinese Boxer has today can be traced directly to Quentin Tarantino, who took a number of Asian film influences for the Kill Bill series, including this one. Jimmy Wang Yu’s legacy as more of a theatrical fighter than Bruce Lee is firmly established, but the Blu-ray release features a presentation that leaves a little to be desired. The extras and the packaging are great, and for longtime Shaw Brothers fans, they should be mostly happy overall.
- Tim Salmons