Hong Kong Digital is sponsored by ...
Please see the Hong Kong Digital home page for a special offer from Poker Industries to Hong Kong Digital readers.

December 3rd, 2001 Issue #85a

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

NOTE: The review for NEW LEGEND OF SHAOLIN has been excerpted from The Hong Kong Filmography. Information about the DVD edition, written specifically for Hong Kong Digital, follows.

New Legend Of Shaolin
(1994; Upland Films Corporate)

Cover art courtesy Universe.

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Hung Hei-kwun ji siu lam ng jo
Mandarin: Hong Xiguan zhi shao lin wu zu
English: Hung Hei-kwun: The Five Founders of Shaolin or Hong Xiguan: The Five Founders of Shaolin

Cinematographer: Tom Lau Moon-tong
Art Director: Raymond Lee King-man
Music: Wong Bong
Producer: Pui Cheung-chuen
Action Director: Corey Yuen Kwai
Writer / Director: Wong Jing
Cast: Jet Li Lianjie (Hung Hey-kwun), Chingmy Yau Suk-ching (Red Bean), Xie Miao (Hung Man-ting), Deanie Yip Tak-han (Red Bean's Mother), Johnny Wang Lung-wei (Commander), Chen Sung-yung (Ma Kai-sin), Chi Chuen-hua (Ma Ling-yee), Damian Lau Chung-yan (Chan Kan-nam)
VHS: Tai Seng, SYS / Youngtze (Dubbed)
Import LD / VCD: Star Entertainment
94 minutes

This Jet Li-Wong Jing collaboration is very much along the same lines of LAST HERO IN CHINA and KUNG FU CULT MASTER, offering up an exciting mix of kung fu action and lowbrow humor. Martial arts master Hung Hey-kwun and his equally adept seven-year-old son, Hung Man-ting, fight for the rebellious Heaven and Earth Society in their battle against the tyrannical government. Hung is charged with protecting five young Shaolin students, who have portions of a treasure map tattooed on their backs. When the map is assembled, it reveals the location of a great cache of gold, which H & E needs to finance their efforts. While working as a bodyguard for a rather thick rich man, Hung and son must contend with "The Notorious Mother and Daughter," conniving thieves who use their wiles and kung fu skills to fleece unsuspecting men. However, their greatest threat is Hey-kwun's old enemy, Ma Ling-yee, now a mutated and seemingly invincible madman, who rides around in a silver, beetle-shaped "car"!

Chingmy Yau and Jet Li. Image courtesy Universe.

In addition to the usual genre components, Wong Jing cribs a famous scene from the Japanese Lone Wolf and Cub series, where Hung offers his baby boy the chance to choose between a rocking horse (which means that he wishes to join his mother in Heaven) or a sword (which means he wants to fight at his father's side). There is also an uninspired reprisal of the famous "embroidery kung fu" bout between Kwan Tak-hing and Fung Hark-on from DREADNAUGHT. Jet Li's character is stoic in the extreme but he plays the role very well and Xie Miao (who would play Li's son again in MY FATHER IS A HERO) is equally impressive. The script's excesses are a bit much (and not only in regards to the Ma Ling-yee character) but, if you approach the film with that in mind, chances are you will be sufficiently entertained by the high flying, fantasy-oriented kung fu and amiable presentation. Damian Lau reprises his Chan Kan-nam character from Wong's ROYAL TRAMP films and the director himself makes an unlikely but amusing cameo in the final moments. The soundtrack includes some music recycled from LAST HERO IN CHINA.

DVD Specs:

Universe #5892
Dolby Digital 5.1
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synched)
Optional Subtitles In English or Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
8 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Clips
Letterboxed (1.90:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
94 Minutes
Contains brutal martial arts violence and some crude humor

DVD menu courtesy Universe.

Film Board Ratings and Consumer Advice

Australia: M (Medium Level Violence)
British Columbia: 14YRS (Frequent Violence)
Hong Kong: II [would be IIB if rating were updated]
Ontario: R (Brutal Violence)
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]


In the time since I originally wrote the above review, THE NEW LEGEND OF SHAOLIN has been issued on DVD by China Star, Tai Seng, and now Universe. The first two replicated the old Star Entertainment laserdisc transfer, a mediocre rendition with the original theatrical subtitles. The China Star version (now out-of-print) was plagued by authoring flaws that prevented the disc from playing properly on some machines, while Tai Seng's release reportedly suffered from a poor image. The Universe DVD is the best incarnation currently available but those hoping for significant improvement will be disappointed. The source material features a steady stream of speckles and the image usually looks rather soft and worn down. Colors and contrasts are not dynamic but remain acceptable. The sound is 5.1 but the old mono mix has simply been spread out, with unimpressive results; it doesn't help that the sound has been taken from the 35mm print's optical track, thus preserving the crackles, surface noise, and limited range. Although there are optional subtitles, the translation has not been noticeably improved. There is no trailer for this film but Universe was able to dig up spots for FONG SAI YUK, THE TAI CHI MASTER, and HIGH RISK, and also provides Star Files for Jet Li and Deanie Yip. Columbia Tristar now holds the US rights to the film and will be releasing it direct-to-video in February as THE LEGEND OF RED DRAGON. Specifications have not been announced, as of this writing, but their version will likely be the best looking and sounding of the bunch. However, it will also no doubt be dubbed, re-scored, and possibly re-edited, so that is not much consolation.

NEW LEGEND OF SHAOLIN is available at Poker Industries.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review