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Issue #148 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES February 24th, 2003

The Scorpion King
(1992; Golden Harvest/Bo Ho Films Co./Paragon Films)

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

Cantonese: Kit ji jin si
Mandarin: Jie zi zhan shi
English: Scorpion Warrior

Alternate English Titles: Operation Scorpio, Palette

An enjoyable period kung fu thriller, THE SCORPION KING (better known as OPERATION SCORPIO and not to be confused with the 2002 Hollywood movie starring The Rock) is set in 1920 and concerns the adventures of daydreaming student, Fai Yuk-su (Chin Kar-lok). A talented comic book artist bored by school, Fai is constantly in trouble and on the verge of being expelled. One evening, he rescues timid maid Siu-yu (May Lo Mei-mei) from being sold into prostitution by Wang (Victor Hon Kwan), her evil, flesh merchant master. Fai’s father (Woo Fung) sends the youth to live with his Uncle Yi (Lau Kar-leung) and work in the latter's noodle shop. In between his sessions in the kitchen, Fai also receives instruction in strength and power from a musclebound health guru (Frankie Chin Chi-leung) plus (after Wang's goons trash the restaurant) martial arts training from Yi. This leaves him ready to put an end to Wang's criminal operations, with a little help from his two mentors.

The portion of the story devoted to Frankie Chin and his non-stop flexing is unintentionally amusing (not to mention anachronistic) and, when all is said and done, the film is really only a slight variation on the shopworn "eager but undisciplined student trained by wizened master" formula. Regardless, the kung fu is terrific and Korean Taekwondo master Kim Won-jin/Yeung Jan (image; NO PROBLEM 2) is outstanding as Wang's equally villainous son. Unbelievably agile, he practices a wild scorpion style of combat, using his left leg as the "stinger," that is amazing to behold. The opportunity to see him and the great Lau Kar-leung in battle more than compensates for many of the film's weaker aspects. David Lai Tai-wai (SAVIOUR OF THE SOUL I & II) directed, and Yuen Shun-yee, Lau Sek-yin, Yuen Tak, and Yuen Mo co-star.

Cover art courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Lau Kar-leung (left) and Kim Won-jin. Image courtesy Hong Kong Legends.
Medusa/Hong Kong Legends #MDV 655 (UK label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Cantonese and English Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional English and Dutch Subtitles

28 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With (Tiny) Stills

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (1.76:1)

Coded for Region 2 Only

Macrovision Encoded

PAL Format

96 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains moderate martial arts violence

DVD menu courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

British Columbia: M (Some Violence)
Great Britain: 15
Netherlands: 12
Ontario: AA (Martial Arts Violence, Violence)
Singapore: PG

The cinematography is on the dark side, so the presentation is not as glossy as some HKL releases. However, apart from some mild grain in a few spots, there are no notable flaws and the transfer is quite satisfactory. Unfortunately, as with some other HKL releases, like POLICE STORY II and STORY OF RICKY, there is some monkey business going on with the framing. A comparison between the HKL transfer and the old Star Entertainment laserdisc (1.80) reveals that the DVD is missing picture along the left side of the frame, plus a smaller bit on the right. Aside from the Star TV copyright notices at the very end of the picture not looking properly framed, the problem is not really evident. Regardless, it is baffling that a company would go to the time and expense of digitally cleaning their source prints and then pull these little framing games, particularly on a movie shot with spherical lenses. The stereo re-mix tends to keep things up front but the rear channels do offer some musical accompaniment. At the risk of sounding completely redundant, Bey Logan's audio commentary is extremely good, offering just about everything you need to know about the performers, with a special emphasis on Lau Kar-leung. He does mistakenly credit direction of THE TREASURE HUNTERS to Lau but, otherwise, this is another first rate lecture. The amazing Kim Won-jin is profiled in a 19 minute interview where he discusses his background and experiences working in HK; he also gets to show his stuff in a 2 minute showreel. Chin Kar-lok's interview (17 minutes) covers his ten years as a member of Sammo Hung's stunt team and the creation of the action scenes here. There is a UK promo spot for the film, as well as the HK trailer, which features different titles than are normally seen on this movie (Man wah san kuen, or "Manga Powerful Fist," and "Palette" as the English handle). Spots for ten other HKL titles are also included and Logan supplies a 30 screen essay on Lau Kar-leung, whom he sites in the commentary as one of his personal heroes. There is an awkward layer change at 1:14:10.

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