Kit ji jin si
Mandarin: Jie zi zhan shi
English: Scorpion Warrior
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. Fais 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.
|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
Coded for Region 2 Only
96 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)
Contains moderate martial arts violence
DVD menu courtesy
Hong Kong Legends.
BOARD RATINGS AND CONSUMER ADVICE
British Columbia: M (Some Violence)
Great Britain: 15
Ontario: AA (Martial Arts Violence, Violence)
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.
THE SCORPION KING
is available at Poker
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© John Charles 2000 - 2003. All Rights Reserved.