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Issue #150 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES March 10th, 2003

The Prodigal Son
(1982; Golden Harvest/Paragon Films)

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

Cantonese: Bai ga jai
Mandarin: Bai jia zi
English: Son Ruining the Family

Alternate English Title: Pull No Punches

Praised by practitioners of Wing Chun as the feature that most accurately depicts that martial art, this widely respected effort is one of Golden Harvest's greatest kung fu films. Leung Chang (Yuen Biao) has carved himself a formidable reputation as "The Street Brawler," who can make short work of any challenger and is undefeated after 200 fights. Unbeknownst to Leung, the boy’s affluent father has ordered his son's servant (Peter Chan Lung) to bribe all of the opponents, to ensure Chang's safety. The boy gets a harsh taste of reality when he foolishly challenges Peking Opera performer/martial arts master Leung Yee-tai (Lam Ching-ying) to a duel. One of the opera company's performances is attended by Master Ngai Fai (Frankie Chan Fan-kei), a martial artist looking for a worthy competitor. He deems Yee-tai to be just that man and goads him into a fight, which comes to a premature end when the actor suffers a serious asthma attack. Just as Leung Chang's father sought to protect him, Ngai's father has ordered two servants (Dick Wei and Chung Fat) to kill anyone who may possess skills superior to those of his son. Taking their order to bloody extremes, the attendants direct a squad of killers to murder the opera company in their beds. Yee-tai awakens in time to save his own life but is crippled by another dose of asthma. The master is saved by Chang and the two seek refuge at the farm of Wong Wa-po (Hung, who also directed), Yee-tai's brother and a Wing Chun master, whose occasional bouts of clumsiness belie his incredible abilities. Chang uses the brothers' age-old feud to his advantage, appealing to their pride, and receiving instruction from both men. When tragedy strikes, Chang challenges Ngai to a final, decisive battle.

Considering the always potent combo of Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung, it is rather surprising to see the film stolen by Lam Ching-ying. His numerous "One Eyebrow Priest" horror comedies required a measure of martial talent but nothing like the sort of dexterity he is required to display on numerous occasions here. The late actor also displays the measured timing and droll reactions of a seasoned comedian. While Hung's endearingly broad persona and incredible acrobatics tend to dominate the second half, one leaves the film remembering Lam's character, who is a far cry from the typical wizened sifu. Dubbed with a high female voice while in his performance make-up, he is able to have fun with the persona, while still maintaining the character's dignity. Frankie Chan is also intriguing in a role that is a departure from his more recent work. While Ngai is seemingly the villain of the piece, he is really just an ethical but misguided young man who needs to be taught a good lesson, something Yuen sees to with customary panache in the final reel. Wei Pai, Wu Ma, James Tien Chun, and Lee Hoi-sang also appear.

Cover art courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Yuen Biao. Image courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Sammo Hung (right). Image courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Lam Ching-ying. Image courtesy Hong Kong Legends.
Hong Kong Legends/Medusa #MDV 651 (UK label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

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 (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 2 Only

Macrovision Encoded

PAL Format

100 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains brutal violence

DVD menu courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Great Britain: 18
Netherlands: 16
Ontario: R
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]


Compared to the Universe DVD, HKL's transfer cuts a bit off all four sides of the screen. The reformatting is not damaging but a curious choice nonetheless. Color correction is much improved on the British disc and the image is spotless. The sound is a bit hollow but this is due to the original mix and the track is quite satisfactory. The usual gaggle of extras are included. The commentary by Bey Logan (who visited the set during production) is as thorough as ever, with extensive detail, though he is probably mistaken about Karl Maka dubbing Sammo Hung here (true, the voice is the same but anyone who has seen the sync sound production WINNER TAKES ALL will notice that Maka's real voice is not at all like the one he has in his Cinema City features). Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, and Frankie Chan are also featured in a single interview piece (27 mins) discussing the picture, the philosophy of kung fu, their training in various styles, and the shooting of the fight sequences (in contrast to HKL's fine translation record with regards to features, the subs here feature some pretty clumsy errors).

Yuen Biao (left), Sammo Hung (centre), Frankie Chan (right).
Above images courtesy Hong Kong Legends. Above images have ZOOM links. Click on picture for larger image.

A separate 28 minute chapter is given over to Wing Chun master/director/actor Guy Lai Ying-chau, who was a martial arts consultant for the film. He discusses the form’s various movements, its history (also discussed by Logan in the commentary), and the special challenges involved in how it is taught and learned (clips of sifu Austin Goh demonstrating the different styles are interspersed throughout Lai's talk). Text sections provide "A Tribute to Lam Ching-ying" and "The Art of Wing Chun," and the HK and UK video promo trailers are also included, along with spots for six other HKL releases.

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