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Issue #155 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES April 14th, 2003

Big Brother Cheng
(1975; Shaw Brothers)

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

Cantonese: Dai goh Sing
Mandarin: Da ge Cheng
English: Big Brother Sing or Big Brother Cheng

At the conclusion of THE TEAHOUSE (Issue #144a), Wang Cheng (Chen Kuan-tai) left the city and now hopes to find peace in the New Territories. However, the teahouse staff begs him to return and help them deal with various hardships that have arisen in his absence. Cheng pledges to protect his employees from every breed of criminal, and is soon putting the screws to swindlers, thieves, rapists, drug dealers, and hoods running illegal casinos. In spite of these vigilante tactics, Cheng's relationship with the law improves when he saves a local police captain's life. However, once Cheng is elevated to the level of a folk hero, the authorities can no longer ignore his fragrant law breaking. Other obstacles include the 18K gang, now under the leadership of a young and far from honorable usurper, and some revenge-minded thugs that Cheng reluctantly let go previously.

BIG BROTHER CHENG offers another look at the social injustices endured by HK's poor and tackles the subject with even less reserve than its predecessor. Director Kuei Chi-hung delivers more of the same but with less style, and the episodic, highly predictable plotting does not make for especially gripping viewing. The film does bounce back for a genuinely exciting finale but the entire production is undermined by a narrative twist that was almost certainly dictated by the censors as a way of justifying the wholesale glorification of vigilante justice. Like THE TEAHOUSE, this was a substantial success (according to the back cover blurb, it was Shaw Brothers' top grossing action film of 1975) but, nowadays, BIG BROTHER CHENG is just a mildly interesting curio for SB completists. Most of the principals from the original return [including Wong Yue (image), Karen Yeh Leng-chi, and Ha Ping] and, if you keep an eye on the background, you can see familiar faces like Bruce Le (during a funeral sequence) and Lee Hoi-sang (as a positively hirsute thug).

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.

Chen Kuan-tai. Image courtesy Intercontinental.
Intercontinental #611643 {Hong Kong label]

Dolby Digital 2.0

Cantonese Language Track (post-synced)

Optional Subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With (Tiny) Clips

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

107 Minutes

Contains moderate violence, torture, nudity, and brief sexual violence

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Hong Kong: III
Ontario: R
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]

The image is a little soft, though that appears to be at least partially inherent in the cinematography, which seems more rushed and haphazard than the previous entry. Colors are still robust and there is little wear to speak of (a few stains and a handful of splices), so complaints are minor even if the disc is slightly below Celestial's stellar restoration record thus far. The audio fares the same: the limitations of the period are there but never seriously distracting. The English subtitle translation is mediocre, though conversations are always coherent. Extras consist of a still gallery, trailers (not the originals, just video spots), and short bios/abbreviated filmographies. Like THE TEAHOUSE, BIG BROTHER CHENG has been slapped with the Category III rating due to (as mentioned in Chinese on the cover) "sensitive material depicting triad activity that is not suitable for children." Meanwhile, this same board allowed the ultra-sleazy Shaw horror thriller THE KILLER SNAKES to slither away with only a IIB!

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