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Issue #180 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES October 6th, 2003

The Master
(1980; Shaw Brothers)

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

Cantonese: Bui boon si moon
Mandarin: Bei pan shi men
English: Betraying The School

Alternate English Title: 3 Evil Masters

Not to be confused with the awful Jet Li film from 1992, Lu Chin-ku's THE MASTER demonstrates the influence that Jackie Chan's comedic kung fu hits had on the marketplace, with Shaw Brothers trying to get a piece of the pie by signing up Chan's opera school colleague Yuen Tak for a similiar outing. Martial arts master Jin Tianyun (Chen Kuan-tai) decides to punish a trio of miscreants called The Three Devils who have been terrorizing the countryside. However, he is betrayed during the ensuing battle and must flee. Meanwhile, young martial arts student Gao Jian (Yuen) must suffer through a torturous punishment, thanks to a pair of obnoxious senior students (including Chan Lau). Later that evening, a badly injured Jin appears on Gao's doorstep and, at his request, Gao keeps the man's presence a secret while he recuperates. In return, Jin agrees to secretly teach his benefactor some useful kung fu, instead of the flashy nonsense his school is practising. Emboldened by his new abilities, the youth takes it upon himself to try and bilk one of the Devils but the miscreants soon overrun Gao's school, turning it into a haven for criminals.

While an excellent martial artist and every bit as exuberant as one could possibly wish, Yuen Tak does not quite demonstrate the necessary presence and charisma for a leading man. He probably would have improved with more experience but was mostly only seen in small parts from here on. However, Yuen went on to become one of the industry's finest choreographers, so his talents were certainly not wasted. Much of the comedy is more grating than genuinely funny (though it is rarely as shrill as that found in some of the lower grade independent features from this period) and the storyline is not only predictable but suffers from some awkward transitions (at one point, an entire year passes but we are not aware of it, until one character mentions this fact in passing). These weaknesses aside, this remains a good second tier Shaw outing with some splendid fighting, particularly Yuen's prolonged duel with Johnny Wang Lung-wei (sporting the requisite white wig and eyebrows as the Devils' leader), who wields a deadly ponytail.

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.

Yuen Tak (left) and Chen Kuan-tai. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Johnny Wang and Candy Wen. Image courtesy Intercontinental.
Intercontinental #100376 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synced)

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

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

92 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains moderate violence, nudity, and mild sexual content

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Hong Kong: IIB
Ontario: R

No flaws worth mentioning in the presentation, which looks perfectly clean, detailed, and colorful. It also features less of the intermittent softness plaguing some recent Celestial transfers. The Cantonese track is slightly tinny compared to the Mandarin version but perfectly adequate. No theatrical trailer is offered, just some video promos and the usual Film Information section.

THE MASTER is available at Poker Industries.

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