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Issue #194 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES January 12th, 2004

Eastern Condors
(1987; Golden Harvest/Bo Ho Films Co./Paragon Films)

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

Cantonese: Dung fong tuk ying
Mandarin: Dong fang tu ying
English: Eastern Condors

Sammo Hung Kam-po directed and stars in this terrific actioner, which smoothly blends martial arts and Vietnam war action elements together into a very satisfying whole. In 1976, the US government assembles a group of Chinese/Vietnamese prisoners (including Sammo Hung, Charlie Chin Hsiang-lin, Billy Lau Nam-kwong, Cheung Kwok-keung, Yuen Woo-ping, Peter Chan Lung, Corey Yuen Kwai, Chin Kar-lok, and Hsiao Hou) into a DIRTY DOZEN-style combat force, whose mission is to parachute back into Vietnam and destroy a hidden arsenal of US Army weapons that was left behind, before it falls into Vietcong hands. While in Vietnam, the troops meet up with three exceedingly tough female Cambodian guerillas (led by Joyce Godenzi; image with Lam Ching-ying), who act as their escorts. Later, following a close call with the VC, they also hook up with black market goods dealer Weasel and his deranged uncle (THE KILLING FIELDS' Dr. Haing S. Ngor), and the former’s knowledge of the terrain is a valuable aid in locating the underground complex. Hot on their trail is a psychotic Vietnamese colonel (Yuen Wah, in a positively reptilian performance), who locates and confronts the Condors for a showstopping final duel in the rocket base (a very elaborate and impressive bit of production design).

The fight choreography is consistently inventive, making ingenious use of the jungle environment (in one memorable instance, Hung transforms leaves into deadly projectiles) and Yuen and Hung (the latter looking noticeably thinner than usual) are at the peak of their form. The Vietnamese adversaries are played by a virtual "Who's Who" of genre regulars from this period, including Billy Chow Bei-lee, Phillip Ko Fei, Yasuaki Kurota, and Dick Wei. Location work in The Philippines and Canada, and Arthur Wong Ngok-tai's first-class scope photography also lend the production an epic feel that transcends the vast majority of HK action films from this period.

Cover art courtesy Fox.

Sammo Hung (left) and Yuen Biao. Image courtesy Fox.
20th Century Fox (No Cat. #) (U.S. release)

Cantonese and English (Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS) Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional English Captions

20 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 1 Only

Macrovision Encoded

NTSC Format

98 Minutes

Contains brutal violence, coarse language, and cruelty to animals

DVD menu courtesy Fox.

Canada (video): R
Great Britain: 18 [Passed with cuts totalling 23 seconds]
Hong Kong: II
Nova Scotia: 18
Ontario: R (Brutal Violence)
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]
United States: R (for violence and some language)

The excellent anamorphic transfer is clean and sharp, with nicely balanced colors, but the re-mixed audio is a mess. Most of the film sounds exceedingly flat and the new foley FX (explosions, bullet ricochets, etc) are too crisp and prominent. The all-region HK DVD from Universe is 4:3 letterbox and does not look quite as good but the re-mix on that disc sticks with the original audio elements. This version also has more faithful subtitles, as the 20th Century Fox DVD utilizes dubtitles. On top of this, they are actually captions, as descriptions of offscreen sound FX are included (fortunately, there are very few occurrences of this). The film was shortened slightly prior to the English dubbing but the original 98 minute HK edition is included on the disc. A new dubtrack has been created and it is even worse than the previous one (the portions of the film originally in English have been left with the previous dubbing actors' performances intact). This re-vamp also changes the characters' names, making all of the soldiers of solely Chinese descent. An English language crawl that sets up the story, and appeared on some previous English video releases, has not been included. However, everything mentioned is covered in the film itself, so its exclusion is unimportant. Supplementary materials are limited to the HK theatrical trailer and video promo spots for the various HK films Fox offers. Even with its shortcomings, the American disc is still a very respectable presentation and, at under $10, a bargain that most fans of the picture will find hard to pass up.

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