Issue #205           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES            March 29th, 2004

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The Criminals
(1976; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Heung gong kei on
Mandarin: Xiang gang qi an
English: Hong Kong Extraordinary Cases


RATING: 6/10


The first in a series of popular Shaw Brothers True Crime movies, THE CRIMINALS features three stories, each helmed by a different director and reportedly shot at the locations of the real incidents. The results are not as graphic as the early '90s cycle typified by movies like THE UNTOLD STORY and REMAINS OF A WOMAN but should not be mistaken for anything other than pulpy exploitation entertainment. On that level, it provides some worthy diversion and a smattering of white-knuckle suspense.

Cheng Kang's "Hidden Torsos" stars martial arts favorite Shih Szu (LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES) as Jenny Wang, who is trying to escape from her abusive and thieving boyfriend, Wang Rongsheng (Szu Wei). Planning on sneaking away to Macau with their young, mute daughter, she is caught in the act. A struggle ensues, with tragic consequences. The survivor must decide what to do now, a task not made any easier by the arrival of some interested parties. Things are not as cut and dried as they initially seem and Cheng is able to milk the situation for some effective tension.

Shi Szu Szu Wei Tin Ching

"Valley of the Hanged," from director Hua Shan (THE SUPER INFRAMAN), concerns the travails of slow-witted construction worker Hong the Bull, whose mahjong addicted wife Tang Meijiao (Terry Liu Hui-ru) is sleeping around with smooth operator De (Tin Ching). When Hong almost catches the pair in the act, he grows more and more suspicious. Following them one night, he overhears that Meijiao is now pregnant, even though she has denied him sex for months. The trajectory of this story is all too easily predicted and the exaggerated performances (particularly by Terry Liu, as the screeching adulteress) grate on one's nerves after awhile. One bit of violence in this segment has obviously been cut short, evidently to appease censors during the original release.

The final story, "The Stuntmen," was helmed by Ho Meng-hua of BLACK MAGIC fame and partially takes place during the production of a SB movie. Thanks to a friend putting in a good word, penniless Chen Zhong (Lo Lieh) gets hired to do stunts for a period swordplay picture. On location, he is dazzled by the beautiful Tanny Tien Nei (playing herself) but she pays him no heed. Chen's obsession is at least partially rooted in a local prostitute (also Tien), who is a dead ringer for the actress. Chen decides that the pair can make a lot of money fooling johns into thinking that she is really Tanny. The scheme is a success and attracts the attention of goons in the employ of a local triad boss. Chen's underworld ties grow deeper and he is soon in over his head. This is the most interesting and involved of the three stories but one is still a bit disappointed when the movie angle is dropped and a more conventional triad scenario takes over. Yueh Hua also appears as himself (complaining about having to jump into cold water -- the director assuages him with some booze!), and Wong Yue, Chan Shen, and Ku Feng have supporting roles.

Terry Liu Lo Lieh Tanny Tien


While the video is up to standard as these Celestial releases go, the audio is something of a mess. The Mandarin track is rather thin and over processed, rarely sounding natural even though it has been left in the original mono. The Cantonese audio is even worse in this regard and marred by an odd reverb. Supplements consist of the standard Celestial video promos, photo galleries, and bios/filmographies.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC -- Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd #101021
  • Dolby Digital 2.0 Post-synced Cantonese and Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (optional): English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 92 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Hong Kong: IIB
  • Ontario: R
  • Quebec: 18+
  • Singapore: PG (cut)
  • Contains moderate violence, nudity, and mild sexual content


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful