Issue #231a       HOME          E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com        BACK ISSUES         September 27th, 2004

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Long Good Bye
(1982; Seasonal Film Corporation/New Century Film Productions H.K.)


Cantonese: Joi gin gong wu
Mandarin: Joi jian jiang hu
English: Good Bye Underworld
Alternate English Title: The Head Hunter
Alternate Chinese Title
Cantonese: Lip tau
Mandarin: Lie tou
English: Hunt Head
RATING: 5/10

REVIEW:

Note: This review applies to the 98 minute of the movie entitled THE HEAD HUNTER (Lip tau), which rates 6/10. Differences between these two cuts are discussed in the Presentation section. Some spoilers are included.

A year after his superb performance as a Vietnamese refugee in Ann Hui's THE STORY OF WOO VIET, Chow Yun-fat signed on for a similar role in this low-budget exploitation thriller. He plays Nguyen, an immigrant from Vietnam, who works as a movie special effects technician, while also committing contract killings for the "Eagles." The one thing that keeps him going is his dream of bringing the rest of his family over to HK. While investigating a series of murders and an apparent gas attack on an elementary school, TV reporter Vicky Lee (Rosamund Kwan Chi-lam) discovers that the homicide victims were killed by Sarin and Somin gas, weapons used in the Vietnam War. After exploring a series of factories, she narrows her search down to the film company Nguyen works for. He and Vicky develop a rocky relationship that soon turns into genuine love and, upon learning that his family has died while trying to escape Vietnam, Nguyen reveals that his employer is manufacturing chemical weapons for the Americans to use in retaliation for Russia's use of Agent Orange. When Vicky's father turns up dead, Nguyen realizes that he was the one who pulled the trigger. Complicating matters further is Kim Tai-yung (Phillip Chan Yan-kin), a soldier that Nguyen left behind during the war, after he fell into a Vietcong trap. Driven psychotic by his ordeal and now employed by the Russians, Kim is stalking his former friend, hungry for vengeance.

Chow Yun-fat Rosamund Kwan Phillip Chan

While the plotting is a bit too convenient and the finale overly melodramatic, director Lau Shing-hon still manages to push some buttons in regards to the Vietnam conflict and its lasting scars. The idea that the "Eagles" and "Bears" (as they are referred to throughout) simply moved the battleground underground (making the unsuspecting citizens of major population centers potential "casualties of war") also provides for a more layered and engrossing premise than is usually found in the Vietnam exploitation cycle. Chow is quite convincing and Phillip Chan (a former real-life police officer who is almost always cast as a cop) has a very atypical part that he attacks with relish. The stock score includes music lifted from SORCERER and DAWN OF THE DEAD. Ko Chuen-hsiang and Melvin Wong Kam-sun also appear.


PRESENTATION:

As with just about all Seasonal properties from this period, THE LONG GOODBYE (onscreen title) displays the ravages of poor storage, with plenty of speckles and some wobbly frames. Resolution and color are okay under the circumstances, and the presentation is quite watchable, but do not let Mei Ah’s "HD" sticker on the case fool you into thinking that this is a restoration.

Chow Yun-fat Ko Chuen-hsiang Melvin Wong (left), Rosamund Kwan

Unfortunately, in addition to the wear, this version is also shorter and less effective than the one released as THE HEAD HUNTER. The latter clocks in at 98 minutes (when the running time of the old Rainbow/Tai Seng tape is converted to 24 frames-per-second) or about 13 minutes longer. Even if the master has been converted from PAL, Mei Ah’s DVD would still only be about 90 minutes. The two versions are identical, up through the respective title cards, and then the element used for the DVD skips over the next 18 minutes. These sequences show the police escorting a criminal to court, only to have the man knifed to death in their presence by a crazed assailant, who is then shot and killed. Rosamund Kwan’s character reports the incident on a news broadcast and we then see Chow’s character doing something with a gas canister at the film company building. He is interrupted by another man, whom Chow quickly overcomes and poisons. In the morgue, Melvin Wong’s detective discusses the case with his partner and Caucasian superior. Chow is rewarded for his actions and ordered to eliminate the watchman who found the victim’s body. Chow remembers the wartime horrors he experienced in Vietnam and refuses a girl’s invitation to go dancing. He kills the target, making his death appear to be an accident, and then goes to the club after all. He picks up a different girl and they make love. The next day, Chow is visited by an old friend from Vietnam, who has also re-located to Hong Kong, and they discuss the death of their mutual acquaintance, the assassin shot by police in the opening scene. He visits the man’s blind mother, bringing her some money and pork buns. Chow’s boss meets with his associate and Chow is given his next two assignments. In the shot that follows, he begins to look through his assortment of guns and this is where the DVD picks up. However, the disc then drops the next scene, where Chow walks into a restaurant and shoots a man to death, in front of several witnesses. The DVD then corresponds again with the tape, including the second of the two killings, and then inserts the bit with Melvin Wong and company at the morgue. From this point, some of the previously missing scenes are then included on the DVD, with the sequence of events much changed. For example, the killing of the man who found the body is retained but the new editing makes it appear that he is one of the contract targets.

Chow Yun-fat (left) Rosamund Kwan Phillip Chan

There are more alterations of this nature, as well as more deletions, and the whole subplot about the American and Russian involvement has been removed. In the DVD’s favor, it includes three bits originally cut by HK censors and missing from the tape: the complete version of one murder (Chow bashing a door against the victim’s head three times has been crudely spliced out), the full scene where Chow’s girl is molested prior to her murder, and a climactic decapitation. The significant editing alterations in this version do streamline the story somewhat but ultimately work against the film’s effectiveness. While a viable alternative to THE HEAD HUNTER, this re-edit only rates 5/10.

The Cantonese language track is available in 5.1 and mono but not with the original looping intact. While Chow did his own voice on the longer version, this track features different actors and music (no Tangerine Dream here but there is that Canto cover of "Take My Breath Away" heard in AS TEARS GO BY), suggesting that LONG GOOD BYE was prepared for the Taiwanese market and that the DVD’s Cantonese track was done recently (the Mandarin version included is much scratchier and aged sounding). Extras consist of the trailer for LONG GOOD BYE in both languages (the new Canto voices are ineptly cut in) and the usual Data Bank. For once, this section is actually worthwhile, as it includes trailers for two other Seasonal titles, THE UNWRITTEN LAW and WALK ON FIRE. The English subtitles sometimes differ greatly on the two versions, with the older, theatrical ones offering a better translation.

I have not seen a copy but THE HEAD HUNTER has also been released on domestic DVD by Treeline (that company whose DVDs retail for all of 99 cents) and one would presume it has been bootlegged from the Rainbow/Tai Seng tape (now out-of-print). Given Treeline’s less-than-stellar reputation, their version undoubtedly looks much worse but might be worth acquiring, given the price and the fact that it will likely be the only DVD release of the longer cut anytime soon.


Kenneth Brorsson of So Good...HK DVD Movie Reviews wrote in with the following update; thanks Kenneth!

Just watched Treeline's DVD of HEAD HUNTER. Good news first. It runs 97 minutes, 6 seconds NTSC and therefore appears uncut (includes all you described in your review to the best of my knowledge). The cuts described are intact as well as the aspect ratio for the most part (some scenes switch to roughly 1:5:1. Downside is, outside of the horrible cover, it's English dubbed only but seeing as the voice track isn't the same on the cut remaster anyway, it's a decent trade off.


This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Mei Ah Entertainment. To read captions, hover mouse over image.


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DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC Region 0
  • Mei Ah Entertainment #DVD-672
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0
  • Post-synced Cantonese and Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional & Simplified Chinese
  • 9 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (1.80:1)
  • 85 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Great Britain: X*
  • Hong Kong: OAT I
  • Ontario: R*
  • Contains brutal violence, mild sexual violence, and mild sexual content

*applies to 98 minute version

FILM REVIEW RATINGS KEY:

  • 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