Issue #238a       HOME          E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com        BACK ISSUES          November 16th, 2004

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Fearless Hyena
(1979; Lo Wei Motion Picture Co.)

Cantonese: Siu kuen gwaai giu
Mandarin: Xiao quan guai zhao
English: Laugh Fist Strange Call

 

RATING: 6/10

REVIEW:

Jackie Chan's directorial debut, THE FEARLESS HYENA (onscreen title) gets off to a weak start, but eventually wins the viewer over with inventive choreography and Chan's infectious energy. He plays his stock character from this period: a martially talented but lazy and impetuous youth (named Shing Lung here), who just needs the right teacher to help him gain control and confidence. While working as chief instructor at a third-rate martial arts school, Lung's skills attract the attention of various masters, who proceed to challenge him. News of his abilities reaches ruthless Ching official Yen Ting-hua (Yam Sai-kwoon), who is hunting Lung's grandfather (a former rebel, played by James Tien Chun) with the intention of killing him. After Lung inadvertently causes his grandfather's demise at Yen's hands, he receives instruction from "The Unicorn" (Chen Hui-liu, playing the "aged but wily" master role that became a genre prerequisite after Simon Yuen Siu-tin's memorable turn in DRUNKEN MASTER), a crippled but still deadly kung fu master. After enduring rigorous training in a bizarre form of martial arts that utilizes the emotions as a secret weapon, Lung is ready to face Yen and his three spear-wielding vassals.

Jackie Chan James Tien Yam Sai-kwoon

Much of the comedy in the opening third is pretty painful (particularly in the English dubbed version, which features atrocious, Australian-accented voice actors) but things get back on track fairly quickly. The training sequences are both impressive and amusing, while the extended climactic fight between Chan and Yam is fully deserving of all the praise it has received. The final shot of Lung pushing The Unicorn along in a cart is an in-joke reference to the Japanese LONE WOLF AND CUB movie and TV series, and is even accompanied by a snippet from the TV show's theme song! The soundtrack also includes music lifted from the 1978 SUPERMAN movie! Followed by an unrelated sequel. Dean Shek Tien, Ricky Cheng Tien-chi, Li Kun, and Eagle Han Ying are among the supporting players.


PRESENTATION:

The films Jackie Chan did for Lo Wei have been available on a number of labels over the years and were released on both tape and DVD by Simitar (with the exception of SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN, which that company only put out on VHS, and MAGNIFICENT BODYGUARDS, which has never had a legitimate North American video release). When Simitar went out of business, Columbia Tristar picked up the rights to the titles and issued new versions on DVD. Some titles were derived from the same old pan-and-scan masters, while others were given new 16:9 transfers. FEARLESS HYENA received the latter treatment and the revealing of the entire scope frame makes a huge difference. While their efforts are certainly welcome, Columbia Tristar did nothing to clean up the movie and there are overt flaws rarely seen in product from a major label. As expected, the presentation is filled with light wear, but the real problem is with the level of detail. While the foreground looks reasonably crisp, backgrounds are downright blurry and the image has been artificially sharpened to the point that video purists will be howling in pain.

Chen Hui-liu Jackie Chan (center) Yam Sai-kwoon (left), Jackie Chan

On the other hand, kung fu fans regularly endure the worst transfers in video history and they will likely embrace this DVD, as it is significantly better than any other release to date of FEARLESS HYENA. In addition to the wretched English version, the Cantonese track has been included and is a much better way to view the film. Alas, as is the case with far too many titles from this label, the English subtitles are actually dubtitles. Some lines are left untranslated, some are quite incorrectly translated, and subs sometimes appear when no one is speaking. The audio is Old School low-fi but okay; the only extras are trailers for CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, and WHO AM I? and the running time is shortchanged on the cover as only 94 minutes.

Note: The Columbia Tristar versions of these Lo Wei titles are now out-of-print, but as of this writing, can still be obtained at a reasonable price.


This DVD is available at Amazon:

Images in this review courtesy of Columbia Tristar. To read captions, hover mouse over image.


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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com

DVD Specifications

  • U.S. Release
  • NTSC Region 1 Only
  • Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment #07172
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Post-synced Cantonese and Dubbed English Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Spanish English Closed Captioning
  • 28 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 97 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Argentina: 13
  • Australia: M 15+
  • Great Britain: 18
  • Nova Scotia: 18
  • Ontario: AA
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Singapore: PG
  • Contains moderate violence

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