Shout! Factory has moved into the martial arts genre in the last few years via a deal with HK distributor Fortune Star, tackling a series of films by Golden Harvest stars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. They recently moved on to another Golden Harvest star by issuing this 2-for-1 DVD of Angela Mao Ying films, pairing Hapkido with Lady Whirlwind. The result has both strengths and weaknesses but the disc represents a nice attempt to revive these films for American audiences.
This disc includes anamorphic transfers of both films. Hapkido looks the best, offering a colorful and well-detailed image that clearly benefitted from a remastering job. Lady Whirlwind is less impressive: the colors are pale, detail is fuzzy and the transfer is interlaced. It’s watchable but no comparison to the crisp look of Hapkido. It’s a shame that Fortune Star couldn’t provide a better master for Shout! Factory to use.
2.0 Stereo English and Mandarin mixes are offered for both titles, with subtitles for the Mandarin tracks. The Mandarin tracks are the best way to go as the English dubs sound like they were taken from less-than-impressive elements, particularly on Hapkido. However, the Mandarin dubs sound much better, with Hapkido sounding the best and Lady Whirlwind being a bit tinny in comparison. The English subs are easy to read and well-timed for both, though you might notice the occasional misspelling.
Shout Factory has also added a number of extras to this disc. Both films include an original Chinese theatrical trailer plus at least one theatrical and t.v. spot for their U.S. incarnations (Hapkido became Lady Kung Fu while Lady Whirlwind was retitled Deep Thrust). The Chinese trailers are lengthy, with a focus on action and titles that trumpet the actors’ martial arts training as well as the exotic techniques used in the films. The U.S. trailers are just as fight-focused but also include fun narration that touts Mao’s skills in grindhouse-friendly terms (“She’ll give you the licking of your life!”).
Both films also feature “English opening titles” as a bonus. In the case of Lady Whirlwind, it’s the same animated sequence with all-English lettered titles. With Hapkido, you get to see the Lady Kung Fu title sequence – just new titles over the training scene that opens the Chinese version of the film. It comes from a rough video source but fans will be happy to see it.
The biggest inclusions are a trio of interviews added to the Hapkido side of the disc. These were all shot on standard-def video and look like they date from the ’90s. The first is a 16-minute interview with Angela Mao Ying. She reveals that she had real training in the art of Hapkido, discusses her other films and her thoughts about Bruce Lee and tells a fun tale about facing off with a would-be robber in the streets.
The next interview is a 17-minute piece with Carter Wong that looks like it was shot in a somewhat noisy restaurant. That said, Wong is a game interview participant who talks about his extensive martial arts training, which led him to conducting training classes for both the Hong Kong and New York police departments. The HK gig led to his casting in Hapkido and his work in the states ultimately led to his casting in Big Trouble In Little China. He also talks a decent amount about his work in the cult-fave kung-fu flick The 18 Bronzemen.
The last of the interviews is a brief interview with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, with the former speaking English and the latter speaking Chinese(!). Both reveal that they were childhood truants who found discipline and a career path by training in a Peking Opera school. Biao talks about his favorite works in his own filmography and Hung speaks earnestly about his desire to crack the U.S. market as an actor.
All in all, this double bill is a decent release. Shout Factory has done a solid job with what Fortune Star provided and their willingness to add extras to this catalog title presentation is a nice touch.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Hapkido, click here.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Lady Whirlwind, click here.