Dirty Ho
IVL

 
Starring:
Gordon Liu, Wang Yu, Hui Ying-Hung
Directed By:
Liu Chia-Liang
Year:
1979
Run Time:
97 mins
Producer: IVL
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Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, MANDARIN 5.1 (Undecided which is correct)
Subtitles:
English, Chinese
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
2.35:1
Region:
NTSC 3
Genre:
Traditional Kung-Fu - Unknown (15 for UK viewers I'd guess)
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MOVIE
6/10

I’d been eagerly waiting for Celestial’s release of this 1979 Liu Chia-Liang production: Countless good reviews, and my ongoing quest to seek out the best of Liu’s back catalogue were enough to make me snap-up this latest release.

Sadly, the meandering plot and often un-engaging fight-sequences seem far removed from the great many things I’d heard about this film...

The muddled plot – that of a Prince (Gordon Liu) travelling incognito whilst trying to avoid the assassins sent by one of his brothers, starts well but soon loses pace.
Wang Yu plays the rude, obnoxious, young upstart who eventually becomes the Prince’s student, well, and Gordon Liu’s charismatic charm is always good to watch. However, there is little else that keeps your attention between the scraps, and even those feel somewhat laboured as the film wears on.

The best moments comprise of Liu Chia-Liang’s beautifully thought-out and executed art, antique and alcohol-appreciation battles: The Prince is invited to sample a collection of fine wines, as a ruse in order to assassinate him.
Whereas some directors might have just staged an all-out battle at this point, Liu instead opts for “courtesy Kung-Fu”.
As each host shows the Prince his selection of collectibles, they also attempt to engage him in combat – something which the arrogant and uninterested Wang Yu fails to pick up on. This device is used several times during the film, and is an absolute joy to behold.
There really are few directors comparable to Liu when he’s as inspired as this - it’s just such a shame though that the films eventual face-off with 3 assailants is so unsatisfying in comparison. Wang Yu and Gordon Liu combine to take on the skilled fighters together, in a battle that should be amazing, but lacked any spark for me.

The film then concludes almost before you realize it, and so ends Dirty Ho - and with it, my grand expectations...

PICTURE
8/10

Celestial really are doing some exemplary work, and it’s almost unbelievable this print is now some 26 years old! Colours are vibrant, detail is impressive and blacks are solid. Some softness is evident in areas of the print, but these are fleeting.
Night sequences, often the bane of prints this old, also stand up well, and remain clear and sharp.

Thumbs up for this impressive piece of work, considering the age of the print, and the condition that it must have been in.

SOUND
7/10

I originally chose to watch the film using the Cantonese soundtrack, but in hindsight might have done better with the Mandarin. Both are clear, and don’t feature any distractingly placed surround effects. In fact, having flicked between the two I’m still undecided which is the correct language for the film…

What is obvious though is whichever soundtrack you choose, they both do a very good job of letting you enjoy the film without being distracted by an over the top remix.

SUBTITLES
8/10

The subs are based on the Mandarin dub, and regardless of whether that’s the right move or not, they appear accurate and very well translated throughout.

One excellent feature is the use of brackets, which are utilized to explain play-on-word jokes. These have been used before on Hong Kong-produced discs, and it still amazes me why other companies haven’t picked up on this idea.

EXTRAS
5/10

Trailers: Heroes of the East, Dirty Ho, Tales of a Eunuch, The Spiritual Boxer, Clan of the White Lotus.

Movie Information: Photo Gallery (Behind the Scenes & Movie Stills), Biography and Selected Filmography (Wang Yu, Gordon Liu, Lo Lieh, Hui Ying-Hung and Liu Chia-Liang).

Elegant Trails: Gordon Liu (6 mins)

Aside from the fairly perfunctory stills, biographies and trailers, the stand-out extra is the 6 minute interview with Gordon Liu. Clips from his films are interspersed with him discussing his life, and also showing off his singing (!) and kung-fu skills.

CONCLUSION
7/10

Dirty Ho is brilliant – another classic from Liu Chia-Liang’s back-catalogue….or so I understood before seeing it. Expectations are a great thing to have when they’re fulfilled – but not so good when they’re aren't …

Whilst I wouldn’t actively discourage anyone from purchasing this excellently mastered DVD for their collection, I’d have to point out that it really is one for major fans of the genre only.

MOVIE 6/10
PICTURE
8/10
SOUND
7/10
SUBTITLES
8/10
EXTRAS
5/10
MENUS
6/10
PACKAGING
6/10
OVERALL 7/10