Eastern Condors : PAL R2 Vs NTSC R0
 
Producer: Hong Kong Legends
Languages:
Cantonese 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles
English, Dutch
Extras:
Interview Gallery, Biography Showcase, UK Promo Trailer, Theatrical Trailer, Additional Trailers
Menus:
Animated
W/S Subs:
Ratio
2.35:1 Anamorphic
Region
PAL 0

Producer: Universe
Languages:
Cantonese 5.1, Mandarin 5.1
Subtitles
English, Chinese (S & T), Japanese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese
Extras:
Theatrical Trailer, Star Files, Additional Trailers
Menus:
Static
W/S Subs:
Ratio
2.35:1 Non Anamorphic
Region
NTSC 0
 
MOVIE

Having been thoroughly impressed with HKL's remastering of Jackie Chan's Armour Of God, I waited with baited breath for their release of one of my favourite Sammo Hung films - Eastern Condors...

READ THE FILM REVIEW HERE

PICTURE
HKL

The main area which needed improvement on the Universe disc was the heavy grain that appeared throughout. Other than that, the Chinese release contained a fine transfer, and so HKL were going to have to impress me...
Firstly, the aforementioned grain has been massively reduced, and although it does still appear on occasions, the overall reduction is impressive.
I was disappointed, however, to see the same artifacting (albeit in a less noticeable form) which dogs the opening scenes in Vietnam on the Universe disc. This feeling was quickly diminished, though, as the much improved black levels and fine detail shone through.
Detail throughout was significantly higher than that found on the Universe transfer, and whilst colours are less vibrant, they're better contained.
The most heart-warming aspect of the HKL transfer is the large reduction of sparkles and marks. This is accompanied by a more consistent image, with deeper blacks and more contrast.

Also worthy of mention are the slightly different prints used. HKL use a completely unsubtitled print, which makes for a much cleaner representation of the inmate's "roll-call". The Universe print has burned-in subs at this point, and looks a mess when the removable subtitles are placed over the top.

SOUND
MS

Unfortunately, HKL haven't managed to back up their video quality with even reasonable audio, containing as it does an unnatural "compressed" sound which makes for uncomfortable listening.
Along with this, a reverberating, almost synthesizer-like effect is present in the film's sound effects.
This is a great shame, as the soundtrack does address one of the problems found on the Universe version - namely too much bass.

Although the NTSC disc is not quite as clear in its dialogue reproduction, overall it's a better mixed track, and contains none of the distracting elements which are present on the PAL disc.

SUBTITLES
MS

The HKL version avoids subbing the English dialogue (a good thing), translates the credits (a good thing), and Anglicises some of the Chinese script (a bad thing).

On the other hand, the Universe disc poorly transcribes the English dialogue (a bad thing), but translates the Chinese script more faithfully (a good thing).

Both sets of subs are grammatically perfect, and easily readable - so what's the clincher?
Well, in an astoundingly stupid oversight, HKL fail to make the English subs selectable whilst you're watching the movie, requiring you to go to the Audio selection screen, select Cantonese, then English subs, followed by "Start Movie". This made my reviewing of the disc a real pain each time I loaded up the disc.

I don't know why they this decision was made, but I hope it was a one off.
Of course, had the default set-up for the disc been the Cantonese soundtrack with English subtitles, I wouldn't have needed to dock a point...

MENUS
HKL

A rather tacky main menu is presented on the HKL disc, with a fake leaf border surrounding a once again very well put together, though far too revealing, collection of clips.
From there, the remaining menus are nicely laid out and very easily navigated.

Compared with Universe's, the HKL menus look state of the art. Although there's nothing inherently wrong with the Universe menus, their totally static presentation means there's little contest.

EXTRAS
HKL

HKL:

Photo Gallery - Although there are a few interesting pics in this 25+ collection of stills, I doubt you'll bother looking at them more than once.

Animated Biography - Presented by a voice-over artist with the same "talent" as the English dubbing crew, the two biographies for Hung and Godenzi are a real pain.
Although they're attractively designed, with stills of the cast on one side and a flame rising from the bottom of the screen, the recurrent Fast Forward - Pause - Play - Fast Forward game is as teeth-grinding as ever.

Trailers - UK Promo Trailer, Theatrical Trailer - The far superior Hong Kong trailer which for some reason has been cropped to 1.85:1. It does, however, contain optional subs and a much cleaner image than the same trailer found on the Universe disc.

Further Attractions - Trailers for other HKL discs.

Interview Gallery - "Evolution Of A Legend" (8 mins). An interview with Sammo, in which he describes his time in the Peking Opera School, and his rise through the ranks of Hong Kong cinema.

"On Eastern Condors" (17 mins). A great interview in which Sammo reveals his reasons for making the movie, accidents which occurred during filming, his weight-loss programme and lots more.
Both of these interviews are conducted in English, and have crystal-clear sound.

The Interview Gallery is undoubtedly the pick of the otherwise fairly average extras, and although I admit that I'd pay good money to see Sammo talk about lime-scale, he provides a huge amount of information over the two interviews.
His comic-timing and sense of humour are also well to the fore, and make for an engaging, interesting, and funny chat.

Universe:

2 Star Files - Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao

Theatrical Trailer - Worn, but in its original 2.35:1 ratio.

Further Trailers - The Prodigal Son, and Winners and Sinners.

CUTS / CHANGES
MS

As with the Made In Hong Kong VHS version, the scene in which Yuen Baio "strips" a snake whilst talking to the rest of the group (about 30 seconds of footage) has been removed from the HKL release, due to the BBFC.
It's a very noticeable cut, and one which isn't present on the untouched Universe print.

CONCLUSION
DRAW

This is the one of the most difficult reviews I've had to write, as each version has its own positive and negative aspects, and in all honesty I think it's too close to call.
So, I've decided to list the good and bad points of each disc, and leave the final decision to you...

HONG KONG LEGENDS:
+ Very Good Picture quality
- 30 seconds cut from the movie
+ Excellent Sammo Interview - Poor Sound
+ Very Good animated menus - Slightly Anglicised Subtitles
+ Nicely packaged - Irritating Subtitle selection quirk
UNIVERSE:
+ Good Picture Quality - Evident film grain
+ Completely Uncut - Very plain menus
+ Very Good Sound - Dull extras
+ Excellent Subtitles

 

COMPANY
Hong Kong Legends
Mega Star
Winner
MOVIE
9/10
10/10
MS
PICTURE
8/10
7/10
HKL
SOUND
4/10
7/10
MS
SUBTITLES
9/10
10/10
MS
EXTRAS
6/10
4/10
HKL
MENUS
7/10
5/10
HKL
PACKAGING
7/10
6/10
HKL
OVERALL
8/10
8/10
DRAW