Last Hurrah For Chivalry
MEGA STAR
 
Starring:
Directed By:
John Woo
Year:
1979
Run Time:
107mins
Producer: Mega Star
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Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, Mandarin 5.1
Subtitles:
Removable Chinese (S+T), English
W/S Subtitles:
No
Ratio:
2.35:1 Non Anamorphic
Region:
NTSC 0
Genre:
Traditional Swordplay - II
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MOVIE
9/10

Following the death of his father at the hands of Pai, Kao (Lau Kong) begins to plot his means of revenge.
Having successfully befriended Chang, the town's best swordsman, Kao sees his opportunity to enlist his help in killing Pai.
Chang's good nature and friendly personality lead him to also help another skilled swordsman called Green, and the pair soon become close friends.
After a series of events, including Kao's attempted suicide, Green and Chang decide to fulfil his wish for vengence by storming Pai's villa.
However, it soon becomes clear that Kao's quest for revenge is but a small piece in a much larger plot - one which could not only spell the end of Chang and Green's friendship, but also their lives...

Showing many of the directorial flourishes which would later become his trademark, John Woo crafts an excellent swordplay drama, full of many memorable scenes.

As Green, Damian Lau provides a nice mix of gentle humour and world-weary pessimism, and of the two leads is obviously the more gifted actor. That's not to say that Wei Pai is poor, it's just that his performance lacks the subtitles of Lau's, and he occasionally overplays certain scenes.
As a pair though, they work exceptionally well together, and their natural chemistry shines through many times - particularly as they make their assault on Pai's lair.

Almost single-handedly stealing the show is Lee Hoi-San's character Pai, a psychotic Kung-Fu master whose desperation to improve his techniques comes at the expense of his students lives.
A very funny scene is the one in which Pai exclaims his disgust upon hearing the news that Chang and Green have killed some of his men. Prior to this, and during him receiving this dreadful information, he goes about kitting his students out in armour and then graphically beating them to death!

Action Director Fong Hak-On choreographs, as well as features in, some superbly intricate duels, and although the opening battle seems rather staid the remainder of the fights are stunning.
The variety of weaponry on display is enough to warm the heart of any Kung-Fu fan or student, with Kwan-Dao's, broadswords, spears, chain-whips and straight-swords featuring heavily.

Although falling just short of becoming a classic, mainly due to Wei Pai's acting limitations, Last Hurrah For Chivalry still comes pretty close. The plot twists provide a nice change from the usual formulaic storylines of many films from the same period, as do the generally excellent performances and fight sequences.

PICTURE
8/10

Considering the print's age - 1979 was over 20 years ago! - the transfer is excellent.
True, wear features throughout, but it's not actually that bad, with many sections of the film containing only light speckles.
Aside from the physical condition of the print, Mega Star could have done little better in their presentation of the movie:
Detail is excellent, as is colour reproduction, and the many intricate costumes and weapons on display look beautiful.
Another feature of the transfer which Mega Star has had problems with in the past are blacks - or dark greys as they have previously appeared.
Here, however, they seem to have solved this issue, with the numerous night-time scenes looking almost as good as the daytime ones.

One final point I have to make is to those fans of traditional Kung -Fu movies, who seem to have no problem with picking up Pan &Scan DVD versions of their much-loved films.
Just to demonstrate how much you're missing when you continue to to purchase these cropped releases (such as Drunken Master and many of the US discs available), zoom into the picture until it fills the screen.
Then watch your favourite scenes again....somewhat different isn't it?
In the past, before the advent of DVD, Pan & Scan was the only way to watch these films. However, with the arrival of this new format this should no longer be an issue.
If you continue to buy cropped and dubbed DVD versions of these films, you send the message to the disc's producers that they can release substandard products and still have people purchase them. This then creates a vicious cycle, with the only loser being you - the consumer.

So, my message is clear - refuse to buy substandard products.
It is only in this way that you will be able to ensure that Hong Kong cinema is given the respect it deserves...
PHEW...rant over.

SOUND
9/10

As a pleasant surprise, Mega Star's 5.1 remix is excellent, although not for the reason you might think...
The best aspect about this remix is that it's not really a remix. The same mono soundtrack seems to have been played through the front speakers, meaning that none of the reverb or tinniness found on previous Mega Star mixes is evident.
A small amount of distortion can be heard occasionally, but apart from that the sound is nigh-on perfect.
Also, just to add to my point above about Pan & Scan and dubbed DVD's, listen to the Cantonese track and then the English one, and try telling me that none of the drama is lost in the process...

SUBTITLES
9/10

Apart from the odd simplified line of dialogue, and missed word, the subtitles are exemplary, reproducing the the poetic quality of the dialogue perfectly.
Thankfully, they also bear no relation to the English dubbing and its cringeworthy, rejigged dialogue.

MENUS
5/10

Unfortunately, the menus are a step backwards for a Mega Star disc, with a lot of garish colour and none too clear buttons, making them slightly awkward to navigate.

EXTRAS
4/10

Static Chapter-Stops and the fun theatrical trailer are available on the disc. Also included are trailers for Naked Killer, Heroes Shed No Tears, Duel To The Death, and Magnificent Butcher.
However, my annoyance is with the biographies - only John Woo gets one, and it's miniscule.
Considering Damian Lau's involvement in so many great films of the period, as well as his appearance in more internationally well-known films, such as The Heroic Trio, you'd think at least he warranted a filmography.

PACKAGING
8/10

The nicely composed cover, using a smart combination of text and images, makes for an appealing design.
However, two things about the back of the cover are not so impressive.
Firstly, one of the images of Lau is out of focus, with a ghosting effect surrounding it.
Secondly, the plot synopsis, whilst very good, is incorrect.
It explains that Kao molests Chang's sister because of his jealousy towards him, but at no time does this actually happen in the film, nor is it referred to after the supposed event.
Apart those small, and rather basic errors, the packaging is attractive enough to catch the eye.

CONCLUSION
9/10

Finally being able to view this great film in its original language and aspect ratio should be reason enough for anyone to check this disc out, but allied with an equally excellent transfer and you have a must-own film on a must-own disc....buy it now.

MOVIE 9/10
PICTURE
8/10
SOUND
9/10
SUBTITLES
9/10
EXTRAS
4/10
MENUS
5/10
PACKAGING
8/10
OVERALL 9/10