The Magnificent Butcher
HONG KONG LEGENDS
 
Starring:
Directed By:
Yuen Woo-Ping
Year:
1979
Run Time:
104 mins
Producer: Hong Kong Legends
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Languages:
CANTONESE 2.0, English 2.0
Subtitles:
English
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
2.35:1 Anamorphic
Region:
PAL 2 & 4
Genre:
Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy - 18 (UK)
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MOVIE
9/10

Following one of Wong Fei-Hung's most well-known students, Lam Sai-Wing, The Magnificent Butcher highlights once again, Yuen Woo-Ping's exceptional choreography skills.
The superb cast, featuring the likes of Chong Fat, Lee Hoi-San and the one and only Kwan Tak-Hing, take part in some stunning bouts of martial artistry.
From the film's opening scenes, through to its finale, Woo-Ping's stamp of quality is evident throughout.

Sammo plays the role of Lam Sai-Wing - the mischievous student of Kwan Tak-Hing's Wong Fei-Hung.
As was the way with many films of the period, slapstick comedy, cracking martial arts, and utterly evil villains are woven into a fairly simple plot.
Where the Magnificent Butcher differs is the high-standards of its fight sequences.
Whether they involve Yuen Biao taking on Lam Ching-Ying's elbow-knives and fan, or Sammo Hung's Five Animals versus Lee Hoi-San's Five Elements, their execution and imagination never wane.

If the film has one failing, then it's one which can be levelled at many films of the genre - the rather one-dimensional characters.
Whilst the performances are excellent, with Sammo imbuing Sai-Wing with a great deal of warmth and charm, the dramatic aspects of the plot never quite manage to equal the martial ones.
This doesn't ruin the film, but it does reduce the emotional tension which would have made the film's final confrontation all the more exciting.

PICTURE
9/10

Having only recently viewed the MIHK VHS version, my desire to compare the two was undeniable.
In hindsight, I shouldn't have bothered...the DVD simply shatters the video's picture quality in all respects.
From the crisp detail, colour and deep black levels, through to the cleanliness of the print, this HKL release is quite superb.
The greyish nature of the night-time scenes, present on the VHS version, are all but gone, leaving a presentation which you'll be hard pressed to fault.
The only disappointment comes during the Calligraphy battle between Master Ko and Wong Fei-Hung.
Although nothing to do with HKL's encoding, the "shimmering" effect present on the print is very noticeable. It looks as if someone is waving a piece of cling film across the screen, and whilst it lasts only about 2 minutes, it's a distracting blemish on this otherwise excellent presentation.

SOUND
7/10

A far more solid-sounding Cantonese remix is provided on this disc, featuring less "fake" directional effects than previous HKL soundtracks. Because of this, it's fairly unspectacular to listen to, but does the job without too much hassle.

SUBTITLES
8/10

Having witnessed the slightly Westernised translations found on their previous discs, I was concerned about the subtitles before viewing the movie, as the Magnificent Butcher contains many Kung-Fu terms.
Thankfully, my fears were mostly allayed. Whilst some sentences are simplified, and others slightly mis-translated, the "flavour" of the subtitles are far more consistent with the tone of the film.

EXTRAS
7/10

Biography Showcase:

Sammo Hung
Being the same bio. found on the Eastern Condors disc, this 20 minutes feature has the same scrolling text and spoken word format (groan...).

Yuen Woo-Ping
In a rather odd move, HKL present a biography that contains no textual information. Instead, "voice-over man" reads his lines whilst clips from Yuen's films are shown at the side of the screen.
I'm not quite certain what HKL were aiming for, but the film clips are so much more appealing than the biography that I just sat through the whole thing with the sound down, watching the fight sequences!

Photo Gallery:

A collection of 26 film stills.

Trailer Selection:


UK Promotional Trailer and the Original Theatrical Trailer

Interviews:

Sammo Hung (12 mins).
This English language interview uses the first 7 minutes of the footage from the Eastern Condors DVD interview. Sammo then moves on to discuss the merits of Kung-Fu, and his feeling towards Yuen Biao and Lam Ching-Ying.
This whole feature really only contains about 3 minutes of new material, and if you already own the Eastern Condors disc, you'll be very disappointed by this half-hearted extra.

Yuen Woo-Ping
Filmed in the early 90's, this 20 minute interview conducted in Cantonese, is a fairly interesting discussion revolving around Yuen's career and aspirations.
However, it's a shame the interviewer was unable to glean some more insightful information from Yuen, as their conversation never really sparks the imagination.

Easter Egg:

This easy to find "extra-extra" contains 2 photos of the real Lam Sai-Wing, and a number of stills taken from the film's deleted, or unused, footage.

Commentary:

Once again, Bey Logan produces the goods.
Providing historical facts about Lam Sai-Wing, as well as many pieces of film-related information, Bey really gets his teeth into his subject matter with this engrossing commentary.

CONCLUSION
8/10

Falling just short of greatness due to its less than stellar dramatic content, there is still much to be enjoyed from this 1979 film - action, action and more action!
Disregarding the unavoidable "shimmering" present on the print, HKL's transfer of this 22 year old film is as good as it gets, and for any self-respecting fan of Traditional kung-fu, this is a must.

MOVIE 9/10
PICTURE
9/10
SOUND
7/10
SUBTITLES
8/10
EXTRAS
7/10
MENUS
8/10
PACKAGING
8/10
OVERALL 8/10