THE PRODIGAL SON : R2 Vs R0
 
Producer: Hong Kong Legends
Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles
English, Dutch
Extras:
Theatrical Trailer, UK Promo Trailer, Interviews, Biographies, Commentary
Menus:
Animated
W/S Subs:
Ratio
2.35:1 Anamorphic - Slightly cropped
Region
PAL 2 & 4

Producer: Universe
Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, Mandarin 5.1
Subtitles
Removable Chinese (S+T), English, Japanese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese
Extras:
Biographies, Theatrical Trailer
Menus:
Static
W/S Subs:
Ratio
2.35:1 Non Anamorphic
Region
NTSC 0
 
MOVIE

None of HKL's current releases have prayed on my mind in quite the same way as this one - the Sammo Hung directed Wing Chun masterpiece The Prodigal Son.

A film close to my heart, and a DVD company in HKL who got Encounters Of The Spooky Kind so right, I was expecting great things.
But in this life, expectations and reality don't always go hand in hand...

READ THE FILM REVIEW HERE

PICTURE
UNI

HKL's print has been extensively cleaned-up, removing almost every nick, scratch and sparkle that was evident on Universe's version.
This also means that the white horizontal line which appears at the very top of the frame with each camera angle change, has been removed.
Whilst this makes for an infinitely superior viewing experience, the HKL print features two noticeable white lines at the right-middle side of the print. These last for the majority of the Sammo Hung scenes, and are very noticeable once they catch your eye.

Detail is the one area of the HKL disc which I thought would easily wipe the floor with Universe's R0 non-Anamorphic offering. However, I was disappointed and surprised...
Amazingly, there is very little to choose between the two releases, with the NTSC disc holding its own against the PAL R2, and in a considerable number of instances bettering it.

Black levels are superior on HKL's disc, as is colour reproduction, although not by the largest of margins.
Universe's release is slightly too bright at times, which makes certain colours look washed out.
Both versions feature little shadow detail, as would be expected of a film 20 years old.

Up until this part, I really didn't think there was much to separate these two disc, with HKL possibly edging in front slightly.
However, as is becoming a worryingly regular occurrence, the print appears to have been cropped slightly, meaning the picture information is lost at the left and right sides of the print.
TV which suffer from overscan (as most do) will "lose" far more information still.
A few examples are shown below, with the HKL pic on the left, and the Universe on the right.
Blue lines denote how much extra is "lost" viewing the HKL disc on a Widescreen TV.

Also, the R2 picture "stutters" at two points, giving the impression of a faulty disc. Having checked this, it is apparent this is part of the transfer.

I never honestly thought I would write this after receiving Hong Kong Legend's latest title, but the Universe print is superior.
Very good detail and colour, an un-cropped transfer, and a lack of PAL speedup make for a far more rewarding experience.

SOUND
DRAW

With both films remixing the original Cantonese Mono soundtrack into 5.1, there is little to separate the two discs.
Some good separation and a generally clear presentation is offered by HKL's release. However, at one point during the behind the scenes opera fight, the sound cuts out completely for a second.

Universe's mix is no more involving, and is at times a little harsh-sounding, but at least doesn't feature the audio drop out.

SUBTITLES
UNI

"F***ing queer" is not a term that was often heard in the period the film is set, yet it finds its way into HKL's subtitles. Alongside this horrible addition, HKL translate a number of terms and meanings incorrectly.
"Kata" is a Japanese term pertaining to Japanese martial arts, and has no place in this Hong Kong film.
Also, the scene in which Leung Jan is thought to have molested Twiggy has some very poor translations, making for a far cruder version than Universe's subtitles.
The one bonus of HKL's subs is the addition of subtitled written Chinese.

The Region 0 disc's subs run out of synch at one point, but are overall a superior translation to HKL's attempted Westernisation of the film's script.

MENUS
HKL

No contest here: HKL wipe the floor with Universe's static menus by delivering a superbly designed set of animated screens.

EXTRAS
HKL

HKL

Commentary
Asking Bey Logan to commentate on his favourite film of all time means that his enthusiasm is unconstrained. Whilst this leads to some repetition of past Hong Kong film facts, the commentary remains a joy to listen to.

The Heroic Trio (26mins)
A fascinating interview with Sammo Hung, Frankie Chan and Yuen Biao.
This specially commissioned feature is far and away the extra sections main draw. Numerous recollections by the three added greatly to my appreciation of an already superb film, and I'll definitely be returning to this again.

Life Imitating Art (27mins)
An interview with Guy Lai, the Wing Chun consultant for the Prodigal Son, is an interesting departure from HKL's usual cast and director interviews.
Issuing information as well as stories from his time on set, and his opinions of the film's makers and stars, this generous interview is interspersed with demonstrations of Wing Chun by Austin Goh.
To be honest, these do little to help the interview, as they appear to have been spliced from a much larger reel of film, and just end up breaking up the flow.

The Art Of Wing Chun
A text-only dissection of the roots of Wing Chun. Not particularly in-depth, but reasonably interesting for newcomers.

Trailers
UK Promo Trailer
Original Theatrical Trailer

A Tribute To Lam Ching-Ying
Whilst this offers nothing new to those who have HKL's Mr.Vampire release, this text-only offering pays fine tribute to the legendary Lam Ching-Ying.

UNIVERSE


Biographies And Filmographies for Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, and the theatrical trailer.


There really is no point in me typing this, as it's plain to see, but HKL's extras far outdo Universe's in terms of both quality and quantity.

CUTS/CHANGES
HKL

Incredibly, HKL's print is longer than Universe's.
This is due to the fact that the Region 0 has a tiny cut which was made to the scene in which Leung Jan's servant beats him with a pole.
It was removed (unwisely in my opinion) because it has a very noticeable white mark running down the centre of the print.
However, HKL have managed to source a print which responded to their restoration and therefore, Leung Jan takes more of a beating.
Other than that, the two prints are identical.

CONCLUSION
UNI

I won't hide my disappointment...I really expected a lot more than HKL have seen fit to provide for this release.
Picture, sound and subs (the three most important aspects of a DVD in my eyes) are all no better than Universe's presentation, and in some cases fail to match the NTSC disc - particularly as the PAL disc is cropped.
If we're talking extras though, there really is no contest between the two.

And with this comes the dilemma - which is superior?

Quite simply, if you want a 'Prodigal Son Extras Disc', then HKL is your first port of call.
For everyone else, Universe's disc remains the undisputed champion.

COMPANY
Hong Kong Legends
Universe
Winner
MOVIE
10/10
10/10
DRAW
PICTURE
6/10
8/10
UNI
SOUND
6/10
6/10
DRAW
SUBTITLES
7/10
10/10
UNI
EXTRAS
8/10
3/10
HKL
MENUS
8/10
4/10
HKL
PACKAGING
7/10
7/10
DRAW
OVERALL
7/10
8/10
UNI