The Green Hornet (1973)

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Released 15-Feb-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio
Featurette-The Black Beauty
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 83:17 (Case: 82)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By William Beaudine
Norman Foster
Darrel Hallenbeck
Studio
Distributor

MRA Entertainment
Starring Van Williams
Bruce Lee
Wende Wagner
Lloyd Gough
Walter Brooke
Tom Drake
Mako
Larry D. Mann
Robert Strauss
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.95 Music Al Hirt
Billy May


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The Green Hornet started life as a radio serial that ran from 1936 to 1952. During this time there were also two serials released to cinemas. In the wake of the success of the Batman TV series, The Green Hornet premiered on TV in 1966. In fact, there was some crossover between the two series, with the Hornet and Kato appearing in a cameo, leaning out of a window as the caped crusaders scaled a building. The following year they appeared as Guest Heroes in the two episodes of Batman entitled A Piece of the Action, where they seemed more like villains.

    The Green Hornet is, like Batman, a vigilante crime-fighter with a flashy car and lots of gadgets. By day he is Britt Reid, millionaire publisher and media tycoon. His trusty Chinese manservant Kato doubles as his kung fu fighting offsider. Unlike Batman, the series was played straight. Incidentally, in the radio series Reid was supposed to be the son of the nephew of The Lone Ranger, but there is no mention of this in this film.

    The Hornet was played by a little-known actor named Van Williams, who remains little-known to this day (though he seems to be the only surviving regular cast member). Kato was played by a then unknown actor named Bruce Lee. After Lee's death in 1973, someone had the bright idea of reworking several episodes of the series into a movie in order to cash in on the late star's name. And this is the creation on this disc. Lee's name in the opening credits has been specially highlighted.

    The movie is made up of three re-edited stories, covering four of the twenty-six episodes that were made. The first comes from episode 11, The Hunters and the Hunted. Our heroes fight against members of the Explorers Club who have been killing off some people for nefarious purposes. The only guest star of any note in this episode is Robert Strauss (Stalag 17), who plays Crocker. The middle of the film is a cut-down version of the two part Invasion From Outer Space, which was episodes 24 and 25. A mad scientist named Dr Mabouse (a distant relative of the villain of several Fritz Lang films no doubt) steals an H-Bomb with the intention of dropping it. Larry D. Mann is the villain here. The last section of the film is taken from episode 10: The Preying Mantis. This one takes place in Chinatown, with the dynamic duo taking on some Tongs as well as villain Duke Slate (Tom Drake). The chief Chinese baddie is played by Mako, and he gets to fight with Kato. Famous voice-over artist Garry Owens (Roger Ramjet) makes an on-screen appearance as a TV announcer.

    The producers of this work have also edited in some Lee fight scenes from other episodes, which makes this movie seem very choppy and disjointed. It is as a result barely watchable, though the presence of Bruce Lee gives it some interest. Most people would think that he was a Chinese actor who only appeared in five kung fu films in the early 1970s. In fact, he was born in San Francisco and went to Hong Kong as a child. His first film appearance was as a one year old, and from the late 1940s he played child roles in Hong Kong films. In all he made over thirty films, but only his kung fu classics, the Green Hornet TV series and his appearance in Marlowe in 1969 are readily available. You would be better off watching any of those than this tedious rehash.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 but is not 16x9 enhanced. I would guess that the theatrical presentation was in 1.85:1. This would have been matted from the original 1.33:1 television series.

    The series was shot on film, which makes the adaptation to the screen less of an issue than if it had been shot on video. It does not look as bad as I expected, though it does not look very good either. I suspect the original was shot on 16mm, or that the transfer derives from a 16mm print.

    The transfer seems to have been made from a screening print. It is reasonably sharp most of the time, and there is enough detail to make out what is going on. The transfer is bright with an acceptable level of contrast, but shadow detail is not good. There are a lot of scenes set at night or in dark locations, and these are quite murky. There is an overall look to the film not dissimilar to those legions of kung fu films released on VHS, unrestored and from projection prints.

    The colour looks very much like 1960s TV. There is a flat and slightly washed out appearance to it, with flesh tones being overly brown. There are no solid blacks here, nor pure whites, due to both noise and the detritus on the source material.

    The only film to video artefact I noticed was caused by excessive noise reduction, with blocks of the image seeming to quiver slightly, independent of the rest of the image. This occurs to some extent throughout the film, though it is more noticeable in sequences with low lighting levels.

    Film artefacts abound. Most of these are white flecks, though there is also dirt, some larger examples of print damage and regular reel change markings as well.

    The disc is single-layered, and there are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is one audio track, in Dolby Digital 2.0, and it has surround encoding.

    The audio is roughly the same quality as the video. Dialogue is clear all of the time, so one can make out what is going on. There is some harshness and distortion present, and the acoustic generally sounds boxy. While this appears to be stereo, I did not notice any directional effects across the front speakers. In Pro Logic mode, the surround encoding placed virtually all of the audio in the centre channel, with very faint sounds coming from the main and rear channels. All of these had the same signal as the centre channel, so there is nothing to be gained by listening to the audio in this mode.

    The theme music to the film is that from the original series, by Al Hirt and Billy May, inspired by Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee with the theme played very quickly on a trumpet. This would be familiar to many viewers from its use on the Kill Bill Vol. 1 soundtrack, where it was included as an homage to Lee I expect.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The static main menu has the theme music from the series.

Featurette-The Black Beauty (14:17)

    This featurette is wholly about the car, which has a lot of features we don't get to see in this film, and some of which didn't even make it to the original series. The car was purpose-built by Dean Jeffries, and is now owned by someone named Louis Ringe. Both are interviewed in this featurette. The car sat in the open at the Warner studios for years before it was bought by an old lady, who then left it out in the open at her home. The car deteriorated badly, looking like a wreck in the pre-restoration photos shown here. It was fully restored by Jeffries back to its original condition. This isn't the most exciting material for a featurette but it managed to hold my interest.

Gallery-Photo (2:46)

    This is a short featurette with continuous footage of publicity stills, backed by some generic music that has nothing to do with the series.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 release appears to have identical content to the Region 4.

    There is a UK Region 2 release. In comparison to the Region 2, the Region 4 misses out on

    In comparison to the Region 4, the Region 2 misses out on

    Unless you want all of the extras on the Region 2, there is no reason not to choose the Region 4.

Summary

    A shoddily put-together rehash of several episodes of a cult TV show, this would only be of value to Green Hornet or Bruce Lee diehards.

    The video quality is poor, partially due to the quality of the source material.

    The audio quality is below average.

    A couple of extras, not particularly substantial but better than nothing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, February 14, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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