Project A ('A' Gai Waak): Platinum Edition (1983)

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Released 23-May-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Bey Logan (Hong Kong Cinema Expert)
Theatrical Trailer-2
Featurette-Dancing With Danger-Interview With Hong Kong Stunt God Mars
Trailer-Hong Kong Legends
Gallery-Lobby Cards And Poster Artwork
Notes-Triple Dragons
Featurette-The Elusive Dragon - Interview With Yuen Biao
Trailer-The Prodigal Son
Featurette-Project A: A Classic Revisited Documentary
Featurette-Can't Stop The Music - Interview With Composer Michael Lai
Featurette-Master Killer-InterviewWithWing Chun Grandmaster Lee Hoi-san
Featurette-The Pirate's Den - At Home With Leading Villain Dick Wei
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 100:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:08)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jackie Chan
Sammo Hung Kam-Bo
Studio
Distributor
Fortune Star
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Jackie Chan
Sammo Hung Kam-Bo
Biao Yuen
Dick Wei
Mars
Winnie Wong
Po Tai
Wu Long Cheung
Hoi San Lee
Hoi-Shan Kwan
Wai Wong
Fat Wan
Wing Man Kuen
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Siu-Tin Lei
Nicolás Rivera


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, outtakes during end credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Sometime in the early part of the Twentieth Century pirates are causing havoc off the Hong Kong coast. The Coast Guard are responsible for tracking down the pirates but have met with little success. After a brawl with members of the police force, the Coast Guard is disbanded and taken over by the police. Dragon (Jackie Chan) was a sergeant in the Coast Guard, and finds himself now reporting to Tzu (Yuen Biao), with whom he had an altercation during the brawl. Following a stymied attempt to capture a criminal in a high-class gambling joint and gentlemen's club, Dragon resigns from the force and seeks the existence of Fei (Sammo Hung), an old friend whose activities border on the illegal. Together they track down some stolen rifles that would have been sold to the pirates and discover that some of the police are corrupt.

    Dragon manages to engineer the reinstatement of the Coast Guard and together with Tzu discovers the pirates' lair. With the unexpected assistance of Fei they go after the pirates.

    This was a hugely successful film from Jackie Chan which paved the way for his later style of action movie. Moving away from the martial arts genre, here he has action, stunts and martial arts blended together. Some of the stunts defy belief, such as where he climbs a flagpole while handcuffed and jumps onto a nearby clock tower. Later he hangs from the clock face (obviously inspired by Harold Lloyd in Safety Last) then drops 60 feet to the ground through two awnings, seemingly landing on his head. This sequence is preceded by a remarkably choreographed bicycle chase through a labyrinth of narrow streets.

    While the plot does not always make sense, this film is very entertaining, with superb action scenes and a fast pace. Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung are very athletic and acrobatic, and lead villain Dick Wei is at the peak of his form as the pirate leader. Jackie, Sammo and Biao join together at the film's finale to battle Wei in a lengthy fight sequence. The film was popular enough that a sequel was made four years later.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a very good transfer with a bright, sharp image and a high level of detail. It looks like excellent print material was found for this edition, which has been digitally cleaned up. Scenes in bright daylight look especially good, while even in the dark pirate caves there is sufficient detail to see what is going on.

    Colour is also good. The brighter, more vivid colours come across well. Flesh tones vary between natural hues and browner tones, but generally are not problematic. Black levels are good though some scenes exhibit low level noise.

    Aliasing is present in some scenes, for example on the rigging of the ships. There is also some edge enhancement visible in scenes with bright backgrounds.

    Optional English subtitles are provided in a readable white font. They are well-timed, translate all of the dialogue and there are no spelling or grammatical errors (though there are a couple of subtitling errors in the extras).

    The disc on which the film appears is RSDL-formatted with the layer change placed at a cut at 72:08.

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

Audio

    There are two film soundtracks, one in Cantonese and one in English. Both are dubbed and have been remastered into Dolby Digital 5.1. In addition there is an audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    I wish that Hong Kong Legends would give the viewer the option of the original audio presentation, particularly when this surround remix adds little to the presentation. Dialogue is clear throughout, and there are few problems with the fidelity of the sound. But the surround mix is very much a frontal one, with the few sounds from the rears being distracting rather than adding to the sound mix. This is noticeable for example in the outdoor scenes in public, where the crowd scenes sound as though they are only coming from the rear channels. Worse are the low frequency effects, where excessive emphasis makes the audio bottom-heavy. Effects such as punches and kicks cause the subwoofer to emit an irritating thump, and viewers should probably choose to watch the film with the subwoofer switched off.

    The music score is by Michael Lai, Jackie Chan's regular composer. There are some good things about the score, with the marching band music being a highlight. Some of the music used for comic emphasis is less well chosen, and I think I heard a kazoo a couple of times.

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

Extras

    Being a Platinum Edition this set extends to two discs. The first contains the film, audio commentary, theatrical trailers and the interview with Mars, and the rest of the extras are on the second disc. That disc has four menu options, each containing a couple of the extras. The menu options have names like The Tea House and The Schooner rather than clear descriptions of what they contain.

    Unless otherwise stated, the extras are in 16x9 enhanced widescreen and have removable subtitles.

Main Menu Introduction

    There is a short animated introduction to the menu.

Menu Animation & Audio

    The menu is animated with some scenes from the film, and the audio is some generic music.

Audio Commentary-Bey Logan (Hong Kong Cinema Expert)

    Another fine commentary from Logan, who knows his stuff. Having listened to a few of his commentaries (and with a couple more in the reviewing pile) some of it is getting repetitive, such as the story about Yuen Biao's English names, but mostly this is compelling stuff and compulsory listening.

Theatrical Trailers (5:41)

    A Hong Kong Legends promotional trailer and an original theatrical trailer, both of course in good condition.

Featurette-Dancing With Danger-Interview With Hong Kong Stunt God Mars (15:26)

    Mars is a stunt god, apparently. I thought he was the God of War, but whatever. Mars appears in a lot of Jackie's films and here he discusses how he came to join the troupe, as well as his background in Peking Opera.

Trailer-The Big Boss, Mr Vampire, Way of the Dragon, The Young Master and Armour of God (9:18)

    Trailers for other releases from Hong Kong Legends.

Gallery-Lobby Cards And Poster Artwork

    As the name suggests, this extra includes some 10 lobby cards and posters for the film.

Notes-Triple Dragons

    27 pages of biographical information in text format about the three stars.

Featurette-The Elusive Dragon - Interview With Yuen Biao (18:07)

    A long interview with Biao about his life and career, which is fairly superficial but interesting nonetheless.

Trailer-The Prodigal Son (2:01)

    This trailer is included because of the presence of Biao and Sammo.

Featurette-Project A: A Classic Revisited Documentary (76:39)

    A very long making of documentary which includes interviews with many of the actors and crew, plus a British newspaper critic and several talking heads. Some segments are introduced by Bey Logan walking towards camera on the locations in which the film was made. Worth watching though I did not learn much from it. Few of the interviews were shot for this documentary, and the input from the British critic Jessica Mellor gets tiresome after a while. Some of the interview footage was originally in 1.33:1 and has been stretched to fit the wide screen. The audio is a problem with some of the film excerpts having a metallic reverberation.

Featurette-Can't Stop The Music - Interview With Composer Michael Lai (17:27)

    An interview with the composer, in English, where he talks about how he scored the film. He reveals there was a lot of input from Jackie.

Featurette-Master Killer-Interview With Wing Chun Grandmaster Lee Hoi-san (22:04)

    Another long interview, this time with Lee Hoi-San who appeared in the film and was a consultant on the martial arts.

Featurette-The Pirate's Den - At Home With Leading Villain Dick Wei (13:57)

    An interesting interview with Wei in his large Taiwan home (check out the caged dogs) in which he discusses his early career with Shaw Brothers as well as his films with Jackie. He seems slightly disappointed that he did not become a bigger star.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 is a port of the Region 2, with different trailers.

    The US Region 1 has a couple of trailers, but is not 16x9 enhanced and is a cut version. The cuts were not made for censorship reasons but to tighten the narrative and reduce the running time. The outtakes at the end of the film are also missing. The Region 4 is uncut.

    The All Regions Hong Kong disc from IVL (also containing the sequel) has photo galleries, trailers and ten minutes of deleted scenes. It also has a dts 5.1 soundtrack as well as Cantonese and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 and Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. Reports on the audio tracks are not favourable, with the dts track having the same bottom-heavy sound as the Region 4, and the original audio being shrill and uncomfortable to listen to. Another earlier release from Mega Star was not 16x9 enhanced.

    Unless you really want dts sound, the Hong Kong Legends release is the winner, particularly given the large quantity of extras. The Region 4 version is less expensive and more accessible than the UK version, so prospective buyers should check their local outlets. However, Hong Kong Legends have just announced that the film and its sequel will be released in a box set at a reduced price in the UK later this year, so if you want both this might be the least expensive option.

Summary

    An entertaining Jackie Chan film, the prototype for his later successes.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is very good, but keep that subwoofer switched off.

    A huge quantity of extras, some of variable quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, May 17, 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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