The Postman Fights Back (Xun Cheng Ma) (1981)

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Released 15-Dec-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Stefan Hammond (Hong Kong Cinema Expert)
Biographies-Cast-Chow Yun-Fat
Biographies-Cast-Leung Kar- yan
Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer-2
Interviews-Cast-Chow Yun-Fat
Interviews-Cast-Leung Kar-yan
Trailer-Hong Kong Legends
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 84:19
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:54) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ronny Yu
Studio
Distributor
Fortune Star
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Yun-Fat Chow
Cherie Chung
Mui Sang Fan
Eddy Ko
Ka-Yan Leung
Yat Chor Yuen
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None 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 No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This film is part of the latest batch in the Hong Kong Legends series about to be released in Region 4 and dates from 1981. Coming at this point in the history of Hong Kong cinema, the film falls somewhere between the formulaic kung fu movies of the 1970s and the more ambitious epics of the mid-1980s and beyond. The interest for viewers nowadays might be the presence of a young Chow Yun Fat in one of his first theatrical movies.

    The story takes place during the revolutionary period that followed the fall of the Imperial government. On one side are the revolutionaries led by Dr Sun Yat Sen and on the other the remnants of the Imperial Court, who are trying to restore the Emperor. Our hero is a postman who does his work on foot. Brother Ma (Leung Kar-Yan) finds himself drawn into the conflict when friend Yao Gi (Yuen Yat Chor) is being chased by Imperial agents so that they can steal his money. It seems that everyone is stealing from everyone else. Because of this Ma can no longer make a living from being a postman and looks for other work.

    Ma and Yao are recruited by Hu (Eddie Ko) to deliver several cases to a nearby warlord. Also recruited are Lao Bu (Fan Mui Sang) and Fu Jun (Chow Yun Fat), the former being an explosives expert working in a quarry, the latter a cheating gambler. The group are joined by a young woman (Cherie Chung) who seems to have a thing for the postman. On their way to the rendezvous with the warlord our heroes are set upon by bandits and revolutionaries, and at one point even a ninja turns up. Well, this is a Hong Kong movie after all!

    This movie has good points and bad. If you are expecting Chow Yun Fat to star, then don't as he only plays a minor supporting role (even then he stands out among the cast). The martial arts are average and the characters are not especially interesting. The warlord has a talent for maniacal laughter as all good martial arts villains do, but what happens to him and his cronies is not especially satisfying. There is some good location photography, especially during a scene on a frozen lake. However, I think I have seen some of the locations many times before in martial arts movies of the 1970s. The film is not boring even if you have seen this sort of thing before, but it is nothing out of the ordinary except for the appearance of Chow.

    The appearance of the ninja and the superhuman things he does pushes this movie beyond the boundaries of the believable, which is a pity as it had been relatively credible up to that point.

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Transfer Quality

Video

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

    The transfer quality is not very good. There is a lack of detail to backgrounds, such as trees and grasses, where it seems like scan lines can be seen. This is the sort of appearance that I associate with a non-anamorphic transfer that is zoomed on the display, or a transfer from a VHS master. Coupled with this is mild aliasing and a jagged appearance to some diagonal lines. There is also some moiré on the clothing of some of the actors.

    In close-up the faces of the actors are reasonably sharp and have a reasonable level of detail. Unfortunately most of the time the action is shown from a distance.

    Colour is reasonable but not bright or vivid. Shadow detail is poor, though there are only a few indoor or night sequences where this is an issue. In some of these sequences there is a lot of grain and/or low level noise, with a white sheen to the dark portions of the image.

    The print material is quite clean, with only a few minor film artefacts and some translucent tramline scratches.

    The disc has optional English subtitles in a clear white font, with no timing issues nor any problems with spelling or grammar. It is RSDL-formatted with the layer change visible but not intrusive at 64:54.

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

Audio

    There is a choice of Cantonese or English dubs in Dolby Digital 5.1 format. I listened to the former, which is the default track.

    In most respects I found the audio to be disappointing, and I think it is because of the remastering of what was probably a mono original into a surround track. Music and effects sound okay, but in comparison the dialogue sounds muffled and indistinct. It is as though the music and effects come from a different source and are more recent than the dialogue, though I doubt that this is actually the case.

    The rears channels are used mainly for music and ambient sounds, such as bird song and the chirping of crickets. The subwoofer remains silent for most of the running time, only kicking into life when called upon to add emphasis to the sound of flames, but is not used for several explosions.

    The music ranges from flute to anachronistic 1980s style rock music, and it often draws attention to itself at the expense of atmosphere and believability.

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

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

    A brief montage of animation and footage from the movie precedes the main menu.

Menu Animation & Audio

    The menu has some footage from the film as background as well as what might be described as "generic Hong Kong Legends main menu music".

Audio Commentary-Stefan Hammond (Hong Kong Cinema Expert)

    This is a model for audio commentaries. It's a model of how not to do one. Hammond does have credentials as a "Hong Kong Cinema Expert", having written a couple of books, but he shows little of his expertise here. For most of the commentary he tells us what is happening on the screen and explains the plot. You'd be better off not wasting an hour and a half of your life by listening to this, as I did.

Biographies-Cast-Chow Yun-Fat

    This is a detailed text biography over a considerable number of static screens.

Biographies-Cast-Leung Kar-yan (11:45)

    This is a scrolling text biography and filmography which has a voice-over narration. You could say it was an audio biography in American with English subtitles, as it uses the same voice-over artist as on other Hong Kong Legends releases.

Gallery-Photo

    A series of stills from the movie.

Theatrical Trailers (5:40)

    The Hong Kong Legends DVD release trailer plus the original Hong Kong trailer.

Interviews-Cast-Chow Yun-Fat (7:16)

    A short interview in English with someone named "Chow Yun-fatt" in which he discusses his cinema career and his work with John Woo. No mention is made of the film on this disc.

Interviews-Cast-Leung Kar-yan (9:19)

    Another short interview in Cantonese I think, in which the actor discusses his career starting at Shaw Brothers plus his recent work as a director.

Trailer-Hong Kong Legends (8:34)

    Trailers for other releases from Hong Kong Legends, being Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon, Project A 2, Game of Death 2, Crime Story and Moon Warriors.

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 UK Region 2, with the same transfer and extras.

    The US Region 1 release from Fox has additional DTS soundtracks in Cantonese and English plus the original Cantonese mono soundtrack. The video quality is reported to be superior to the Region 2 and thus to the Region 4. On that basis the Region 1 is the one to get, even though it only has two trailers as extras.

Summary

    A fairly unimpressive period Hong Kong film.

    The video quality is disappointing.

    The audio quality is also disappointing.

    Not a particularly impressive set of extras either.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, November 21, 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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