Hong Kong 1941 (Dang doi lai Ming): Special Collector's Edition (1983)

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Released 18-Jan-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Bey Logan (Hong Kong Cinema Expert)
Gallery-Photo
Biographies-Cast-Chow Yun-Fat
Interviews-Cast-Chow Yun-Fat, Cecilia Yip-Tong
Trailer-Hong Kong Legends
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 96:25
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (78:03) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Po-Chih Leong
Studio
Distributor
Fortune Star
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Alex Man
Kien Shih
Chow Yun-Fat
Cecilia Yip-Tong
Wu Ma
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 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

    You may be surprised to learn that this film is set in Hong Kong in 1941. When the story begins the Japanese are on the verge of moving into the British colony. With the British civilians decamping for Australia the territory is left in relative chaos, the local authorities looking after themselves and speculators trying to drive up the price of rice.

    Ah Fay (Chow Yun-Fat) fails in an attempt to stow away on a ship bound for Sydney, and finds himself at a loose end. He crosses paths with petty criminal Keung (Alex Man) and Nam (Cecilia Yip-Tong), whose father Han owns a rice warehouse at which both Keung and Fay get jobs. Han (Shih Kien) wants to marry the sickly Nam (she appears to be suffering nothing worse than migraines or epileptic seizures though everyone seems to think she's about to die) off to some man he has picked out for her. But secretly she has been meeting Keung.

    When Nam meets Ah Fay though, something clicks. A love triangle develops, against a backdrop of Japanese oppression and clandestine resistance activities. Can the three survive, and who will end up with Nam if they do?

    Po Chi Leong's film suffers from various shortcomings. At times, especially during the love scenes, it has a leaden pace, and while the cinematography is very good (a fact that gets repeated numerous times in the extra material), some of the shots are held for too long and thus become self-indulgent. The script too fails to make either the love story or the dramatic action believable. What saves the movie are a number of good performances. Chow shows the charisma that would eventually lead him to become a superstar in Hong Kong a couple of years later, while Cecilia Yip-Tong is not bad in what was only her second movie, though her character is occasionally annoying. On the other hand, Alex Man plays an insufferable character whose "charm" seems to be limited to a smug grin. Shih Kien played the villain in Enter the Dragon as well as in many of the original Wong Fei Hong movies, but his talents are not very well exploited here. What few scenes he has are commendably downplayed. Also very good is Wu Ma as one of the senior collaborators with the Japanese, showing what he could do with a dramatic role instead of the usual comic turns he was called upon to do.

    This movie is a bit of a hodge-podge though it does have some redeeming features - it is also relatively short and may be interesting to viewers in the depiction of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, something not commonly featured in the movies. It will also be worthwhile to anyone who wants to see Chow Yun-Fat in his pre-superstardom years. Just don't expect a high-octane action film. By the way, the original title means something like "Waiting for Dawn".

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The original aspect ratio of this film was 1.85:1 and that is what we get here, with enhancement for 16x9 displays.

    I don't know whether this is a feature of Hong Kong films or the era or of Hong Kong Legends transfers, but this transfer is typically a little soft on detail. Perhaps the techniques they use to remove film artefacts and clean up the source material also remove some fine detail. Or possibly the source material just wasn't that good to begin with. In any case there is sufficient detail to watch the film without distraction, but I often felt that it should have been better. There are no serious problems with contrast or brightness, but as often is the case shadow detail is lacking. Black hair is the main victim of this, being somewhat amorphous and without much definition.

    The colour seems to have been boosted slightly, so that flesh tones are a bit too red. Some bright scarlet colours seem rather too bright, but otherwise the colour palette is acceptable.

    There is some minor edge enhancement at times, plus some low level noise in some of the shadows, but otherwise there are no film to video artefacts of any note. There are few film artefacts, limited to occasional faint scratches.

    Optional subtitles are provided in the usual white font. These are clear and generally easy to read, and seem to be well timed with the dialogue. There are two exceptions though, where the subtitles flashed on screen so quickly that they were impossible to read. These were at 15:16 and 61:43.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, and again the layer change is poorly placed at 78:03 in the middle of a scene.

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

Audio

    While the alternative English dub of the film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the original Cantonese dub comes only in Dolby Digital 2.0. Not that that is a bad thing, as this is how the movie would have originally been heard in cinemas.

    The audio quality is average for a Hong Kong film of this era. At times a little strident, there is some faint hiss and a lack of dynamic range to it. It appears to be mono, as I did not notice any stereo separation. Dialogue is clear throughout. The sound effects are also clear. Being a looped soundtrack, audio sync is approximate but there were no instances where the sync was out by a large margin.

    The music ranges from effectively underlining the mood of various scenes to sounding like pop music of the 1980s. Fortunately the latter style appears only infrequently.

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

Extras

    Unless stated otherwise, all of the extras are in widescreen and are 16x9 enhanced.

Menu Animation & Audio

    The usual animated menu with some music which might be from the film.

Audio Commentary-Bey Logan (Hong Kong Cinema Expert)

    You have to wonder about someone who can not only name but give a career history on just about everyone who appears in a movie. This commentary not only does that but also gives some background to the real history of the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong as well as detailing the career of the director (even pointing out his cameo). Logan tries to make a case for the film as being better than it really is. His enthusiasm makes this commentary easy to listen to, even if you've heard a dozen of his previous efforts.

Gallery-Photo

    A somewhat lame photo gallery consisting of stills from the film.

Biographies-Cast-Chow Yun-Fat

    A detailed text biography of the star that extends to more than twenty pages.

Interviews-Cast-Chow Yun-Fat (12:39)

    An interview with the star which seems to have nothing to do with the movie on this disc. Speaking in English and sometimes difficult to understand, Chow spends almost the entire interview talking about his work with John Woo. This extra is in 1.33:1.

Cecilia Yip-Tong (27:55)

    A recent interview in which the star discusses her experience on Hong Kong 1941 in detail, along with an account of how she broke into the movies. Ms Yip-Tong looks remarkably well preserved twenty years on. She speaks with enthusiasm about her co-stars and has a good recollection of her work on the film. I just wish the cameraman had held the camera level instead of at a trendy angle, which gets annoying very quickly.

Theatrical Trailers (5:57)

    As usual, an original trailer is supplemented by a Hong Kong Legends DVD trailer.

Trailer-Hong Kong Legends (7:05)

    A series of trailers and specifications for other releases from this label, being Prodigal Son, Eastern Condors, Story of Ricky and Flaming Brothers.

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 copy of the UK Region 2 release from the same label, albeit with a different selection of trailers for other releases.

    While the Hong Kong Region 3 release is in widescreen and features surround mixes of the original soundtrack, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    There have been two releases in Region 1. The first came from Tai Seng and again is not 16x9 enhanced. It has Cantonese and Mandarin tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 and biographies, filmographies and a trailer as extras.

    A second Region 1 release comes from Fox. It is 16x9 enhanced and has Cantonese and Mandarin tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1. There are conflicting reports about the quality of the audio. As extras it has a shorter interview with Cecilia Yip-Tong than on the Region 4, plus an interview with Paul Chun. There is a photo gallery, production notes and a biography of Chow Yun-Fat.

    The Hong Kong Legends disc seems to be the superior release based on the available information.

Summary

    A fairly undistinguished and patchy romantic story set during the Japanese occupation.

    The video quality is quite good.

    The audio quality is good but not exceptional.

    A good extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, February 06, 2006
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: Richter Thor Mk IV

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