Ninja in the Dragon's Den (Long Zhi Ren Zhe) (1982)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Bey Logan (Hong Kong Cinema Expert)
Biographies-Crew-Ng See Yuen (Producer)
Biographies-Cast-Hwang Jang Lee (Actor)
Interviews-Crew-Ng See-Yuen And Roy Horan
Trailer-Hong Kong Legends
|Year Of Production||1982|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (77:10)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Corey Yuen|
Seasonal Film Corp
Universal Pictures Home Video
Jang Lee Hwang
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
One of the problems for Western audiences with the films of Hong Kong, particularly those made in the 1970s and 1980s, is that they often seem just plain stupid, with goofy humour and a noticeable lack of taste. This is not a recent problem, and a look at most early silent films reveals the same naivety. The reason is the audience for whom the films are made. Hong Kong had a large population of immigrants and a lot of people who had not had much in the way of education, so the standards when it comes to storytelling on the screen are different. Some filmmakers (as in most countries) aim at the lowest common denominator, something that will satisfy everyone, and so Hong Kong films had lots of action, lots of lowbrow comedy and not much in the way of an even tone throughout their running time.
Ninja in the Dragon's Den suffers from this tendency. It is filled with plenty of amazing martial arts fighting, the filming of which is often inventive. But a lot of it is unbelievable and physically impossible without the aid of wires, which probably looks spectacular on the large screen but may not translate to the small screen so well.
The story involves a rogue ninja who is killing off some, umm, non-rogue ninjas. This ninja, Jeng Moo (Hiroyuki Sanada), comes to China to locate one particular ex-ninja who he believes killed his father. The ex-ninja is posing as a Chinese, known as Uncle Foo to his martial arts expert nephew Ah Ching (Conan Lee). When Ah Ching crosses paths with Jeng Moo who then makes an attempt on the life of Uncle Foo, Ah Ching and Foo decide to fight back by setting a trap for the ninja. Meanwhile Ah Ching is also having troubles with the son of the leader of the God Skills Society.
If you are looking for a believable and satisfying story then look elsewhere. At times I found this film tedious and a chore to watch. The martial arts sequences somewhat redeem the film, as the artists are all talented athletes and Corey Yuen's direction is quite good. But the hero is obviously made up to look like Jackie Chan, the comedy is silly and unfunny and the plot turns don't gel, or at least didn't gel with me. Perhaps I've been spoiled by watching the better martial arts epics of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Woo Ping and those from the Shaw Brothers studios. But I did not find either of the leads particularly charismatic. In fact I found Conan Lee to be quite obnoxious and was hoping he would get the living suitcase beaten out of him. Sadly it was not to be.
The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
This transfer is reasonably sharp for most of the running time though at times it seems slightly out of focus. Colour is quite good, with some bright primary colours. Flesh tones are a little too brown though, in keeping with the slightly brownish hue to the transfer. Shadow detail is adequate though no better than average. The clarity of the film is sufficient to make some telegraph wires visible, which demonstrates that the Chinese in the early Seventeenth Century were more advanced than most people have thought.
There are few film artefacts, with occasional faint scratches the only blemish I noticed. There is not much in the way of film grain, which suggests that the digital transfer has been cleaned up a little too much. Even so I did not see any artefacts due to excessive filtering. There is some telecine wobble, especially during the opening credits. The action sequences show some macro-blocking. There is also a lot of edge enhancement, but the fast pace of the film means that most of the time it is not an irritation.
Optional subtitles are provided which are in a clear white font and are well-timed.
The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change rather poorly placed at a cut in the middle of an action sequence at 77:10.
Instead of the original mono soundtrack we get a Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, plus an alternative English dub also in surround. I listened to the former in full and sampled the latter.
As is usual with these remixed mono soundtracks the surround version is not very impressive. There are some effects and music directed to the rear channels but most of the audio action comes from the front speakers. The LFE channel is used to emphasise the music and some of the punches, kicks and explosions.
Dialogue seems to be clear. The film was shot without sound and the soundtrack was dubbed in later, but most of the time I was reading the subtitles and so the audio sync is not much of an issue.
The music includes a familiar pop song about ninjas from the 1980s. Apart from this anachronism, the film taking place in the early 1600s, the music is not bad, though a lot of it sounds like it was taken from the studio music library.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu features some scenes from the movie with a star knife motif and some music which is not from the film.
Bey Logan must have some experience playing woodwind or brass instruments, as he seems to be able to talk continuously without pausing for breath. His enthusiasm for the film is infectious, as I found myself thinking it was better while listening to this commentary than I had though when watching it for the first time. He has plenty to say about the actors, particularly Conan Lee (whose real name, believe it or not, is Lloyd Hutchinson!) and why his career did not take off, and he also contributes information about the weaponry and the stunt sequences. As usual an entertaining listen.
The usual pair of trailers, one for the UK DVD release and one original Hong Kong trailer, plus a Japanese trailer. The last concentrates on the Japanese star and the ninja action.
A text biography and filmography of the film's producer.
A text biography and filmography of the actor who plays the leader of the God Skills Society, whom the heroes battle in the final scenes.
Three deleted scenes, all subtitled and in 1.33:1. They look to be taken from an alternative Japanese cut of the film, given the presence of burned-in Japanese subtitles.
The producer and a Seasonal Films executive discuss in English some of the problems in making the film and the troubles they had subsequently with Conan Lee wanting to get out of his contract. This extra is in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
Trailers and disc specifications for other Hong Kong Legends releases. The films are Legend of a Fighter, My Lucky Stars, Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars, Flaming Brothers and Millionaires Express.
There is a German Region 2 release of the film which is cut and is not 16x9 enhanced. Otherwise the only competition is the UK Region 2, which is identical to the Region 4 apart from the Hong Kong Legends trailers.
If you watch these films for the martial arts only, you will get something out of this. But as an overall entertainment it is a disappointment.
The video quality is satisfactory.
The audio quality is satisfactory.
A good selection of extras.
|DVD||Sony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output|
|Display||Sony VPL-HS60 LCD Projector projected to 80" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Sony TA-DA9000ES for surrounds, Elektra Reference power amp for mains|
|Speakers||Main: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV|