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Battle Wizard, The 
Written by: on December 27th, 2008

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1977
Director: Pao Hsueh Lieh
Writer: Kuang Ni
Cast: Danny Lee Sau Yin, Tien Ni, Kong Do, Wai Wang, Lin Chen Chi, Shut Chung Tin

DVD released: January 6th, 2009
Approximate running time: 73 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Chinese
DVD Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.98

Synopsis: Not seeing the importance of spending hours learning Kung Fu. An aristocrat’s son named Tuan Yu decides to learn the hard way why knowing Kung Fu is essential. Tuan Yu sets out on a spiritual journey and along the way he encounters a young woman who tells him about a giant python that if ones drink’s its blood they will instantly become a powerful martial artist. Back at home all is not well as one of Tuan Yu’s fathers’ nemesis a cripple who now needs stilts to walk is preparing to exact his revenge.

The Battle Wizard was directed by Hsueh Li Pao whose other notable films include Boxer from Shantung and Water Margin. The screenplay for The Battle Wizard was penned by Kuang Ni, one of the most prolific Shaw Brothers screenwriters during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Some of his most notable screenwriting credits include The One-Armed Swordsman, Chinese Hercules, Black Magic, The Killer Snakes, The Mighty Peking Man, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Human Lanterns. The screenplay for The Battle Wizard is based on a Chin Yung novel titled “The Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils”.

Even though the film clocks in at a mere seventy three minutes so much ground is covered in such a short running time. The frantic pacing lends perfectly to the films bizarre and at times outlandish plot. Visually the scenery is inventive and fight scenes are extremely entertaining. One of the best parts of this film is its cast of colorful characters and their most unusual weapons. There is a disfigured giant who has a detachable claw that he uses for a weapon, a young woman who throws snakes which burrow into her victims flesh and fingertips that shoot laser beams.

A familiar face Danny Lee is cast in the film’s lead Tuan Yu. Besides starring in numerous Shaw Brothers production in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, some of Danny Lee’s other screen credits include City on Fire and The Killer. The acting while not without its flaws is more than adequate and in line with fantastical elements of this film. Ultimately The Battle Wizard is a melting pot of genres as magic, mythical creatures and martial arts make for one hell of a ride.

The DVD:

Well Go USA presents The Battle Wizard in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors look robust and flesh tones look natural. The black levels look good and details are reasonably sharp. Even though the transfer is interlaced the image remains stable throughout. There are no major issues with blurring or ghosting. Overall this is the best looking transfer from Well Go USA to date.

This release comes with two audio options Mandarin and English. Both audio mixes are presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 and removable English and Chinese subtitles have been provided. The Mandarin track sounds cleaner and fuller of the two audio mixes. It is a shame that the original mono mixes have not been include since these 5.1 mixes sounds to spread out and at timers tiny. Overall while not as dynamic as they could be both audio mixes are more than adequate in getting the job.

Extras for this release include a trailer for The Battle Wizard. The trailer is in the film’s native Mandarin and removable English and Chinese subtitles have been provided. Overall The Battle Wizard gets a good DVD release from Well Go USA that makes up for its lack up extra content with its more than affordable price.

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