Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 27th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1986
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein, W.D. Richter
Cast: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong, Kate Burton, Donald Li, Carter Wong
BluRay released: December 16th, 2013
Approximate running times: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £19.99
The first half of the 1980’s is widely considered John Carpenter’s peak period as a filmmaker. Then in 1986 came along a film called Big Trouble in Little China which marked an end of this fruitful period for Carpenter. To put it more bluntly the studio had no faith in the film and it arrived dead on arrival. Fortunately the film has found its audience via the home video market and now almost thirty years later it is also finally receiving it just do in regards to critical praise.
Structurally the film is on solid ground as it follows the standard blue print that one would expect from a hero themed film. All of the characters are perfectly realized and their motivations are all crystal clear. Pacing is never and issues as each moment unfolds with a sense of purpose. Visually once again Carpenter is in top form as the visuals firmly entrench the viewer into the world he is creating. Also considering when this film was made it is surprising just how well all of the special effects and monsters hold up.
When discussing this film and why everything so effortlessly falls into place. One needs to not look farther than its melting pot of genres. This film has it all comedy, romance, action, drama and a little bit of horror thrown in for good measure. It is this avoidance of pinpointing this film in one specific genre and just letting the story speak for itself that is one of this film’s most durable assets.
From a casting stand point this is a remarkable cast that far exceeds what it would have looked liked on paper. With this film’s anchor being Kurt Russell (Escape from New York) in the role of a truck driver named Jack Burton who gets caught up in the battle in Chinatown. Another great twist that this film’s exploits for all its worth is how the usual hero would have been a character like Jack Burton and instead they may him the bumbling sidekick. And the end result is easily Russell’s most memorable and accessible character that he has portrayed to date.
The rest of the cast are as mentioned also very good with Kim Cattrall (Sex in the City) in the role of a dim witted reporter and Jack Burton’s love interest, Dennis Dun (The Last Emperor) in the role of Wang Chi, what is essentially this film’s hero role and last but certainly not least, James Hong (Chinatown, Blade Runner) in the role of David Lo Pan, this film’s diabolical nemesis for Burton and Chi. He is so utterly evil in the role of David Lo Pan.
From its opening moments, right on up until its unforgettable climax Big Trouble in Little China is a highly entertaining film that like fine wine gets better with age and subsequent viewings.
Big Trouble in Little China comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Colors look vibrant and at times literally leap off the screen. Grain looks natural, details look crisp and black levels look great throughout. There are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with three audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a DTS-HD Stereo mix in English. Though both mixes sound very good, the obvious winner of the two is the DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English. Dialog always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs to. Range wise things sound great considering the age of the film, with the actions sequences being the moments that really standout during this mix. The third audio option is the film’s isolated score in a DTS-HD 5.1. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include a image gallery, a music video, T.V. spots, trailers, deleted scenes & extended ending, a vintage featurette, an audio commentary with actor Kurt Russell and director John Carpenter and six interviews, the first interview with John Carpenter (12 minutes 16 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), the second interview with Kurt Russell (20 minutes 59 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), the third interview with cinematographer Dean Cundey (15 minutes 40 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), the fourth interview with producer Larry Franco (15 minutes 22 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), the fifth interview with stuntman Jeff Imada (12 minutes 32 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and the sixth interview with special effects Richard Edlund (13 minutes 27 seconds – anamorphic widescreen).
Topics discussed in the John Carpenter interview include, how the success of Starman lead to him getting hired for Big Trouble in Little China, his fondness for the martial arts genre, the cast, shooting most of the film on sets, the film’s score, the difficulties of working for a major Hollywood studio and how this film has become a cult movie. Topics discussed in the interview with Kurt Russell include, working with John Carpenter, who he based the Jack Burton character on, the cast, the martial arts sequences, this film’s ill fated release and subsequence popularity on home video. Topics discussed in the Dean Cundey interview include, the Halloween film franchise, working with John Carpenter, the martial arts sequences and production design. Topics discussed in the Larry Franco interview include, how Kurt Russell introduced him to John Carpenter and their subsequent collaborations. Topics discussed in the Jeff Imada interview include, the cast, stunt work and the martial arts sequences. Topics discussed in the Richard Edlund interview include, the films special effects.
Rounding out the extras is a Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw, a booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Kenneth Muir, author of The Films of John Carpenter, a re-print of an article on the effects of the film from American Cinematographer, illustrated with archive stills and posters. Overall Big Trouble in Little China gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.