Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 16th, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1993
Director: Michael Mak
Writer: John Chong
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Jimmy Lin, Michelle Yeoh, Joey Wang, Donnie Yen, Chung-Hua Tou, Elvis Tsui, Chuan-Chen Yeh
DVD released: July 10th, 2012
Approximate running time: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Letterboxed Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital Stereo Mandarin
DVD Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
Synopsis: Revolutionaries try to overthrow a oppressive king.
Butterfly Sword was directed by Michael Mak, who’s other notable films include, Long Arm of the Law II, Long Arm of the Law Part 3 and Sex and Zen. Other notable contributors to Butterfly Sword include cinematographer Yung Shu Chen (Drunken Tai Chi Master, Jackie Chan is the Prisoner) and screenwriter John Chong, who would go onto have a prolific career as a producer. He often collaborates with filmmaker / producer Johnny To. Some of his more notable films as a producer include, Exiled, Legend of the Black Scorpion, City of Life and Death and The Legend of Chen Zhen.
The screenplay for Butterfly Sword was adapted from the novel that was written by Hong Kong author Gu Long. Reportedly there are over three dozen films and just about as many T.V. series have been adapted from his novels. Some of the more notable adaptations include, The Magic Blade, Killer Clans and Heroes Shed No Tears.
It should be noted that when Butterfly Sword was released in Taiwan that the film ran about a minute longer in length and that all versions outside of this release omit this films original ending.
Made during a time in which all of the A list director’s were fleeing Hong Kong for greener pastures in Hollywood. Butterfly Sword is a perfect example of cinema that was immerging from Hong Kong during this era. This film is all about style and to hell with trying to sustain any semblance of substance. With that being said, this is not really that bad of a thing since this film is deeply rooted in fantasy and what transpires on screen often requires a leap of faith.
Also though the film does tend to lose focus at times, these slight detours are just minor bumps in the road. Since it is the action set pieces which drive this film. They are all exceptionally realized and appropriately gory when they need to be. Let’s face it, how can anyone not enjoy a film with Michelle Yeoh (Yes Madam!) in which she decapites numerous of her nemesis’.
Speaking of Michelle Yeoh, it is her performance that truly anchors this film. She dominates every scene that she is in. Besides Michelle Yeoh and her aforementioned performance, this films cast is made up of a virtual who’s who is Hong Kong cinema at the time this film was made. The fully loaded cast includes, Tony Leung (Hard Boiled, Chungking Express), Joey Wang (A Chinese Ghost Story – trilogy) and Donnie Yen (Iron Monkey, IP Man).
Well Go USA presents Butterfly Sword in a 1.85:1 letterboxed widescreen. This transfer looks like it was taken from a dated master, colors at times look muted, black levels look mediocre and details often lack any stability.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in Mandarin and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix Mandarin. Range wise the differences between these two audio mixes is minimal. Also though dialog comes through clearly, there are some mild instances where the audio sounds distorted.
Extras for this release are limited to trailers for other films also available from Well Go USA. Also included with this release is a slip cover that is identical to the cover art used for the keep case. Overall Butterfly Sword gets a mediocre audio / video presentation from Well Go USA.