Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 17th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, May 7th, 1976
Director: Chia-Liang Liu
Writer: Kuang Ni
Cast: Kuan Tai Chen, Chia Hui Liu (Gordon Liu), Yue Wong, Lily Li, Tao Chiang, Yang Chiang, Chia Yung Liu, Kang-Yeh Cheng, Hark-On Fung
DVD released: July 29th, 2008
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Mandarin, Dolby Digital Mono Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 & Mono English
DVD Release: Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99
Synopsis: Wong Fei-hung desperately wants to learn Kung Fu. His father is one of the most prominent and respected Kung Fu teachers. Wong Fei-hung’s father fears that if he teaches his son Kung Fu that his short temper and lack of humility often gets him in trouble. Wong Fei-hung befriends a man named Yuen Ching who is looking for a killer. Yuen Ching also happens to be friends of Wong Fei-hung father and his fathers’ former teacher Luk Ah Choy. Impressed by Wong Fei-hung’s resilience Yuen Ching convinces Luk Ah Choy to come out of retirement and teach Wong Fei-hung. While training with his new master Wong Fei-hung discovers that his friend Yuen Ching has been murdered by the killer he was tracking. Wong Fei-hung intensifies his training to prepare him in his quest to find the killer and avenge his fallen friend.
The creative forces behind Challenge of the Masters are director Chia-Liang Liu and actor Chia Hui Liu (Gordon Liu). The duo has worked together on many notable Kung Fu films like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Return to the 36th Chamber, Legendary Weapons of China and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. Besides directing Chia-Liang Liu has acted in nearly four dozen films including the role of Chen Erh-fu the killer who Yuen Ching is trying to capture in Challenge of the Masters.
The story for Challenge of the Masters has three separate themes which all come together at the end. The first sub story involves two rival schools who are about to compete in a yearly Kung Fu competition. The second sub story revolves around Wong Fei-hung the son of one of the masters of these two rival schools who is itching to help his family’s school win the competition. The third sub plot centers around an escaped killer named Chen Erh-fu and a man named Yuen Ching who has be given the task of bringing him in dead or alive. The stories ultimate goal is how Kung Fu should not be used for personal gain and that one hasn’t truly mastered the art of Kung Fu until they understand humility.
Visually this film is exquisite with first rate action filling just about every moment. There is also an exceptional training sequences in which we get to see Wong Fei-hung’s skills evolve. The films standout moment is the fight between Wong Fei-hung and Chen Erh-fu. In the lead role of Wong Fei-hung is the ever so reliable Gordon Liu who once again proves why he is one of the most important martial artists to ever grace the silver screen. Other notable performances include Kuan Tai Chen cast in the role of Wong Fei-hung’s master Luk Ah Choy and Lily Li as Ho Hsiu-lien. Ultimately Challenge of the Masters is an underrated martial arts film that is waiting to be discovered by a wider audience.
Tokyo Shock presents Challenge of the Masters in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. This transfer has been flagged for progressive scan and there are no problems with blurring or ghosting of the image. Colors and flesh tones look accurate and natural. Details look razor sharp throughout.
This release comes with four audio options. There are Cantonese, Mandarin and English Dolby Digital mono mixes. The fourth audio mix is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English. All four audio mixes sounds clean, clear and dynamic. Removable English subtitles that are error free, easy to read, follow and understand have been included.
Extras for this release include the original English and Mandarin trailers and newly created Cantonese and Mandarin trailers for Challenge of the Masters. Also included with this release is a stills gallery (18 images) and a textless version of the opening credits. Other extras include the twelve minute interview with Chen Kuan Tai titled “Kung Fu Past and Present”. The main extra is another interview with Chen Kuan Tai titled “Challenging the Master” (7 minutes). In both interviews Chen Kuan Tai speaks in his native language and English subtitles have been included. Chen Kuan Tai discusses the following films in the two interviews Challenge the Master, Three Styles of Hung Fist, The Master and Heroes Two. Rounding out the extras are trailers for other titles currently available on DVD from Tokyo Shock. Overall Tokyo Shock gives another classic Shaw brothers film the deluxe treatment, highly recommended.