Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 12th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: Taiwan, 1979
Director: Ming-Hua Chen
Writer: Ming-Hua Chen
Cast: Ling Chang, David Chiang, Danny Lee
DVD released: April 27th, 2015
Approximate running time: 100 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: Letterboxed Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Mandarin, Dolby Digital Mono Spanish, Dolby Digital Mono French
DVD Release: Terracotta Distribution
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £9.99
Synopsis: When a ruthless tyrant refuses to compensate his workers and anyone who tries to stand up to him are swiftly dealt with by the tyrants right hand man with deadly fighting skills. Unable to survive in the current setup the workers then acquire the services of a Kung Fu master whom takes on the tyrant and all of his men.
The oppression of the weak has been a well tread plot device in countless martial arts films. Where is the majority of other instances it was government epic sized oppression, while this film is minimalist version of the same theme. With said oppressor being a regional boss who runs a mine. And cast in the role of the tyrant boss is Danny Lee (The Killer) who delivers on of this film’s stronger performances.
On the other side of this film’s narrative is another staple, a man seeks out a master who continually refuses to teach. That is until one day when the master sees something that finally convinces him to take on said student. And in the case of this film, the student is portrayed by David Chiang (The One Armed Swordsman) who delivers this film’s standout performance.
And though action is going to play a huge part in the story at hand. One must not overlook the importance of humor in this film. With a scene where Chiang’s character has just returned after collecting 100 frogs and covered in muck. The look on the face of the character who answers the door and does not recognize him is priceless.
In other areas of this film there are the all too familiar genre staple the training sequences and the aforementioned action set pieces which ultimately are this films bread and butter. And though all of the fight sequences are well executed. For the most part the lack the inventiveness that the most memorable martial arts films all have in spades. Overall King of Fists and Dollars is a well-made, albeit by the numbers martial arts film that retreads familiar ground.
Terracotta Distribution presents King of Fists and Dollars in a letterboxed widescreen that slightly crops the image. Colors are faded and there is color fluctuation throughout. Black levels are weak and details generally look too soft. When compared to Terracotta’s other vintage martial arts releases, this transfer is easily their weakest transfer to date.
Surprisingly this release comes with four audio options, English, Mandarin, French and Spanish. All are presented in a Dolby Digital mono. For this review I focused on the English and Mandarin audio mixes and the differences between these two tracks are minimal. Background noise varies in degree and there are instances where the audio sounds distorted that crops up throughout. Fortunately the dialog comes through clearly and the fight scenes sounds appropriately robust when they need too.
Extras include an image gallery with music from the film playing in the background and trailers for The Fairytale Killer, Moebius, Belenggu (Shackled) and Hero of Shaolin. Overall King of Fists and Dollars gets a lackluster audio / video presentation that leaves a lot of room for improvement.