Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 23rd, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1979
Director: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo
Writer: Tin-Chi Lau
Cast: Biao Yuen, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Ka-Yan Leung, Billy Chan, Lung Chan, Fat Chung, Ching-Ying Lam, Hoi San Lee, Chia Yung Liu, Karl Maka, Mars
DVD released: September 7th, 2004
Approximate running time: 104 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Cantonese DTS, Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, English DTS, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
DVD Release: Fox
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $9.98
Synopsis: Two con artist brothers’ Yipao and Taipao burn all their bridges so they beg a man named Silver Fox with superior martial arts skills to teach them. When a stranger arrives in town looking for Silver Fox the brothers’ soon discover that their master is a wanted man. Taipao is murdered by Silver Fox while Yipao narrowly escapes with his life. On the run Yipao teams up with a drifter named Fatty who helps him in his quest for revenge against Silver Fox.
After years of working as stunt man and playing minor secondary roles actor Biao Yuen would finally get his breakout role as Yipao in the Sammo Hung Kam-Bo martial arts comedy Knockabout. The story for Knockabout is your standard martial arts tale which features con- artists, revenge and several martial arts training sequences. The action sequences in Knockabout are just about as good as you will see in any martial arts film. The mixing of comedy and martial arts is done extremely well with the comedy never overshadowing the martial arts like it does is so many martial arts film from the 1980’s.
Sammo Hung Kam-Bo direction in Knockabout is sublime. The pacing is outstanding with each new scene more exciting then the next. Sammo Hung Kam-Bo also has a prominent role in Knockabout as fatty. The pairing up of Sammo Hung Kam-Bo and Biao Yuen is what really sells this film. They perfectly play off of each other and the scenes they are in together are without a doubt the best in the film. Two other notable collaborations between Sammo Hung Kam-Bo and Biao Yuen are The Magnificent Butcher and The Prodigal Son.
In the lead role of Yipao is Biao Yuen who shines in his first starring role. Biao Yuen’s ability to glide through the air and contort his body is unmatched. In role of Yipao’s brother Taipao is Ka-Yan Leung whose other memorable films include Lightning Kung Fu, Dreadnaught and The Postman Fights Back. Performance Ka-Yan Leung makes a wonderful fall guy to Biao Yuen more cunningly resourceful Yipao. Ka-Yan Leung also handles himself really well during his fighting sequences. In the role of the ominous Silver Fox is an actor named Chia Yung Liu who more memorable films include The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Master of the Flying Guillotine, Dracula and the Seven Golden Vampires, Shaolin Mantis and He Has Nothing But Kung Fu. Chia Yung Liu is suave and sinister throughout. His fighting skills are on par with Sammo Hung Kam-Bo and Biao Yuen’s.
Besides the main players Knockabout also does an admirable job filling the minor roles with memorable characters that have some weight to them. There is a banker and his son who both have a large mole which has a lengthy strand of hair dangling from it. The chief of the police is also an unusual character in the way he solves disputes and handles criminals. Silver Foxes two former partners that are now his enemies. They are first rate fighters who can really take a beating despite their strong feminine qualities. The films score like many martial arts film from this era features musical cues from other films (The Good, the Bad & the Ugly and Cross of Iron).
Ultimately Knockabout is one of the best martial arts comedy ever made.
Knockabout is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. Outside of some minor print damage and noticeable edge enhancement the image looks colorful and detailed throughout. Overall the image looks good with some minor room for improvement.
There are four audio options included with this release Cantonese DTS, Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, English DTS and English Dolby Digital 5.1. Unfortunately purists will be disappointed that the original mono mix has not been included. All four audio mixes sounds clear, evenly balanced and there are no audio defects. Removable English subtitles have been included. The subtitles are not dub titles as they appear to be a more literal translation then the previous English language release of Knockabout.
Extras for this release are limited to trailers for other martial arts titles also available from Fox and two trailers for Knockabout. Overall this is a more then serviceable release despite being interlaced and not flagged for progressive scan. Best of all the price of this DVD is more than reasonable.