Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 22nd, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1986
Director: Liu Chia-liang
Writer: Yang-Ping Shi
Cast: Jet Li, Qingfu Pan, Hu Jian Qiang, Chau-Yin Wong, Cheng-Hui Yu, Hai Yu
DVD released: August 9th, 2011
Approximate running time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Mandarin, Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
DVD Release: Arc Entertainment / Dragon Dynasty
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.99
Martial Arts of Shaolin is one of Jet Li’s earlier films before his martial skills got buried in over blown Hollywood CGI action extravaganzas. The film takes it time by building up the relationships between the lead characters. This brings us closer to their plight and the blooming romance between Zhi Ming and Sima Yan. The bulk of the story does revolve around Zhi and Sima love/hate relationship that becomes full blown love triangle when the character of Chao is entered into the mix. An interesting moment that involves Jet Li’s character is when the three fugitives are on the run and Zhi is the one who dresses up in drag looking like a little Bo Pep. Surprisingly he pulls the bit off without looking to silly or over the top. This film has its share of standout action moments with the films finally the cherry on top. Overall Martial Arts of Shaolin mixes up its various influences into a cohesive piece that contains first rate action with high drama.
Dragon Dynasty presents Martial Arts of Shaolin in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original ‘Shawscope’ aspect ratio. Though this transfer is in good shape, it is not one of Dragon Dynasty’s stronger efforts. There are no problems with compression, colors and flesh tones look accurate and details generally look crisp. Black levels on the other hand are not as strong as they could have been and details during darker scenes are considerably less. Unlike Dragon Dynasty previous DVD releases this does not appear to be a new transfer, since the running time is in line with the running time for the region 3 DVD release from IVL / Celestial, which was PAL to NTSC standard conversion transfer. It should also be noted that Dragon Dynasty’s transfer also exhibits some instances of ‘combing’.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital Mono mix in Mandarin and a Dolby Digital Mono mix in English. Of these two audio mixes, the Mandarin is clearly the stronger of the two audio mixes. The Mandarin audio mix sound clean, clear and robust when it needs too, while there are some mild distortion issues with the English audio mix which also sounds considerably flatter. The English subtitles have many instances where they are different than what is being said during the English ‘dubbed’ audio mix and they do not appear to be ‘dub titles’.
Extras for this release are limited to a promo for titles available from Dragon Dynasty. Overall Martial Arts of Shaolin gets a strong audio / video presentation from Dragon Dynasty.