Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 2nd, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong 1981 (Men of the Hour), Hong Kong 1983 (Attack of the Venoms)
Directors: ? (Men of the Hour), Chang Cheh (Attack of the Venoms)
Cast: Lieh Lo (Men of the Hour), Sheng Chiang, Hsu Chung Fei, Cheung Lee (Attack of the Venoms)
DVD released: January 10, 2006
Approximate running time: 91 minutes (Men of the Hour), 91 minutes (Attack of the Venoms)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen (Men of the Hour) 4.3 Full Frame (Attack of the Venoms)
Sound: Dolby Digital stereo
DVD Release: BCI Eclipse
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
Men on the Hour: Emperor Chang was a great warrior who encouraged his people to study martial arts and a monument known as the hero’s tower was built in his honor. Every year on the 9th of September all the best martial artists gather at the hero’s tower to participate in a contest to determine who the best fighter is. Chu Yun Sin is this year’s favorite to win the competition that is until his master is murdered. Now he only has one thing on his mind and that is to capture his masters’ killer. His best friend is the one suspected of killing his master and now he must bring him back to atone for his crime.
Man on the Hour also goes by the alternate title “Black Hercules vs. Yellow Tiger”. This version of the film oddly enough opens with no credits besides the films title card and has no ending credits. The film opens and ends with narration that fills in several gaps that occur through out the film. The films opening can be confusing as we are not fully intruded to any characters and through a rapid fire montage of various town people discussing the various marital arts fighters who will completing in the hero’s tower competition. These series of images are cleverly done as the director inter-cuts objects in place of fighters’ limbs as their opponents break them into submission.
The fighting is this film is off the wall as everyone defies gravity. One of the women characters who is just as skilled as the men uses her pony tails as weapons. This must been seen to fully appreciate it. A wide variety of weapons are also used even though there are only a handful of deaths in the film. I found the story to be engaging despite it bordering on your typical marital arts premise. Not of the characters are fully fleshed out and the lack of depth is more then made up for by the many action set pieces that make up this film. There are some shady characters in this film that are not fully exposed tell the very end which is also part of the fun of the film as you never really know who killed Chu Yun Sin’s tell the very end. Overall what is lacks in back story it more then makes up for with its excellent martial arts sequences.
Attack of the Venoms: A traveling opera show arrives in a small town only to find bad luck shortly after their arrival. Jenny a young girl who helps out with the opera accidentally turns over Joy God doll she finds in a trunk which means bad luck. The Commander is the top dog law enforcement official in town and while attending on the opera shows he sees the shows leading lady Lily Fa who he has become infatuated with. It is later found out that Jenny is pregnant and it is decided that she should go away for awhile. Meanwhile all is not well as The Commander is growing impatient waiting for Lily Fa to become his woman. She is in love with the shows leading man Handsome White and the other men in the opera decide to preserve their livelihood it would be best if they killed Handsome. After they kill Handsome they frame him for Jenny’s death after her body is discovered in the woods. The show must go on so the opera hires a new leading man named Master Shaw and shortly after his arrival various members of the opera start to die mysteriously one by one.
Attack of the Venoms also goes by the alternative title “Attack of the God of Joy. This film was directed by Chang Cheh one of the Shaw Brothers most prolific and influential directors of the 1970’s. This film has a few colorful characters that perfectly offset the rest of the cast. The story is pretty solid as its starts out as a film about murder and then its shifts into more of a ghost story. When Handsome White’s co-workers decided to kill him that tone of the film never really recovers. The moment when they kill him is the most brutal moment in the film as they are cold and calculated.
Chang Cheh direction as usual is excellent as his eye for detail is impeccable. The second half of the film that leans towards a ghost story does feel a little half backed at times as Handsome White’s ghost appears out of nowhere to make those who are living accidentally mess up while playing knifes and other dangerous weapons. Overall Attack of the Venoms has a few solid moments that try their hardest to make this average film more enjoyable.
Men on the Hour is presented in a letterboxed ratio of about 1.85:1 that has plenty of head run and never cramps the action. The colors look good and there is no noticeable bleeding. Details are sharp in the back and foreground with a few minor instances of softness during a couple wide shots. Outside of some nicks and scratches the transfer is pretty solid.
Attack of the Venoms is presented in a full frame aspect ratio. The action remains in frame for the most part with a few shots that look cramped. This full frame transfer is not the films original aspect ratio and I was unable to determine what this films exact aspect ratio is. Colors look adequate and flesh tones look healthy. Details look sharp in the foreground then the background. Outside of a few minor instances of specs of dirt the print used is virtually free on any other print damage.
Men on the Hour comes with only one audio option an English dubbed audio track which is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. The dialog is crisp and the music and effects sound evenly balanced. There is some noticeable hiss through out and a few audio drop outs. Overall the audio mix for this release is average at best.
Attack of the Venoms comes with only one audio option an English dubbed audio track which is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. The dialog comes through cleanly and the music and effects sound evenly balanced as they never distort each other. There are a few instances of noticeable hiss and other then that this audio mix is pretty clean. Overall the audio mix for this release is slightly above average.
Each film comes on their own single layer DVD and they are in a keep case that comes with an outer sleeve that slips over the main box. The box art for this outer sleeve is exactly the Sam art used for the main box. Both films come with a trailer for Pride Fighting Championship. The only real extra include for this release is a nine minute interview with stuntman/action director Robert Tai who discusses in-depth working with Chang Cheh. This interview is in Thai and comes with English subtitles that are easy to read and follow.
BCI Eclipse has put together another solid double feature release at an affordable price. Men of the Hour and Attack of the Venoms are two distinctly different types of marital arts films who central themes are murder and revenge.