Written by: Dieter Waumans on December 3rd, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: China, 1960
Film Studio: August First Film Studio (Bayi Dianying Zhipian Chang)
Director: Xu Youxin
Writers: Li Yang and Zheng Hong
Cast: Zhang Yongshou, Xing Jitian, Huang Huanguang, Qu Yan, Yuan Xia, Wan Diqing, Xie Wanhe
DVD Distributor: Triple-Ring Audio-Visual Corporation China
DVD Release Date: December 22th 2004
Region Coding: R0 NTSC (China)
Audio: Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1 and MPEG1)
Subtitles: Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English
Discs: 1 x DVD5
Features: Chapter selection (6 chapters)
Raid (the cover spells Reid) tries to tell us the story of the People’s Volunteer Army in their battle against the evil American imperialists and their puppets. In this propagandistic masterpiece dating from the Mao-era, Chinese soldier Feng Yong is instructed to blow up the strategic Kangping Bridge, which lies deep into enemy territory. This will cut off supplies to the American army and allow the Chinese to engage in a full attack.
The mission is a dangerous one: Feng Yong and his troop first have to cross the enemy frontline. By a combination of bravery and cunningness, they get through easily but are confronted with new problems as they move through enemy territory. In one such a confrontation, the road they have to pass is blocked by South Korean army supply trucks. To get the lazy, drunk, undisciplined and nicotine-addicted South Korean soldiers moving again, the Chinese decide to disguise as Americans. After some of the most unconvincing and irrelevant dialog I have ever heard (“Whaaaaat? You waaant to die? You son of a biiiiitch! Get out of here, you!”), the South Koreans continued their way.
To blow up Kangping bridge, the Chinese need assistance from the locals. Feng Yong contacts an old woman, Amani, who helped him before in the war when he was wounded on the battleground. She can give him valuable information on local strategic positions and bring him into contact with the resistance. Disguised as wounded South Korean soldiers, Feng Yong and two soldiers from his troop go down to Kangping bridge to explore the area. However, their plans are exposed and nearly thwarted. One way or the other, Feng Yong is able to get back to his troop with the necessary information to blow up the bridge. This is not an easy task, since by now the Americans have knowledge of the Chinese plans. But assisted by the local Korean resistance, the Chinese nevertheless succeed in their plans and launch a major assault on the trapped American forces
Since it is a propaganda movie (August First Film Studio is under the supervision of the Chinese army), you already know from the beginning that the Kangping Bridge will be blown to smithereens. Typical for this kind of movie, there are no good and bad guys, only superheroes and demons. In this movie, the American imperialists and their Korean puppets play the demons. As usual, they are depicted as dumb, arrogant, undisciplined, alcoholic, nicotine-addicted and selfish soldiers that subscribe to the cowboy way of life. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese and their Korean peasant allies are shown as brave, strong, persistent and cunning, superior in any aspect to the Americans and their puppets (i.e. the non-Communists). Contrarily to many other movies of this type, the Chinese that acted as American soldiers received a good deal of make-up and can be readily recognized as non-Chinese personages.
Also interesting to note is the strong contrast between the Chinese and their Korean allies. While Chinese women are traditionally masculinised in communist propaganda movies to fit the political gender-equality agenda, their Korean brothers and sisters are feminized, hereby creating a sharp contrast between revolutionary and modern China at one side and traditional (and inferior) Korea on the other. The combination of poor, defenceless women harassed by imperialist invaders and the Korean traditional pre-revolution way of life are used as a justification for the Chinese to help their oppressed brothers and sisters: old wine, new bags. This dichotomy can be found in several Chinese propaganda movies about the Korean War.
The transfer is presented in 4:3, which seems to be the original AR. The quality certainly isn’t stellar but looks better than many other Chinese propaganda movies I’ve seen. It looks good enough on TV though. The image is a bit soft and clearly shows contrast boosting. There are some scratches and speckles, but not enough to distract you from the viewing experience. The video is encoded as NTSC; the image has not been transferred progressively.
So all together, the movie is well watch able on a regular TV. The one really disturbing thing is the distributor’s logo appearing on the screen at several instances during the movie! The logo, a combination of three suspiciously commie-red circles (the distributor’s name appears to be Triple-Ring Audio-Visual Corporation China), appears at the right and scrolls to the left corner and remains there for a handful of seconds. The red logo on the black/white background of the movie guarantees you won’t miss it! Look at the screenshots for a closer inspection of the visual quality.
The Mandarin audio track is in Dolby Digital 5.1 (probably remastered). There is also a MPEG1 audio track on the DVD, but you cannot select it via the menu. Occasionally, some background noise is noticeable. The audio may also sound a bit metallic at times.
Subtitles are available in traditional and simplified Chinese and in English as well. I cannot judge the Chinese subtitle quality (I don’t understand the language), but the English subtitles are not really good. Translations often sound very “artificial”, but you still get the message. Aside that, subtitles sometimes scroll too fast to be read.
The DVD opens with an intro of the August First Film Studio, followed by an intro of the DVD distributor and even something that looks like a copyright notice. There is a basic, animated menu with a rather kitschy appearance. It is available in Chinese only, so finding the “English” subtitle option can take some trial and error. Scene selection consists of six chapters.
Overall, the quality of the DVD is relatively underwhelming. The video definitely lacks any form of restoration; shows contrast boosting and lack of sharpness. Furthermore, the audio can sound metallic at times and shows its age. English subtitles are not for the weak-hearted linguists, but they are good enough to follow the story. Propaganda elements abound in this movie: if propagandistically themed movies are your field of interest, you certainly have to check out this movie. The short running time (ca 75 min) makes it an endurable adventure. The only unforgivable atrocity committed to this DVD is the appearance of the distributor’s logo at several instances during the movie.