Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 30th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: Taiwan / Hong Kong, 1984
Director: Cheh Chang
Writer: Cheh Chang
Cast: Kuan Tai Chen, Sheng Chiang, Feng Lu, Andy Lau, Jimmy Wang-Yu, Sonny Yu, David Chiang, Ti Lung, Danny Lee, Chi Kuan-Chun, Wang Chung, Ricky Cheng
DVD released: February 9th, 2015
Approximate running time: 85 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Cantonese
DVD Release: Terracotta Distribution
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £9.99
Synopsis: During the Sino-Japanese war, a Chinese patriot who has just stole documents that reveal traitors within the Chinese government that are working with the Japanese. Needing to safely get the documents from Shanghai to Hong Kong, the Chinese patriot enlists an elite group of assassins known as the Shanghai Thirteen to protect him on his journey.
When talking about martial arts filmmakers one would be hard pressed to name one more revered then Cheh Chang, whose work for the Shaw Brothers in the 1960’s and 1970’s includes some of the best martial arts films ever made. Films like The One-Armed Swordsman, Golden Swallow, Boxer from Shantung, Five Deadly Venoms and Crippled Avengers. And by the mid-1980’s he would leave the Shaw Brothers and branch out on his own writing and directing films like Shanghai 13.
Content wise, the plot is your standard good verse evil. With the Chinese patriots in the role of the good, while everyone falls into the bad category. Narrative wise there is not much to film outside of its numerous action set pieces. With the majority of the back-story being is the first two scenes.
Fortunately this film’s anemic narrative is never an issue, since the group of fighters known as the Shanghai Thirteen are made up thirteen distinctively different personalities. With each character’s name and their persona having to do with their weapon of choice / fighting style.
As mentioned before one of this film’s greatest strengths is its action set pieces. There is an ample amount of bloodshed going on throughout these action set pieces which are well executed and at times inventive. And for a film with wall to wall action is it not surprising that is saves its best action set piece for its finale.
Performance wise the cast are only given so much to work with and they more than deliver when it counts the most during the action set pieces. Also the cast features several recognizable faces like Jimmy Wang-Yu (Master of the Flying Guillotine), Danny Lee (The Killer), David Chiang (The One Armed Swordsman) and Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs). Overall Shanghai 13 is highly entertaining and fast paced film that martial arts fans are sure to thoroughly enjoy.
Terracotta Distribution presents Shanghai 13 in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s intended aspect ratio. The image never looks cropped or cramped. The source used is in very good shape. Colors fare well, flesh tones look accurate, black levels are serviceable and details generally look crisp. Also there is edge enhancement that varies in degree throughout.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital mono English and a Dolby Digital mono Cantonese. The English audio mix has some mild background noise and during the last act of the film there is other audio impurities that crop up including a brief audio drop out. Also this audio track exhibits some distortion issues. The Cantonese audio mix has several of the same issues with the main difference being this track does not sound as robust as the other audio mix. When it comes to dialog things are always clear and easy to follow. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles that are easy to read. It should be noted that they do have a few grammatical errors.
Extras for this release include a stills gallery and two interviews; the first one with actor Sonny Yu (8 minutes 37 seconds – in Chinese with English subtitles) and the second interview with actor Lu Feng (6 minutes 6 seconds – in Chinese with English subtitles).
Topics discussed in the interview with Sonny Yu include, how he got into martial arts and tournaments that he participated in, how he got into the film industry, the preparation that went into martial arts sequences, Shanghai 13 and working with Cheh Chang and why he left the film industry after only four films.
Topics discussed in the interview with Lu Feng include, how he got into the film industry, how Cheh Chang groomed new talent by pairing them up with established stars, the films he appeared in for the Shaw Brothers and how Shaolin Rescuers is his favorite that he worked on.
Rounding out the extras are trailers for Fairy Tale Killer, Moebius, Shackled, Hero of Shaolin, Crocodile, Breathless, Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack and Revenge: A Love Story. Overall Shanghai 13 gets a strong release from Terracotta Distribution.