Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 24th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1978
Director: Liu Chia-liang
Writer: Sze-To On
Cast: John Cheung, David Chiang, Hang-Sau Wong, Chia-Liang Liu, Gordon Liu
DVD released: November 16th, 2010
Approximate running time: 101 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Mandarin, Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
DVD Release: Dragon Dynasty
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.97
Synopsis: Wei Fung (David Chiang) is recruited by the emperor of China to find evidence linking the Tien Clan with Ming loyalists and anti-Ching activities. He is given a timetable to complete his mission and the longer it takes him the harsher the punishment will be towards his family. It doesn’t take long before Wei Fung is able to infiltrate the Tien Clan in the disguise of a tutor for Chi-Chi Tien (Hang-Sau Wong). Will the Tien Clan found out about Wei Fung’s treachery and will he be able to save his family from the emperor?
Chia-Liang Liu directed some of the Shaw Brothers most memorable martial arts films like Spiritual Boxer, Executioners from Shaolin, 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Return to the 36th Chamber, Legendary Weapons of China and The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. He would team up with Chia Hui Liu (Gordon Liu) for most of these films. Besides directing Chia Yung Liu is a renowned martial artist who has starred in many films including The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, Master of the Flying Guillotine and Knockabout.
The film opens with two amazing martial arts scenes before settling down into a melodramatic soap opera. Chia Hui Liu who only appears in one scene is always a joy to watch enhancing each film I have seen him in. At times the story drags especially during the moments when Wai Fung and Chi-Chi were they are falling in love. The action does pick up later in the film when Wai Fung and Chi-Chi try to escape the Tien Clan home. They are forced with several opponents similar to the gauntlet that Bruce Lee is faced with in Game of Death an opponent who is skilled with a different weapon in each room.
Director Chia-Liang Liu keeps his camera moving with fluid camera movements that always makes for inventive action sequences. Overall the cast does very good with the standout performance from Director Chia-Liang Liu who plays Chi-Chi’s Grandfather. He usual plays heavies and in this film he as diabolical as ever. The best martial arts scenes in the film are when Wai Fung studies a Mantis which leads to his new fighting style. Wai Fung returns to the Tien Clan home for the films finally after grieving the loss of his wife Chi- Chi. He is forced to face an opponent in each room much like he had done before to escape only this time he seeks revenge. These scenes showcase his new Mantis fighting style as he works his way past each opponent to his ultimate goal Chi-Chi’s Grandfather. Overall what it lacks in story Shaolin Mantis more than makes up for in its unique fight sequences.
Dragon Dynasty presents Shaolin Mantis in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original ‘Shawscope’ aspect ratio. This transfer has been flagged for progressive playback. Colors and flesh tones look accurate. Black levels look contently good. There are no problems with compression and edge enhancement is minimal. Also this new transfer from Dragon Dynasty is proper NTSC transfer and not a standard conversion like the region 3 DVD release from IVL / Celestial.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital Mono mix in Mandarin and a Dolby Digital Mono mix in English. There are some very mild instances of distortion on the English audio mix. Also the English audio mix at times sound flat. The Mandarin audio mix is easily the stronger of the mixes. Three subtitles options have been included with this release English, Spanish and English SDH. 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’.
The only extra content included with this release are promos for other titles also available on DVD from Dragon Dynasty. Overall this is another strong audio / video presentation from Dragon Dynasty.