Written by: Dieter Waumans on November 28th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: China, 1965
Film Studio: August First Film Studio (Bayi Dianying Zhipian Chang)
Director: Hao Guang
Writers: Shi Chao, Zheng Hong and Hao Guang
Cast: Tian Hua, Xing Jitian, Wang Xingang, Shi Wei, Qian Shurong, Liu Jiyun, Li Renlin
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)
The Secret Drawing (aka Secret Blue-print) is a Chinese detective movie on a propagandistic background. Secret intelligence papers have been stolen and disaster will strike if the documents fall in the wrong hands…
A Chinese intelligence agent’s secret documents are stolen in the railway station. Due to the highly confidential nature of the documents, it is of the highest importance that the thief is caught and the documents returned to the Government. Comrade Shi Yun, a police officer, volunteers and is assigned for the job. She collects as much information as possible from several witnesses and finds out that the thief is a stammerer. Then comrade Shi Yun is notified that the stolen briefcase with the secret documents has been found on the street by a doctor and his student. The police considers the case solved, but comrade Shi Yun disagrees. She gathers all the information she has and follows a trail to a tea salloon.
The tea salloon has a telephone that is used by everybody that lives in the neighbourhood. Shi Yun “disguises” as an employee of the national telephone company and tries to gather as much information as possible about the owners of the tea salloon. The owner acts very suspiciously: he owns expensive equipment and goes out secretly at night. But it quickly turns out to be a false lead. Nevertheless, once Shi Yun reveals her true identity (police officer), the owners give her a new trail, namely to a man, Ye Changqian, who lives nearby and uses their phone as well. Oddly enough, Ye has requested a permit to visit his family in Hong Kong. Shi Yun pays him a visit and discovers he is a stammerer. She decides not to take direct action, but to follow him during daytime. The next day, Ye has an appointment with “No. 23” to give her the secret documents, but on his way to the meeting place is recognized by the same doctor that found the stolen briefcase on the street (he had seen how “a man” threw it on the street). Ye is brought to the police station and interrogated by Shi Yun. Initially, he doesn’t confess, but then Shi Yun finds a microfilm of the secret documents in Ye’s pipe and he confesses everything he knows (e.g. that he had been contacted by the US Navy to work for them).
Combining all available information, Shi Yun concludes that Ye had been betrayed. But by who? She suspects No. 23 but also has questions about the role of the doctor. It is too much of a coincidence that he saw Ye throwing away the briefcase at night and then meet him again right at the moment the documents had to be transfered to another contact person. Shi Yun is informed that No. 23 is seeking permission to enter the Forbidden Zone to visit her ill sister. They decide to let her go and follow her. On the way to the Forbidden Zone, she picks up a doctor to cure her sister. This doctor, Doctor Wang, mysteriously enough is the same doctor that handed over Ye to the police. They go to a village near the sea, but their plans are thwarted as Shi Yun and a handful of soldiers and armed peasants come to arrest them. Right in time it seems – Doctor Wang had another copy of the microfilm…
1. 55 mins – Shi Yun fails to see how all the information she’s gathered is connected, but thanks to the wise words of Chairman Mao “suddenly” becomes “enlighted“.
The transfer is presented in 4:3, which seems to be the original AR. The quality certainly isn’t stellar but looks good enough on TV. The image clearly shows some brightness boosting and tends to be on the soft side. There are quite some minor scratches and speckles, but they are not really disturbing the viewing experience. The video is encoded as NTSC; the image has not been transferred progressively.
So all taken together, the movie is well watchable on a regular TV. The one really disturbing thing is the distributor’s logo appearing on the screen in at least 4 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 noticable. The audio may also sound a bit metallic at times (probably because of the remastering). The movie theme is quite nice and original.
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. In a few cases, extra information is given in the English subtitles to make it easier to understand what is happening.
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 nice but basic animated menu with the movie theme playing in the background. The menu is available in Chinese only, so it takes a bit of trial and error to find the “English” subtitle option (unless you understand the language, obviously). Scene selection consists of six chapters.
This certainly is not the best DVD production I’ve ever seen, but aside the Triple-Ring Audio-Visual Corporation China logo, there are no real atrocities being committed. The image is soft and shows contrast boosting, while the audio has been unnecessarily “remastered”. Subtitles are not superb but good enough to follow the story. Personally, I found it an enjoyable movie. Although there are some obvious propaganda elements (Americans, Mao, …), the detective story itself is original and the clues to solve the puzzle are not obvious.