Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 9th, 2004
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, 2004
Approximate Running Time: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin
Subtitles: English, traditional Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia
DVD Release: Celestial Pictures
Region Coding: Region 3 NTSC
Retail Price: $17.95
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.
Shaolin Mantis is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The colors are vibrant and the black levels are solid through out. The print used is in excellent shape as grain is kept to a minimum and artifacts or print damage is non existent. Details are sharp through out offering fans the best home video version to date.
This release comes with one audio option Mandarin which is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that has been remixed from the original mono source. This track offers a sound filed that is dynamic in range during the fight sequences. The dialog is clean and easy to follow with no sign of hiss or distortion.
Subtitles that are easy to read and follow are available in English, traditional Chinese and Bahasa Malaysia.
Extras included a new trailer created for this release as well as trailers for the following films Mad Monkey Kung Fu, My Young Auntie, Executioner from Shaolin and The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. The main extra on this release is a sixteen minute featurette “Contemporary Styles of Kung Fu” which offers some interesting facts about Shaolin’s and Kung Fu. Rounding out the extras are cast and crew bio/filmographies, the original poster art, production notes and a photo gallery that includes behind the scenes and movie stills. Celestial Pictures release another first class Shaw Brothers DVD that comes with some cool extras and the best audio/video version available to date.