Written by: Dieter Waumans on December 25th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: China, 1962
Film Studio: August First Film Studio (Bayi Dianying Zhipian Chang)
Directors: Tang Yingqi, Xu Da and Wu Jianhai
Writers: Liu Qihui, Qu Hongchao and Chen Guangsheng
Cast: Bai Dajun, Zhao Changrui, Wu Jianhai, Lu Zaiyun, Dong Yuanfu and Xu Fuchang
DVD Distributor: Triple-Ring Audio-Visual Corporation China
DVD Release Date: March 3rd 2005
Region Coding: R0 NTSC (China)
Audio: Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English
Discs: 1 x DVD5
Features: Chapter selection (6 chapters)
During the War of Resistance (the second Sino-Japanese War) in 1942, the Japanese Imperial Army launches a series of attacks in the Jiaodong area. They have captured Huang Village and plan to use it as a bridgehead to gain further control over the surrounding valleys, their next target being Zhao Village. The Chinese main army sends some soldiers to train the local civilians in guerrilla warfare techniques.
Their main defence weapons will be landmines. As can be expected, there is not sufficient supply from the Chinese main force, so the locals are forced to design their own landmines. Stones filled with artisanally prepared gunpowder suit their purpose well. After the first defeat, the Japanese army assisted by the KMT calls for minesweepers. They are successful in the beginning, but the Chinese are so cunning and inventive that they develop new types of landmines, successfully eliminating the minesweepers and halting the advancing Japanese army. Consequently, the Japanese are forced to call a super-specialist to sweep the mines, and again they have initial successes. However, the Chinese are too cunning and their trickery ultimately leads to the death of the Japanese super-specialist minesweeper. The Japanese are furious and desperate…
But the tides are changing: the Chinese have to haul in the harvest to survive the rest of the year. The Japanese capture a group of peasants, amongst them village elder Shi. If the Chinese don’t give up their resistance, the prisoners will be killed. Brave as they are, the Chinese continue their guerrilla campaign and design a new and very special type of landmine. The Japanese march on to the village, with the captured villagers in front as living mine-shields. Since this movie is a Chinese propaganda film, you probably could have guessed that the captured villagers get out unharmed while all Japanese soldiers are killed. You guess right, but you have to see the film to believe how cunning these Chinese guerrilla fighters actually are.
This propaganda movie targets the Japanese and its KMT puppets (though they did not collaborate in reality). While propagandistic elements abound, they are not painfully projected into the mind. On the contrary: a humoristic touch makes the Japanese look more like donkeys rather then ferocious bloodthirsty beast. The movie is stuffed with landmine explosions, and especially the last 10 min of the movie is over the top, including the hallucinating general.
The transfer is presented in 4:3, which seems to be the original AR. The video looks very unrestored to my eyes, with plenty of dust, speckles and scratches. The image shows quite some contrast boosting and can be very soft at times. The video is encoded as NTSC and the image has not been transferred progressively. The distributor’s logo appears at five instances during the movie. It’s hard to miss the yelling red logo on the black/white background. Look at some screenshots for a closer inspection of the visual quality.
The Mandarin audio track is in Dolby Digital 5.1 (probably remastered). The audio can sound metallic and hollow, and background noise can be noticed during most of the movie.
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 a mess. They are hard to understand, not only because the vocabulary is wrong, the grammar is erroneous and they run faster than they can be read; no, the erratic use of quotes makes it even harder, distracting you too much from the viewing experience.
The DVD opens with an intro of the August First Film Studio (including music), followed by an intro of the DVD distributor and even something that looks like a copyright notice. The animated menu is basic but appropriately designed. Compared to other DVDs from this distributor, this is one of the better developed menus. You can look for the subtitle menu and the chapter selection menu. You can choose between the usual six chapters.
All taken together, I can recommend this DVD as a good introduction into the genre. The propaganda is not overwhelming, the runtime is rather short and the movie never gets boring. The image quality is low as usual, but it looks endurable enough on TV. Audio quality is of a similar low level and subtitles are a mess. They can help you to form an idea what the movie is about, but not much more. You can consider it as a part of the viewing experience. For some it is pain, for others it is fun. At least I had a good laugh.