Horror director John Carpenter’s 1986 offbeat, comedy-fantasy Big Trouble in Little China is effortless in its ability to maintain a light mood and tongue-in-cheek tone. It’s the kind of film that everyone involved in knows isn’t taking itself seriously, even the viewers, and that makes it all the more fun to sit through.
Kurt Russell takes the lead role as Jack Burton, a fast-talking, macho truck driver with a John Wayne twang who gets caught up in a centuries-old underworld battle in San Francisco’s Chinatown after he agrees to go along with his friend Wang (Dennis Dun) to pick up his girlfriend (gorgeous 1981 Penthouse Pet of the Year Suzee Pai) from the airport. The duo see the girl snatched right before their eyes by a gang and determine to get her back, but the gang is working for the immortal sorcerer Lo Pan (James Hong) who needs the girl to help him break a curse that has left him skinless and without corporeal form for centuries.
Russell is helped along by a strong cast of supporters, including his up to the task sidekick Dennis Dun and a spunky Kim Catrall as a lawyer/love interest who get wrapped up in the adventures when she tangles with the gang members at the airport. Big Trouble in Little China is also defined by some impressive martial arts choreography that pays tribute to the the old Kung Fu films of the 1970s while adding in a Western twist. Special effects aren’t really too impressive, not even for 1986, but taken on the whole, they fit in just fine in this quick-paced, fun film.
The transfer of Big Trouble in Little China offered up by Arrow in this Blu-ray release was done by 20th Century Fox, and its a good one indeed. The AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement looks clean, richly saturated, and full of texture. The grain structure is film-like without being overwhelming or noisy, while darks and midtones are nicely nuanced. Contrast is also quite strong. This is a very pleasing effort for a film of this vintage.
A Dolby Digital 2.0 “surround” mix and lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) track are provided. The latter is the way to go. While the 80s musical score by Carpenter shows its age and suffers from digititis, the dialogue is clean, there’s a good bit of ambience with some spread of sound around the room, and the low end is solid if not absolutely thunderous.
We are given a good bit of extra materials here, including new interviews in HD with Carpenter, Russell, and the rest of the crew.
- Interviews (1.78:1; 1080p/24):
- Return to Little China – A brand new interview with John Carpenter (00:12:16)
- Being Jack Burton – A brand new interview with Kurt Russell (00:20:59)
- Carpenter and I – A brand new interview with cinematographer Dean Cundey (00:15:40)
- Producing Bug Trouble – A new interview with producer Larry Franco (00:15:22)
- Interview with visual effects producer Richard Edlund (00:12:32)
- Deleted Scenes:
- The Dragon of the Black Pool
- The White Tiger
- Gracie’s Office
- Thunder’s Tour
- Beneath Chinatown
- Lava Sequence
- Six Demon Bag
- Extended Ending (1.78:1; SD; 00:03:17)
- Vintage Featurette (1.33:1; SD; 00:07:28)
- Music Video (1.33:1; SD; 00:03:28)
- Trailers (2.35:1; SD; 00:02:47)
- TV Spots (1.33:1; SD):
- Who Is…?
- Gallery (1.33:1; 1080p/24
- Audio Commentary by Director John Carpenter & Actor Kurt Russell
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw
- Booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Kenneth Muir, a reprint of an interview with production designer John Lloyd and make-up effects artist Steve Johnson on the design and effects of the film, illustrated with archive stills and posters.
The Definitive World
Big Trouble in Little China is a film that you can turn on and tune out to. It revels in its silliness, breezes by, and never takes itself seriously. Kurt Russell and his supporting cast all play along nicely in the folly and John Carpenter shows he is more than just a one trick pony.