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Cinematic Vengeance (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Collection
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

A collection of eight classic kung films from the Taiwanese indie kung fu filmmaker Joseph Kuo includes '7 Grandmasters,' 'The Old Master,' and 'Shaolin Kung Fu' among others.

Eureka Entertainment’s Eureka Classics imprint gathers eight classing martial arts films from Taiwanese director Joseph Kuo in this four-disc collection, Cinematic Vengeance.

Kuo often took on the mantle of writer, director, and producer in these indie films out of Taiwan as the center of the kung fu genre universe was Hong Kong. Even with that and his obvious formula of copying the successful Hong Kong films of directors like Chung Chang-wha or Sammo Hung and actors such as Jackie Chan (often using lookalike stand-in actors for Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan), Kuo managed to push out some lasting favorites and enjoyable films.

The strongest of the bunch are probably the first two and last two in the collection. The 7 Grandmasters, which opens the set, features spectacular fighting, featuring a grandmaster readying to retire who receives a note challenging his claim to being the best kung fu master, so he sets out on a journey, followers in tow, to fight all seven grandmasters and prove his style the best. Paired with this film on disc is The 36 Deadly Styles, which is not quite as good as Grandmasters, but still has marvelous fight sequences and features a razor-thin plot about two rival schools out to destroy each other. Kuo spares not a second to explain much of anything in this film, jumping right into the action and throwing characters at us without much exposition.

Other films include The World of Drunken Master, which is an obvious rip-off of the film made a year earlier, Drunken Master, that catapulted Jackie Chan into superstardom. Kuo provides us with some excellent fighting in this film, but little actual ‘drunken’ kung fu style. Paired with this film on the same disc is The Old Master, a cash-grab film that is meant solely to take advantage of the newfound superstardom of Jackie Chan by casting in the role of title character an actor making his first film appearance, Yu Jim-yuen (1905-97) the man who trained Jackie Chan as a child. The plot is about the ‘Old Master’ who is meant to be protecting his old friends from thugs, but they are really using his fighting skills to gamble on and payoff their gambling debts. The film is a rough and ready production with terrible camerawork, poor filming techniques, and often out-of-focus cameras, yet it somehow still counts as a one of Kuo’s classics.

On the next two discs we get Shaolin Kung Fu, The Shaolin Kids, 18 Bronzemen and Return of the 18 Bronzemen, a sequel completely removed from the first film. Shaolin Kung Fu is the standout of the last four, about a skilled rickshaw driver who seeks revenge on bad guys after a woman is killed. Return of 18 Bronzemen along with the film that proceeded it, is one of the overall best in this entire collection as well, given the elaborate set designs, the luxuriant costumes, and the story of political intrigue about the now installed emperor, Yong Zhen, who is presented with news that the Shaolin monks mean to rebel against the throne. He responds by sending an army to crush them. Smooth, eye-catching martial arts set pieces ensue.

The Video

All eight films are provided across four discs, so they are squeezed two films a disc into this set, but the restorations of these late 70s to early ‘80s classics look very good, nevertheless. Do keep in mind that a lot of these films are very low budget, so some of the issues with the picture in a film like The Old Master, where it was a rough and quick shoot, tripods setup unevenly, no switching of film stocks for different light settings, and so on, so that the image quality can vary wildly on the source itself. That given, these 2.35:1 AVC 1080p encodements look true, mostly quite clear and clean, and often provide vibrant colors, such as the gorgeous reds, yellows, golds, and greens of the costumes in 18 Bronzemen. Each film is encoded in AVC 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, all originally shot in ‘Shawscope,’ the Shaw Brothers branding for CinemaScope.

The Audio

These Taiwanese films are mostly all in Mandarin with two also having a Cantonese dub and all also featuring English dubs. The audio for each mix is provided in LPCM 1.0. I can’t say they sound great, but they are good enough. The music and certain louder sound effects can sound very distorted, but the sounds of fights, especially the fists moving through the air have very punchy midrange frequencies underpinning the sound.

The Supplements (and tech specifications)

This collection comes with a hefty set of collectibles items, a thick booklet, gorgeous artwork on the hardbound packaging, and audio an audio commentary for each film. My favorite commentaries are the ones featuring Frank Djeng and Michael Worth, but all are excellent, conversational in nature, and offer lots of information on the filmmaker and productions.

  • Limited Edition Hardbound Case featuring newly commissioned artwork by Darren Wheeling
  • Limited Edition 60-page booklet featuring new writing on the films included in the set by James Oliver, illustrated with archival imagery and materials
  • Limited Edition set of 8 facsimile lobby cards

Disc 1

7 Grandmasters

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Mandarin LPCM 1.0

Secondary: Cantonese LPCM 1.0 | English LPCM 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary by Frank Djeng and Michael Worth

The 36 Deadly Styles

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Mandarin LPCM 1.0

Secondary: English LPCM 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema

Disc 2

The World of Drunken Master

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Cantonese LPCM 1.0

Secondary: English LPCM 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng and Michael Worth

The Old Master

Mandarin LPCM 1.0

Secondary: Cantonese LPCM 1.0 | English LPCM 1.0

Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema

Disc 3

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Mandarin LPCM 1.0

Secondary: English LPCM 1.0

Subs: English for Mandarin Audio | Signs Only for English Audio

Shaolin Kung Fu

Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema

The Shaolin Kids

Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema

Disc 4

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

18 Bronzemen

Mandarin LPCM 1.0

English for Mandarin Audio | Signs Only for English Audio

Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary by Frank Djeng and John Charles
  • HK Version reconstructed from various sources for this release

Return of 18 Bronzemen

Mandarin LPCM 1.0

Secondary: English LPCM 1.0

English for Mandarin Audio | Signs Only for English Audio

Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary by Frank Djeng and John Charles

The Final Assessment

Awesome martials arts in beautiful even if not perfect new transfers that have all these films looking better than they ever have looked. Cinematic Vengeance from Eureka Entertainment’s Eureka Classics is a perfect opportunity to explore the world of kung fu cinema beyond the borders of Hong Kong from one of its best directors.

Cinematic Vengeance: 8 Kung Fu Classics from Director Joseph Kuo is out on Blu-ray in the UK 15 November 2021 from Eureka Entertainment


  • Rating Certificate: UK:15
  • Studios & Distributors: Hong Hwa Motion Picture Company | Eureka Entertainment
  • Director: Joseph Kuo
  • Run Time: 723 Mins.
  • Street Date: 15 November 2021
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Primary Audio: Mandarin LPCM 1.0
  • Secondary Audio: LPCM 1.0 | English LPCM 1.0
  • Subtitles: English
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Cinematic Vengeance (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray Review)A collection of eight classic kung films from the Taiwanese indie kung fu filmmaker Joseph Kuo includes '7 Grandmasters,' 'The Old Master,' and 'Shaolin Kung Fu' among others.
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