Film Reviews

Warriors Two / The Prodigal Son – Blu-ray Review

It’s time for a double helping of chop-socky classics with the new release of The Prodigal Son (1981) and Warriors Two (1978) from Eureka Entertainment, both starring and directed by the incomparable Sammo Hung. Both films tell stories revolving around legendary Wing-Chun master Leung Chang, and are presented here in a Limited Edition format, with a lovely 2K restoration.

The Prodigal Son depicts a younger Leung Jan (Yuen Biao – Project A, The Champions) as a cocky, lazy youngster who believes that he is the “Kung-fu King” of his hometown, not realising that his father and his servant have been bribing his opponents to throw the fights, out of a misguided belief that they’re helping and protecting him. When he picks a fight with Leung Yee-tai (Ching-Ying Lam – Mr Vampire, The Big Boss) an actor from a travelling theatre troupe, he swiftly discovers just how bad his kung-fu is when he is thrashed and humiliated. But rather than wallowing in despair or anger, he sets out to convince Yee-tai to take him on as a student.

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Warriors Two follows an older Leung Jan (Ka-Yan Leung – The Man with the Iron Fists, My Hero), now a respected doctor rather than a kung-fu master, who becomes embroiled in the schemes of an evil businessman who plots to kill the mayor and take over the town. He provides shelter and martial arts training to the only witness who can stop these plans being fulfilled, a banker (Casanova Wong – Rivals of Silver Fox, Master Killers), while being assisted by his other student Fei Chun (Sammo Hung – Martial Law, The Millionaires Express).

While both films feature impressive fight choreography, with Sammo Hung at the top of his game, Warriors Two was my personal favourite. Laugh-out loud funny while also being surprisingly bloody and violent, Warriors Two is a superb showcase of martial arts talents and skill.

So what does Eureka bring to the table for this new release? It’s not their best showing in terms of additional material, but it’s a decent release all in all. There are the usual changes to the physical media, with new artwork by Darren Wheeling and a reversible poster featuring the original Hong Kong artwork. There’s also a collector’s booklet illustrated with archive images and new writing by James Oliver.

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On the discs you’ll find two versions of Warriors Two (export and theatrical), as well as audio commentaries. My only complaint here is that some of the audio for these was recorded in what sounds like a particularly spacious barn, there’s a lot of echo and it’s a little distracting. The commentaries are interesting enough, with the track featuring Mike Leeder and Arne Venema the most interesting one for me. There’s also a featurette and behind the scenes photos and art. There are also trailers, but I would strongly recommend you do NOT watch the trailers until you’ve seen the movie, as they give away almost the entire plot!

There’s one other oddity about Warriors Two. The English dub was originally created for the export version, which is five minutes shorter than the theatrical one. So when you’re playing the English audio track on the Hong Kong/theatrical version, some scenes are still in Cantonese. There’s a bit of audio whiplash when they start a scene in English, then one sentence later it switches to Cantonese and then back again. The Prodigal Son also gets two new commentary tracks, and again I found the track with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema to be the more interesting one to listen to. There’s also archival interviews with cast and crew, and that’s your lot. In terms of special features there’s not a massive amount on offer, but honestly it doesn’t really matter in this instance.

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The restoration from Eureka is their usual high quality work, vibrant and colourful without being over-saturated, with every scene pin-sharp. The downside to this is, of course, that some aspects of the film are now all the more obviously dated and obvious, all their sins laid bare in high-definition, but that’s okay. These are widely considered to be two of the most influential films ever made when it comes to Wing-Chun and it’s easy to see why. The fights here are some of the longest and most complicated you’re ever likely to see, with multiple opponents and locations on display. Any fan of the genre will probably know of these films already, and this new release is definitely worth picking up.

Warriors Two & The Prodigal Son are out on Blu-ray on 24th January from Eureka Entertainment.

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