Film Reviews

The Skyhawk (1974) – Blu-ray Review

The latest title to be added to Eureka Entertainment‘s ‘Classics’ range is The Skyhawk. However, to paraphrase Justin Long in Die Hard 4.0 – it’s old Golden Harvest, that doesn’t make it classic. What sucked back then still sucks now.

Perhaps ‘sucks’ is too strong a word, but this certainly isn’t making it into many people’s top ten lists. Or even top 40 for that matter. Though plots are often relegated to afterthoughts in movies of this kind, this one is an utter mess. Truly all over the place and not even worth trying to follow. It’s too busy trying to cash in on the success of the then hugely popular Bruce Lee breakthrough film The Big Boss to bother with anything that actually makes sense. Fortunately, once you’ve worked out who the good guys and bad guys are, you don’t really need any more, which is a good thing as, even though the plot really is nonsense, it still manages to have more loose threads than the main bad guy’s wig.

READ MORE: Everyone’s Thinking It (Aleema Omotoni) – Book Review

Yet there are things to recommend it. For a start there’s the cast. Kwan Tak-hing plays the iconic character Master Wong Fei-hung, a real Chinese folk-hero who has been depicted in over a hundred films and television series. Tak-hing had returned after having announced his retirement and, considering he had played Fei-hung in around 70 previous films, The Skyhawk is notable for this alone. But he’s joined by some fantastic other actors: Carter Wong, possibly more familiar to Western audiences as Thunder in Big Trouble in Little China, plays Leo Hsiao Sze-Tzu, one of Fei-hing’s students, and Sammo Hung, who also acted as the fight director; quite a feat as he was only 21 at the time. Another notable name is Hwang In-shik, owner of the afore-mentioned wig and one of the quickest kicks you’ll ever see on screen. His skill as a martial artist is outstanding.

The direction from Jeong Chang-hwa has the grimy, grindhouse feel so common to mid-70s Golden Harvest productions. Shot in Taiwan – another Big Boss ‘homage’ – the most is made of the more exotic locations available, especially during the establishing opening montage of Fei-hung’s journey to visit his friend. It’s also interesting to watch Hung’s fight scenes. Though not as fluid as they were to become, it’s great to see the beginning of so much potential, as well as the intelligence and sensitivity which manages to show an almost 70 year old Tak-hing as a believable martial artist holding his own against much younger opponents without too much use of stunt actors. That is at least until the final fight. Which is very, very bad. There’s only so much you can do with a 70 year old action star, and the constant cutting between set and location scenes verges on the ridiculous.

The restoration is excellent, with both film and sound having been wonderfully cleaned up. There are also some pleasing special features. Not one, but two feature length commentaries, the first featuring Frank Djeng and the second with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema. The film is also presented in its original Mandarin, as well as with Cantonese and English audio options. The new English subtitles are excellently well done, and should be commended. There is also a trailer. Physical extras include a booklet, reversible sleeve design, and a limited edition O-card slip case.

READ MORE: Smallville 5×17 – ‘Void’ – TV Rewind

With its two commentary tracks, notable place in martial arts history, decent restoration, and interesting cast, coupled with fairly average fight scenes, pretty rotten plot, and almost £20 price tag, this is a release that is for collectors and enthusiasts only. But praise should be given to Eureka Entertainment, who clearly recognised this from the beginning, and have put together a package that means that devotees wont feel let down.

The Skyhawk is out on Blu-ray on 21st August from Eureka Entertainment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: