The Prodigal Son


Viewed – 29 January 2022 Blu-ray

I’d certainly say this is a good time to be a fan of martial arts / Hong Kong cinema, with countless movies dating back to the seventies getting deluxe releases. This 1981 action-comedy stars Yeun Biao as Leung Chang, a guy who believes he’s an expert street fighter. However after getting defeated by a highly skilled local opera school actor, he learns that his rich father has been paying his opponents off for years. Therefore, Leung decides to learn the skills of the actor to finally become a true master.

I recall loving this when first watching it during my Hong Kong movie obsession in the nineties. A fun twist on the usual kung fu movie storyline; under the direction of veteran Sammo Hung, this is a well shot, impressively choreographed movie with several memorable encounters and set-pieces. On this viewing I did find the focus on comedy got in the way of the action, and when the storyline turned more serious is when the movie really shined, like a night set attack on an opera school and the full-on final showdown. The plot at times was also is a bit convoluted, with an over-abundance of twists.

Support however from veteran kung fu stars like the late Lam Ching-ying (Mr Vampire) as well as Frankie Chan and a sequence involving Sammo Hung himself, and this movie still delivered a solid cast, some decent action and plenty of personality. I was however just left feeling the movie wasn’t quite the sum of its parts. I still enjoyed this and if you’re a fan of martial arts cinema – this is worth a watch. I’ve just seen better examples of the genre.

This release from Eureka Classics is fairly robust. The movie itself is in very good shape, with a lot of detail making this the best it’s ever looked. Soundtrack in original mono is still punchy with all those fighting sound effects packing a… er… punch. Extras we get both Cantonese and English dubbed soundtracks, as well as archival interviews with principle cast members, and a featurette about the martial arts style Wing Chun. There is also two commentaries, one from Frank Djeng & Bobby Samuels, and another from Mike Leeder and Arne Venema, which really make this release worth picking up. We also get a detailed booklet and a poster featuring newly commissioned art work. Not too shabby. This release is also a double feature with Sammo Hung vehicle ‘Warriors Two’, which I may also check out at some stage.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

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