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Import Corner: The Millionaires' Express (Eureka Entertainment) Blu-ray Review


Eureka has done it again! They have taken an 80's martial arts classic and given it new life with this wonderful edition of THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS.

Studio: Eureka Entertainment
Release Date: January 30th, 1986 (theatrical)
                            July 26th, 2021 (blu-ray)
Run Time: 1 hour 37 minutes 11 seconds (original Hong Kong Theatrical Version)
                    1 hour 41 minutes 42 seconds (Extended "International" Version)
                    1 hour 32 minutes 40 seconds (English Export Version)
                    1 hour 48 minutes 57 seconds (Hyrbid Version)
Region Code: B (locked)
Picture: 1080p (2.39:1 aspect ratio) (all versions)
Sound: Cantonese LPCM 1.0 (Hong Kong Theatrical Version, Extended, and Hybrid Versions)
                English LPCM 1.0 (Fortune Star dub) (Extended "International" Version)
                English LPCM 1.0 (classic dub) (Export Version)
Subtitles: English
Slipcover: Yes (limited)
Digital Copy: No
Starring: Sammo Hung, Biao Yuen, Olivia Cheng, Rosamund Kwan, Kenny Bee, Eric Tsang, and Cynthia Rothrock
Written by Sammo Hung and Keith Wong
Directed by Sammo Hung
Rating: BBFC: 12 (martial arts violence)


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Poster

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What's It About?

Former outlaw Foon-Tin Ching (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) tries to make amends for his past by attempting to return prosperity to his hometown of Han Shui. He plans to sabotage an express train boarded by wealthy merchants on their way to Shanghai, cut their journey short and invite them to his town to spend money on its amenities. However, a large group of ruthless bandits want to infiltrate the train, ultimately aiming to steal a treasure scroll in the possession of three Japanese samurais who were on board the express.
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Film Review

It has been a long time since I watched THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS and I have to say that it isn't as good as I remember. This is not to say that the film is bad. It is quite good, but the film focuses on comedy more than it does fight scenes, and I was not prepared for that. The comedy is hit or miss. Much of the time, the comedy hits and it is really good. Then you have scenes like the one where Richard Ng has a big fat wife and he doesn't want to spend time with her. A thin, nice-looking woman asks him where her room is and he thinks that she wants him. There is an extended scene where he breaks into her room and gets into bed with, who he thinks is her, and comedy ensues. This comedy may have been the thing back in the day but it doesn't play very well today. There are some other scenes that play odd nowadays, like when one of the bandits fights Cynthia Rothrock and yells "I am going to rape you!" These jokes don't land very well today. 

The film is lacking in fight scenes. There are a few here and there before the big showdown, and they are really great fight scenes, but they mostly feel like afterthoughts. It was like Sammo wanted to make a star-studded western comedy and he was forced to add the fights in to get the film made. The entire climax of the film takes about ten minutes and this includes a few fight scenes. They are all very short. After coming off of ENCOUNTER OF THE SPOOKY KIND, this was really disappointing. I was really excited to see Sammo fight Rothrock and, while it is a good fight scene, it is over before it really started to get going. 

The film looks incredible. Sammo never really gets the respect he should as a filmmaker. Everyone focuses on his amazing fight choreography, but they never focus on his filmmaking skills. Had this film been directed by a lesser director, like Eric Tsang, who does appear in the film, it would have been a very flat, routine western. In Sammo's hands, the film feels much bigger than it actually is. The film has a lot of locations and they built the town from nothing. Sammo also uses his camera in ways many other directors don't. He films in "scope" and uses every inch of the frame to tell the story. He very rarely leaves parts of the frame empty unless there is a point to it. He also lets scenes play out in one shot and it gives the film time to settle down before the next big stunt. 

I like THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS, despite my criticisms. I think that the film is a fun time and everyone is game for whatever Sammo throws at them, but I was hoping for longer fight scenes and more fight scenes. The comedy is hit or miss and I could have done without some of the jokes, but the film is just a product of its time. The film is worth watching even if just for the beautiful filmmaking from Sammo Hung and getting to watch Cynthia Rothrock kick ass.
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Video/Audio

I previously reviewed Arrow Video's 4K blu-ray release of TRUE ROMANCE and I talked about how impressed I was with that transfer. I would like to say that I was even more impressed with the transfers for THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS. Just wow. Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, looks so perfect here. The level of detail on display here is mindboggling. The detail in people's faces and their clothing made me think that maybe I was watching a 4K disc. Everything gets a bump here. Clarity is amazing. Colors bounce off the screen. Skin tones are accurate and black levels are just right. Eureka should be very proud of themselves for the work done on this film. 

We get three audio tracks throughout the four versions of the film. All of these tracks sound great, although the more recent English dub track sounds a bit loud, but that is probably source based. Dialogue is crisp and clear and the film's score sounds great. The effects work in the more recent English dub is overbearing at times, so I would suggest not listening to that track as it gets kind of annoying. Stick to the original Cantonese or classic English dub when you can.
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Extras/Packaging

Disc 1: Theatrical and Extended Versions

    -Original HK Theatrical Version (1h 37m, HD, 2.39:1)

        -commentary by Asian Film Expert Frank Djeng

    -Extended Version (1h 41m, HD, 2.39:1)

        -Commentary by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema

Select Scene Commentary with Cynthia Rothrock and Frank Djeng (17m 24s, HD, 2.39:1) Ms. Rothrock talks about what shooting was like. She was on set every day because Sammo liked to shoot on the fly. If he had an idea for something, you needed to be on set to get it shot. Dick Wei kicked her in the head and split her lip open. For the most part, she hung around Richard Norton and Kenny Bee because they were the only people on set who spoke English. She tells a great story at the end about shooting with horses.

Cynthia Rothrock on The Millionaires' Express (16m 35s, HD, 1.78:1) She starts out by talking about how she got into martial arts. She was working with a performance team when she did some performance for Corey Yuen and he hired her to be in movies. She talks about how shooting on THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS was grueling as they wouldn't have a day for a long time as they were constantly shooting. No one spoke English at first besides Raymond Chow's daughter. She never did her own dialogue and she had a hard time getting used to shooting without sound (MOS). She always felt like Hong Kong was her second home. 

Archival Interviews:

  • Shanghai Express (14m 24s, HD, 1.78:1) Behind the Scenes with Cynthia Rothrock. This was done for her website and she answers questions from fans. Some great stories are found here, but by this time, the stories are being repeated from the commentary and main interview. 
  • A New Frontier (10m 58s, SD, 1.78:1) Interview with Sammo Hung. He talks about his love for westerns, especially the ones with John Wayne. He didn't use storyboards to choreograph his fight scenes, but rather he was able to figure them out once he got on set for the day. Language wasn't a problem as the story was simple and the actors were professional and did the work that was required. He talks about working with Jimmy Wang Yu. He finishes the interview by talking about Yuen Biao. He talks about his relationship with Biao and working with him for so long. In Cantonese with English subtitles.
  • Express Delivery (14m 46s, SD, 1.78:1) Interview with Sammo Hung. He starts out by talking about his writing process. He says that the most important things about his movies are the characters. He then talks about an incident where he froze his legs pretty badly while shooting the opening scene. He says that it was a difficult shoot. He speaks of his repertoire. He then speaks fondly about shooting in Thailand. In Cantonese with English subtitles.
  • Trailblazer (23m 59s, SD, 1.78:1) Interview with Cynthia Rothrock. This is a wasted interview. Everything that she talks about here has been talked to death about in her other interviews found on this disc. I am sure that this interview was awesome back in the day, but now its not worth the time due to repeated information.
  • Way Out West (20m 51s, SD, 1.78:1) Interview with Yuen Biao. Sammo asked him to work on the film. Biao said that he didn't want to be paid. He just wanted a small role in the film so her could work with the big cast. In Cantonese with English subtitles
  • On the Cutting Edge (30m 16s, SD, 1.78:1) Interview with Yukari Oshima. In Japanese with English subtitles.

Alternate Credits From English Language Release (4m 16s, HD, 2.39:1)

Trailers:

  •     Original Hong Kong Trailer (3m 55s, HD, 2.39:1)
  •     Shanghai Express Trailer (2m 11s, HD, 2.39:1)
  •     Tai Seng Promotional Trailer (1m 45s, HD, 2.39:1)

Disc 2: English Export and Hybrid Versions

    -English Export Version (1h 32m, HD, 2.39:1)

    -Hybrid Version (1h 48m, HD, 2.39:1)

MLS Featurette (6m 33s, HD, 1.78:1) This rare featurette was originally going to be included on our release of The Lucky Stars 3-Film Collection, but for technical reasons did not appear on the final disc, so we are including it here. In Japanese with English subtitles.

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Overall

While THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS was the film I remembered, it still is a great time. All you have to do is remember that this is more of a comedy than an action film. Most of the comedy works and the action scenes, when they do show up, are pretty good. Of course, Eureka has put in an insane amount of work on this title. There are four (!) versions of the film, two great audio commentaries, some really worthwhile new special features, and enough legacy features to keep you busy for a while. This is probably going on my year-end list. It's that good of a release.
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Extras/Menus

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Film

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Packaging


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