The Leg Fighters (1980) (VCI Entertainment) Blu-ray Review


VCI Entertainment has released what is hopefully the first in their "Pearl River Collection", a collection of preserved martial arts films from the best available materials. We take a look at the first release in this collection: The Leg Fighters (1980)


Studio: VCI Entertainment
Release Date: June 4th, 1980 (theatrical) / October 15th, 2019 (blu-ray)
Run Time: 90 mins
Region Code: A
Picture: 1080p (2.35:1 aspect ratio)
Sound: English LPCM 2.0  / Mandarin LPCM 2.0
Subtitles: English and Mandarin (Burnt in)
Slipcover: No
Digital Copy: No
Starring: Tao-Liang Tan, Kuang-Li Hsia, Kang Peng
Written by Hsin Yi Chang
Directed by Tso Nam Lee
Rating: Not Rated (martial arts violence)

THE FILM



Tan, a Northern Chinese kung fu expert, kills a man using his lethal bootwork in self defense. He is then hired to train a bratty princess and her servant in kung fu. In the meantime, the brother of the man Tan killed is out for revenge and he'll get him at any cost.

I had never heard of THE LEG FIGHTERS (or its other English name: THE INVINCIBLE KUNG FU LEGS) before, but I was determined to pick it up if only to support the restoration and preservation of old school kung fu flicks. I was really excited to see this and when it arrived in the mail, I couldn’t wait to put the disc in the player.

I was disappointed. The film is very generic in its story. It's your basic revenge plot that we have seen in hundreds of kung fu flicks. This problem is usually forgotten about because the characters are really well drawn out. Well, their not. I didn’t care about any of these characters. Ok. So, the fight scenes are the winner then, right? Not really. The fight scenes in the first half of the film are sloppy. I can’t really tell if its because the performers aren’t jiving with the choreography or the choreography just isn’t that great. I want to say that its a bit of both as the fight scenes in the back half are pretty damn good. 

The other problem I had with the film is the comedy. It sucks. THE LEG FIGHTERS was released two years after SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW and DRUNKEN MASTER took the genre and turned it on its head, so the inclusion of comedy into any kung fu flick was a no-brainer, but the comedy here just falls flat. It is very apparent that everyone is TRYING to be funny rather than ACTUALLY being funny. Jokes fall flat left and right and it was really a chore to get through some of the extended comedy scenes.

THE LEG FIGHTERS is a decent enough martial arts flick that would have been so much better with the comedy either cut out completely or cut down to its bare essentials and more care paid towards the fight scenes in the first half of the film. The film isn’t a complete waste as it does have some pretty good fight scenes in the back half. I wish that I had liked the film more, but sometimes the thing you want to like doesn’t work out the way you wanted.

THE PICTURE AND THE SOUND



Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, THE LEG FIGHTERS looks good, but with some concessions. Film negatives and prints of martial arts films are never taken care of. Well, maybe not never, but pretty damn close to it. These films are getting lost all the time because no one takes care of the prints or the negative. Dan Halsted, who shows up later in the special features, goes around the world to find these prints and restore them the best way he can. He has found countless prints for films that may have disappeared had it not been for him. THE LEG FIGHTERS is one of those prints. Taken from a 35mm Chinese print, and restored in 2K, the transfer has its problems but none of them are due to faulty transferring or low bit rate. Film damage is present in the form of hairs, scratches, and lines down the frame. There is a softness to the picture that is a result of this being a print and not the film’s original camera negative. There are also missing frames every once in a while. They are noticeable, but they never get in the way of the film and never cause the audio to go out of sync. The burnt in subtitles (any kung fu fan will remember burnt in subtitles and how much of a pain they were) are mostly easily readable but they do sometimes blend into the background.

We are given a choice of two different audio tracks, both in LPCM format. The English track sounds good if not a bit hollow at times. The track does have the old school kung fu feel and was my go to track for this review. I did, however, switch over to the Mandarin track (labeled as an English track when switching between the two while the film is playing) and it sounded a bit more robust than the English track. Both tracks are really good and don’t really have any problems.

THE PACKAGING





THE MENUS



THE SPECIAL FEATURES



Introduction (6m 19s, HD) This is not listed at all on any of the menus and is only watchable if you select “play” on the main menu. If you go through the “scene select” menu, then you will not see this intro. Both Michael Worth and Dan Halsted are here to give the film a bit of history along with their histories with the film. Halsted also talks about his trek to find film prints of old school kung fu and how hard it is.

Commentary with Michael Worth


The Man Behind the Legs: A Few Minutes with Lee Tso Nam (4m 16s, HD) Here we have an interview with the director of THE LEG FIGHTERS. He speaks in his native language and is then dubbed over in post. He talks about his wanting to leave when a film wasn’t going his way, but being talked into staying on the film through being told that if the film is failure after he left then people would blame him. He also talks about his decision to include comedy in THE LEG FIGHTERS as well as where the film was shot.


A Fist in the Crowd: The Big Screen Kung Fu Experience (5m 31s, HD) We finally catch back up with Dan Halsted. He talks about the theater he owns in Oregon and how he shows kung fu films on 35mm (which we see quite a bit). We even see, and hear, audience reactions to the films and the trailers he plays.


Original Theatrical Trailer to Nam’s The Hot, The Cool, and the Vicious (4m 5s, HD) This trailer is cropped from the film’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 down to a 1.90:1. This is very evident right off the bat with the film’s production company logo being cut off on the left and right. The film looks pretty cool though, so I will have to check that out.


Photo Gallery

THE CONCLUSION



I may not have liked THE LEG FIGHTERS, but I can not condemn this release because of it. I want more martial arts films to make it to blu-ray, whether I like the film or not. This is a really good release of a film that could have been lost had someone not actively looked for a print. The commentary track is worth the purchase alone as Worth knows his stuff. I think that any martial arts film fan would love to have this blu-ray in their collection and they should. Hopefully, this release sells well enough to get more kung fu flicks on blu-ray.

THE SCREENSHOTS (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!!)


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