The Import Corner: Spiritual Kung Fu (88 Films) Blu-ray Review


Today in The Import Corner, we take a look at the recent 88 Films blu-ray for the Jackie Chan cult classic Spiritual Kung Fu, the first comedy that Chan would make (before Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master).

Studio: 88 Films 
Release Date: November 23rd, 1978 (theatrical) / October 26th, 2020 (blu-ray)
Run Time: 99 mins
Region Code: B (locked)
Picture: 1080p (2.35:1 aspect ratio)
Sound: Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (alternate)
Subtitles: English
Slipcover: Yes (limited)
Digital Copy: No
Starring: Jackie Chan, James Tien, Dean Shek, Wen-Tai Li
Written by Lei Pan
Directed by Lo Wei
Rating: BBFC: 15 (Contains frequent moderate violence)

THE FILM



Yi-Lang is a smart-alec martial arts student at a Shaolin Temple. An anonymous thief steals a book from the library which teaches a potentially fatal style of Kung Fu. Yi-Lang, along with a group of five other monks, is punished for not stopping the thief, but his bravery leads to him signing up to defend a supposedly haunted portion of the school. Upon discovering the ghosts, who are masters of a supposedly lost style of fighting known as The "Five Style Fists", Yi-Lang offers himself as a student, masters the form and uses it to progress quickly through the ranks of the school. In order to defend the school against the very thief who stole the book from its library, Yi-Lang demonstrates his new style and defeats the invading troup, with a little help from his five spiritual masters.

SPIRITUAL KUNG FU is a frustrating watch. The film is advertised as a comedy, and while there are comedic elements and scenes, it doesn’t fully commit to the comedy and that is a bummer. 

The first twenty or so minutes are full of comedy. Chan gets caught cheating at his training, Chan gets caught cheating at his work, Chan does some other wacky things. These early scenes work because Chan and his co-stars are committed to these scenes. A book is stolen from the Shaolin Temple and the plot goes on from there. The film alternate between scenes of comedy that doesn’t always land and serious scenes that are quite boring and they don’t mix very well. The scene where the ghosts make their first appearance is pretty good with some terrible special effects adding to the comedy, but these scenes don’t mesh well with the scenes that feel that they belong in any other martial arts film.

In the end, SPIRITUAL KUNG FU is not a very good film. Had director Lo Wei let Chan do the comedy thing all the way through and commit to it then maybe the film would have worked. However, Lo Wei doesn’t seem to like the comedy aspects of the film as they aren’t there all the time. He still tries to make a more traditional kung fu flick and these two aspects just don’t work. I liked the comedy stuff and wish that there was more of it. The fight scenes are also pretty decent. It’s just a shame that they are surrounded by a below average film.

THE PICTURE AND THE SOUND



Featuring a brand new 2K scan and presented in the film’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Spiritual Kung Fu looks really nice. The biggest draws here are the clarity and the detail. Both of these vary from scene to scene due to the photographic effects used throughout the film, but for the most part they are great. Colors are nice too with the red (more pinkish) hair of the ghosts standing out. Film grain is very light leaving us with a clean looking picture. Fans will find this transfer very pleasing. 

There are four audio tracks here with the alternate Cantonese track sounding the best and the original Cantonese track sounding the flattest. All of these tracks are good, though, so preference lies in the viewer.

THE MENUS





THE PACKAGING



 



As you can see, we get a really nice slipcover with brand new artwork by R.P."Kung Fu Bob" O'Brien, the original poster art as the reverse cover art, four postcards, and a poster featuring the "Kung Fu Bob" artwork.

THE FEATURES

Commentary with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema




Rick Baker on Spiritual Kung Fu (9m 54s, HD, 1.78:1) Film critic Rick Baker (not that Rick Baker) gives some history on the film as well as his thoughts on the film.




Fighting Style (4m 24s, SD, 1.33:1) Here we have an all too quick set of interviews with Jackie Chan, Supercop director Stanley Tong, and Sammo Hung.



Scenes from the Korean Version (3m 24s, SD, 1.33:1) Taken from a few generations old VHS, these scenes, which consist of some romantic scenes for Chan. 


Alternate Shot (15s, SD, 2.35:1) This shot, showing that Chan was knocked out by poison, as opposed to being knocked out by kung fu, is presented with no context whatsoever. A text screen before the clip explaining what was going on would have been nice.

Hong Kong Trailer (4m 13s, HD, 2.35:1)

English Trailer (3m 22s, HD, 2.35:1)

Japanese Trailer (2m 34s, HD, 2.35:1)

THE WRAP-UP




Don’t take my dislike for the film in the wrong way. While I didn’t like the film, I applaud 88 Films for their continued work in bringing everything Jackie Chan to blu-ray. Their brand new restoration is something to behold and the special features are pretty good, especially the commentary track. This is a really great blu-ray even if the film it carries isn’t very good.

THE SCREENSHOTS




















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