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The Secret of the Sword

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"I've got that flying horsey in my sight" He-Man & the Masters of the Universe was a massive hit toy line and a massive hit animated TV series. He-Man ruled the airwaves in the 80s and it would only make sense to not only make a feature length theatrical film but also a new spin-off series with a new character! The film follows Price Adam/He-Man as he embarks on the search for his twin sister. Turns out that a new villain by the name of Hordak had kidnapped He-Man's twin sister shortly after birth and taken here to another dimension on a planet called Etherea. No one knows what happened to the little girl, Adora. But, with this information and with a magical sword, He-Man is on his way to find Princess Adora.  What much can be said of "The Secret of the Sword", it's not necessarily a film for cinemas as there is nothing special enough about the movie for it to warrant a theatrical release, other than the length of the film. The animation remains the

Import Corner: Shaolin Wooden Men (88 Films) Blu-ray Review


88 Films keeps doing the Lord's work by bringing us another early Jackie Chan film in the form of Shaolin Wooden Men. The film may not be all that great, but the blu-ray more than makes up for that.

Studio: 88 Films
Release Date: November 10th, 1976 (theatrical)
                             November 9th, 2020 (blu-ray)
Run Time: 106 mins
Region Code: B (locked)
Picture: 1080p (2.39:1 aspect ratio)
Sound:  Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
                English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
                Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
                Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (alternate)
Subtitles: English
Slipcover: Yes
Digital Copy: Yes  
Starring: Jackie Chan, Chun-Erh Lung, Kang Chin
Written by Hsin Chin
Directed by Chi-Hwa Chen
Rating: BBFC: 15 (strong martial arts violence)
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What's It About?

Jackie witnesses his father's death at the skilled hands of a martial arts master with an unknown killing technique. Jackie vows to become a Shaolin monk and avenge his death but soon finds that he's the chump of the class. After befriending a variety of Shaolin Masters, each of whom teaches Jackie a particular style of kung fu (drunken, killing, slippery snake, et cetera), Jackie suddenly finds himself good enough to go give the beatdown to the one hundred "wooden men", who all Shaolin (in this movie anyways) have to beat to get the funky haircut. Jackie then proceeds to go around laying the beatdown on everyone but shows his humility and compassion at the end. 
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Film Review

SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN is not a good film. It has some good scenes in it, but it is ultimately a minor Jackie Chan film. The film suffers from a few things: 1. The story isn't all that great. Stories in martial arts films aren't always the greatest, but here the story is the same old, same old as we have seen in countless martial arts films and doesn't really add anything new to the landscape. That and the story seems to end about halfway through and everything else seems tacked on. 2. The fight scenes are horrible. This is the worst thing that a martial arts film can do. Just as a musical lives and dies by it's songs, a martial arts film lives and dies by its fight scenes. It's one thing to have a bad story, but to have fight scenes that would make Americans call them out for being bad, you know you screwed up. Chan doesn't seem to be as invested in this film as he has before and since. SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN may be the worst early Jackie Chan film I have ever seen. There was a lot of promise, but it is shot down by poor writing, awful fight choreography, and an actor who doesn't seem to want to be in the film.
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Video/Audio

88 Films has given SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN a new lease on life with this nice, but . The picture has a nice depth to it and colors look really great with lush greens in the forest scenes. There is a bit of black crush during some of the nighttime scenes and film grain is on the thin side. This is probably the best the film will ever look.

Audio comes in the form of one Mandarin track, one English track, and two Cantonese tracks. I prefer the English track as that is how I first watched the film back in the day, but the other tracks are really good too. The only problem with the English track that I had was that there was a sibilance problem where every "S" and "CH" problem comes with a high about of hiss. It's a problem that we have seen on Scream Factory's BLACK CHRISTMAS and BODY BAGS blu-rays and something that is probably inherent to the soundtrack.
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Special Features

We start out with a 9-minute remembrance by film critic Rick Baker who talks about his first time with the film, working with a director who wasn't Lo Wei, breaks down some of the film's best scenes, and talks about Yuen Biao's cameo. Next up, we have a brief look at Trans-Global Pictures, a video company in England, that released all of Chan's Lo Wei films (except for Fearless Hyena II for some reason) and how they marketed the films to the public. Also included are the original Hong Kong trailer, an English version of the same trailer that looks like it was taken off an old VHS, the Japanese trailer, and a Japanese TV spot. We finish up with two outstanding commentary tracks: one by Brandon Bentley and the other by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema.

Audio Commentary by Brandon Bentley
Audio Commentary by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema
Rick Baker on Shaolin Wooden Men (9m 12s, HD, 2.35:1) 
Shaolin Chamber of Death (5m 59s, SD, 1.78:1)
Original Hong Kong Trailer (4m 15s, HD, 2.39:1)
English Trailer  (4m 14s, SD, 2:1)
Japanese Trailer (2m 7s, HD, 1.85:1)
Japanese TV Spot (15s, SD, 1.33:1)
Dragon Lord Trailer (1m 41s, HD, 2.39:1)
Spiritual Kung Fu Trailer (1m 36s, HD, 2.39:1)
The Fearless Hyena Trailer (1m 38s, HD, 2.39:1)
The Master Trailer (1m 39s, HD, 1.85:1)
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Overall

I did not like SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN, but I am sure that the film has its fans. I just thought that it was boring and uninteresting. That being said, the blu-ray from 88 Films is a great addition to their 88 Asia Collection. The picture looks pretty good and there are enough audio options to please just about everyone. The special features with two wonderful commentary tracks, a look back at the film, and an all too brief look at a British video company are worth picking this set up for. 
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