Plot: What’s it about?
Shing Lung (Jackie Chan) is a humorous chap who lives in a rural area with his grandfather, who teaches him the ways of the farmer. But planting crops is not all the old man knows, as he is also a master of a special brand of kung-fu, one which is ancient and not widely practiced, because it can be nearly impossible to learn. So in addition to his usual chores and work in the city, Shing also works on his martial arts with his grandfather, who tries to pass on his wisdom in the realm of this powerful kung-fu. But the old man warns him not to show his newfound style to anyone, as it could mean bad luck and serious trouble. Although he knows he shouldn’t, Shing needs some cash and can’t hold down a normal job, so he begins to fight for money when he ventures inside the nearby town. Soon however, someone recognizes the fighting style he uses and within a short time, his grandfather has been killed by an old rival. Now Shing must complete his training with a new master, then forge ahead to avenge his grandfather’s death…
As frequent readers know, Jackie Chan (Miracles, Dragon Fist) is my favorite actor in the world, so I am always pleased to see more of his films reach DVD. In this case, the disc has little in terms of gloss, but the scope transfer makes all the difference in the world, as most versions are pan & scan or cropped in some fashion. But more on the disc’s tech specs later on, as I now want to discuss the terrific flick that is Fearless Hyena. Although newcomers to Chan might find this movie to be too silly or the like, I love Fearless Hyena for that same reason. Yes, Chan is in full comic mode and supplies a wealth of hilarious scenes, including some tributes to Charlie Chaplin and The Three Stooges. But as you’d expect, Fearless Hyena also includes some wicked fight scenes and a few here are classics, such as the incredible chopstick battle. So you’ve got plenty of laughs, plenty of action, and of course, Jackie with his long hair and to me, that adds even more humor to the mix. This disc from Columbia is not superb by any means, but it offers the film in the intended scope aspect ratio and sports a low price, which in my opinion, make this the only version to own, to this point.
Video: How does it look?
Fearless Hyena is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I’ve only seen this movie in full frame or cropped to 1.78:1 releases, so I was quite pleased to be able to see the action in the intended scope. As you can imagine, the image is below the usual standards, but this due in great part to the age and condition of the source materials. As fans of Asian cinema know, the source prints are often worn even on new releases, so the debris and wear signs present here are expected, of course. The print shows frequent nicks and grain, but sometimes clears up quite a lot, so not all is lost here. The colors and contrast are stable, but not up to the usual levels, which is a let down. I would love to see a fully restored edition of this movie, but until that time, Columbia has issued the best transfer I’ve seen, thanks to the full scope aspect ratio.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc features dual audio tracks in English and Cantonese, which should please fans on both sides of the language issue. Of course, the English is track is hilarious and features British voice performers, which sort of changes the entire mood, so to speak. But to be honest, the Cantonese track wasn’t much better, with obvious redubbing and poor sync at times, but this is due to the materials and nature of the production however, I am pretty sure. So either track seems as good as the other to me, as both have new voice actors and poor casting choices, but both offer a more than solid experience, aside from the casting choices. This disc also includes subtitles in English and Spanish, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains no bonus materials.