(aka "Bian Lian" or "The King of Masks")

directed by Tian-Ming Wu
China 1996

The King of Masks tells a tale steeped in ancient tradition, simultaneously challenging the sociosexual inequity still plaguing China today. On the streets of Szechuan Province in the 1930s, the aged King of Masks, sole living master of "change-face" opera, delights and frightens audiences with the secret art of lightning-quick mask-shifting. His fondest wish is to pass on his skill to a male heir before he dies. Famous female impersonator Liang Sao Lang craves knowledge of the king's secret technique, offering to relieve the old man's poverty by taking him into his opera troupe. The king declines: what sort of heir would this half-female creature make? Instead, he buys an orphan on the black market, joyously showing him off as his grandson and heir. But soon the child is forced to disclose a dreaded secret--one that effectively renders him a person of no value according to Chinese custom. In the king's eyes, the kid goes from "beloved grandson" to "stupid crook," and both the old man and the child must pay dearly for his bigotry before they can know joy again. A deeply moving film, simply told and superbly acted.

Excerpt from Laura Mirsky's review located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: December 20th, 1996

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Bitwin - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC

(BitWin - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs., Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)

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Distribution

BitWin (Korea)

Region 0  - NTSC

Columbia Tri-Star Home Video

Region 1  - NTSC

Mei Ah Laser Disc Corp.
Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 1:41:06 1:41:06 1:40:24

Video

1.33:1 Pan and Scan
Average Bitrate: 5.27 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Pan and Scan
Average Bitrate: 5.28 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.66:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.27 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitwin

 

Bitrate:

Columbia

 

Bitrate:

 

Mei Ah

 

Audio Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo) Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)

Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)

Subtitles English, Korean and none English, Spanish, French and none English, Chinese burnt-in

Features

Release Information:
Studio: BitWin (Kr)

 

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen - 1.33:1

 

Edition Details:
• Text screens (in Korean)

 

DVD Release Date: October 18th, 2004
Keep Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios

 

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

 

Edition Details:
• Color, Closed-captioned
• Production notes
• Theatrical trailer
• Full-screen format

DVD Release Date: March 7, 2000
Keep Case

Chapters 32

Release Information:
Studio: Mei Ah (Hong Kong)

 

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen - 1.66:1

 

Edition Details:
• Data Bank

DVD Release Date: April 1, 2003
Keep Case

Chapters 9

 

Recommended Reading in Chinese/Hong Kong/Taiwanese Cinema (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

Check out more in "The Library"


 

Comments: ADDITION: BitWin - October 05' - I almost wish I didn't love this film so much. We have yet another totally unacceptable bastardization of this great film slapped onto the DVD format. The Bitwin transfer looks like it may have ported the severely cropped Columbia. The only positive is that the newer Korean DVD is almost half the price of the Columbia. On the positive - this edition also adheres to the longer version, but can't someone please release this in widescreen with non-manipulated colors and removable subtitles? Please?

*****

All I can say is WOW... Columbia REALLY cropped this image... by almost 50% ! Where do they get-off doing this ? What a travesty. I wouldn't even say it resembles the same film. I absolutely adore this movie for so many reasons and once again we have an example where no definitive edition of a great film appears anywhere on DVD.  In Columbia's favor, their image is clearer if softer but the colors seems a little washed out. At least they didn't also blunder by using the shorter international version (Original Chinese version runs 101 minutes; international Version runs 91 minutes). Both are adhering to the longer version. Although the  Mei Ah subs are burned in they are not as bad as they have been for other releases of theirs and for a lot of the film, the image quality is acceptable. It has more wear and tear and has had some obvious digital manipulation, but this is the only way you are going to see this film in its intended ratio (unless you read French as there is a DVD edition HERE). The Mei Ah version has a definite greenish tinge to it. I am very disappointed - I expect this inferior quality from Mei Ah, but Columbia Tri-Star had a great reputation for a long while - almost everything anamorphic, but they did the same thing to The Scent of Green Papaya - totally pan and scanned it. I don't have a lot of patience with this production bastardization. It drives me crazy. So many people will see this film in a totally corrupted vision from that of the creator- the director. What a shame.

- Gary W. Tooze

 





DVD Menus

BitWin - Region 0 - NTSC

 



(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)


 


 

Subtitle Sample

 

(BitWin - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs., Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE)


 


 

Screen Captures

(BitWin - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs., Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE)


 


(BitWin - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs., Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE)

 


 

(BitWin - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs., Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE)

 

 


(BitWin - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs., Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE)

 


 

(BitWin - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs., Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE)

 

 


(BitWin - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs., Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE)

 


 

(BitWin - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs., Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE)

 

 


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Report Card:

 

Image:

none

Sound:

Columbia

Extras: Columbia
Menu: Columbia

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Distribution

BitWin (Korea)

Region 0  - NTSC

Columbia Tri-Star Home Video

Region 1  - NTSC

Mei Ah Laser Disc Corp.
Region 0 - PAL




 

 

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