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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Once Upon a Time in China [Blu-ray]

(aka "Wong Fei Hung")


(Tsui Hark, 1991)





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Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Golden Harvest

Blu-ray: Fortune Star (HK)



Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:13:54.735

Disc Size: 43,219,937,116 bytes

Feature Size: 41,624,825,856 bytes

Video Bitrate: 28.99 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 18, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080P / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video




Dolby TrueHD Audio Cantonese 2473 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 2473 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core:
5.1-EX / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby TrueHD Audio Chinese 2292 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 2292 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core:
5.1-EX / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital EX Audio Chinese 640 kbps 5.1-EX / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital EX Audio Chinese 640 kbps 5.1-EX / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital EX Audio Thai 640 kbps 5.1-EX / 48 kHz / 640 kbps



Feature & Bonus: Traditional Chinese, English, Thai, none



• The Legend of Wong Fei Hung (Huang of Hong) – Part 1 – in SD (12:59)

• Photo Gallery – in SD (1:24)




The Film:

Winner of a Hong Kong Film Award for Best Picture, Once Upon a Time in China is a kung-fu epic that's wildly entertaining and historically relevant. It is the late 1800s and China is in turmoil. Western influence is threatening the pride and sovereignty of the Chinese people, who are being enslaved for foreign labor, or becoming addicted to opium. It falls upon Wong Fei Hung (Jet Li), a renowned doctor, healer, patriot, and kung-fu artist to stand up and be counted. Charged with protecting the region with his militia, Fei Hung becomes embroiled in political intrigue and martial arts rivalries as corrupt foreigners and corrupt Chinese attempt to gain control of the region. When a rival martial arts master joins the foreigners, Fei Hung faces his greatest challenge yet. Can he save his true love Yee (Rosamund Kwan), as well as right the wrongs against his beloved land of China? - YesAsia

The Movie: 8
Once Upon a Time in China is the first of several times Jet Li played the legendary herbalist on film. Jet Li is hardly Wong's first notable screen stand-in, having been a popular subject in Chinese cinema at least as far back as the 1940s after WWII. Wong Fei Hung is probably most familiar to those of us on this side of the planet in Jackie Chan's Drunken Master series. Jet Li would be seen again as Wong (not at all as a drunken hero) in Once Upon a Time in China II (1992) & III (1993), and again in the bizarre Once Upon a Time in China and America (1997). He also played a similar character in the eponymously titled Fong Sei Yuk (aka: The Legend) in 1993 and in the sequel later that same year.

While Jackie Chan played Wong with a good deal of physical comedy alternating with sequences of almost unendurable pain, especially in regards his father, Jet Li's Wong is altogether sweeter. Li is just as determined in his fight scenes and his desire to protect Chin's cultural artifacts from foreign and local thieves, but he is sidetracked by his infatuation with his aunt (the lovely Rosamund Kwan) – especially since he's not willing to admit what it so obvious to the audience. Fortunately for the script both themes come together in a brilliantly staged finale.

Excerpt of review from located HERE


Image: 4/7   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

The score may be lowish in absolute terms, but the Blu-ray image is far superior to any previous DVD in every way. Perhaps the best looking of those DVDs was to be found on the UK R2 HK Legends release of the trilogy. The DVD is widescreen anamorphic but, as we can see from the comparative screen caps, a little cropped on both sides. The color temp is way too high and it is dark and oversaturated. The exaggerated yellow/orange cast ensures that no true colors make themselves known. True white is nowhere to be found (check out the fan in the screencaps.) In this respect alone the new Blu-ray from Fortune Star is a revelation. A blind man could see how much more faithful the Blu-ray is to cinematic reality.

There is no question that color balance, brightness and contrast have been very much improved on the Blu-ray. About all one could ask for, I should say. However, detail and resolution is poor, with what looks like generous helpings of DNR: faces and clothing have little or no texture. Faces are pasty. Edges are often enhanced with a certain degree of jaggedness, not so different from the DVD, surprisingly. Halos abound, and something very like appears at the top of the frame. There is still a smattering of speckles, but few scratches.


 UK DVD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM