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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Killer Constable aka "Wan ren zan" [Blu-ray]

 

(Chih-Hung Kuei, 1980)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Shaw Brothers

Video: 88 Films

 

Disc:

Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:36:11.390  

Disc Size: 22,937,666,493 bytes

Feature Size: 22,608,359,424 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.98 Mbps

Chapters: 9

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case (with LE slipcase - only 300)

Release date: March 27th, 2017

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Chinese 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

DUB:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

Audio Commentary by acclaimed Asian Cinema expert, Bey Logan
Trailer (1:14)
"A Killer Career" Booklet essay by Dr. Calum Waddell

Reversible Sleeve

DVD

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: During the Ching Dynasty period, 20,000 taels of gold are stolen from the Palace vaults. The Empress Dowager orders her chief security guard Liu Ching Tien to capture the thieves and have the gold returned within three months. Leng Tien Ying (Chen Kuan-tai), the Court Chief Constable, is given this difficult assignment. One robber is caught, and provides clues about his accomplices. Meanwhile, the robber-chief, Feng Feng Jia (Ku Feng), sends his own top killer after Leng but without success. Feng's men make several more attempts against Leng's life, but only succeed in wounding him. Leng finally confronts the robber-chief in a fight, and Feng, at the point of death, reveals the truth about the real masterbrain behind the theft. Leng sets out once more, to achieve justice and complete his mission.

 

 

The Film:

Many of the Shaw Brothers’ productions aren’t necessarily great films, but are hugely entertaining - Five Element Ninjas (1982) being a fine example. Killer Constable however is a genuinely great film; while being hugely entertaining it also bears a dark and intelligent edge. For one thing, the ethics that our main protagonist and his sidekicks follow are rather grey as they are based on unquestioning, rigidly-defined principles of loyalty to higher orders. Leng sees it as acceptable to kill the thieves in cold blood as he is mandated to do so, without any deeper insight into the reasons behind their behaviour.

Killer Constable has a distinctively sombre, gritty atmosphere as our protagonists wander through dilapidated villages and pass people rendered gaunt-faced and immobile by burgeoning hunger. In comparison with many other Shaw Brothers period martial arts flicks there are a large number of scenes shot on location or outdoor sets. Even the studio-shot scenes are, for the most part, realistically lit. The realism carries over into the fight scenes, which feature little of the usual wirework but plenty of gruesomely convincing injury effects.

Excerpt from Cinema'sFringes located HERE

Shaw's master of malicious cinema, Kuei Chi Hung helms this hard hitting, dramatic swordplay masterpiece that was known under several tentative titles such as THE MILLION KILLER and THE CRIME BUSTER. Irrefutably one of the best films of its kind to ever come out of the fabled Shaw Brothers studio, it's one of the most unusual looking Hong Kong productions. There is a high quotient of gore utilizing techniques not used prior to this picture, at least none that I can recall. There are numerous scenes showing people being stabbed and sliced with blades and instead of cutaways, or obscured camera angles, the actors have padding lined with blood packs under their clothes. Sometimes it's obvious, but it also adds a brutal, visceral level to the violence.

Excerpt from CoolAssCinema located HERE

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Killer Constable gets a solid 1080P transfer to Blu-ray from 88 Films, cited as "Restored HD master in original 2.35:1 aspect ratio".  It is single-layered with a supportive bitrate for the 1.5 hour feature. The image is thick and film-like with bright outdoors sequences, true colors and occasional depth. The visuals are clean and look superb in-motion. I see no errors. This Blu-ray exports a very pleasing HD presentation.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Both English DUB and original Mandarin tracks on the Blu-ray of Killer Constable offer uncompressed liner PCM transfers (24-bit). The English DUB'ing is, as usual, funny and often inappropriate. The effects are, as common for the genre, extreme - rich and deep with a whiplash-like sound in and or weapon strikes in fights. The high-end is quite tight - which we would assume is 'original'. The score is by veteran Eddie Wang (Return of the 36th Chamber) There are optional English subtitles, for both language tracks (SDH on the English language), with slight translations differences (see sample) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

88 Films add an audio commentary by acclaimed Asian cinema expert, Bey Logan who gives his usual thorough discussion on the film's production details, the performers, the genre, Shaw Brothers, and more. There is also a trailer and the package has a liner notes booklet essay by Dr. Calum Waddell entitled "A Killer Career", a reversible sleeve and a second disc DVD.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Killer Constable is superior Wushu. It is one of the better realized martial arts films with strong plots points, great characters and more. I knew of the reputation of Killer Constable yet I was still very positively surprised by my viewing. I wish I could watch it again for the first time and will definitely revisit in the future.  The 88 Films Blu-ray provides an excellent, and appreciated, a/v presentation with the commentary and booklet adding further value. This is easy to put in the 'must-own' category for lovers of the genre as well as any world-cinema fans - it's that good! Very strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

March 31st, 2017


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Gary W. Tooze

 

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