Thursday, April 8, 2010

DVD Review: Shaolin Hand Lock

Who doesn't love cheesy kung fu flicks?

Apparently that's the reasoning behind FUNimation's latest lineup of films, the Hong Kong Connection. At this past weekend's Anime Boston convention I sat in on the FUNimation panel where they talked about, made fun of, and previewed their latest line. Wouldn't you know? I happen to have one of their first releases, Shaolin Hand Lock, sitting right here.

Shaolin Hand Lock was originally released in 1978 and was directed by Ho Meng Hua. This particular film was one of those Shaw Brothers flicks you could randomly catch late at night while channel surfing. In other words, it's basically the stuff that kung fu films are made off; overblown sound effects, cheesy dialogue, and all.
This particular picture is a revenge piece with a kung fu master, Li Bai (Dick Wei), being murdered at the beginning. We soon learn that Li Bai was the possessor of the dreaded Shaolin Hand Lock technique, but that he also passed it onto his children, Ching Yang (David Chiang) and Meng Ping (Chan Ping). When the murder took place the assassin mistook servants for Li's children, so that left the kids free to take revenge on the man responsible.

It's not long until Ching Yang is running off by himself to track down the assassin. He soon finds the man in a brothel and takes care of him the old fashion hand-locking kind of way. He gets some information from the man before he offs him, and eventually winds up getting involved with Lin Hao (Lo Lieh), who was the man that ordered the assassination. Working to gain his trust Ching goes undercover and eventually sees his moment to strike, however, Lin Hao was ready for his special technique. It would seem he has spent years practicing ways to defeat the undefeatable, and all Ching Yang winds up with is a wounded leg. Lucky for him his sister shows up to take off some of the heat. I'll leave out some of the details regarding what happens next, but let's just say the film basically winds up the way you'd expect it would.

Shaolin Hand Lock is presented on DVD with an anamorphic widescreen presentation. The film looks very good despite its age and it's clear that FUNimation took some time to clean up the image. Colors are vibrant, the image is crisp and detailed at times, and truth be told this is a transfer that hides the film's age quite well. There is some noise, banding, and blurriness to contend with, but none of these really detract from the experience.
As far as the audio is concerned Shaolin Hand Lock comes with its original Mandarin mono track as well as a newly dubbed English stereo offering. The English track in particular falls under the category of so bad it's good. It's clear FUNimation wanted to keep the campiness alive with its dub, and there are several points here where you'll burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Kudos should go to the team for understanding the appeal of the genre.

Shaolin Hand Lock is a fun, campy kind of movie that is the very embodiment of the genre. Every hit, slap, kick, or poke is met with a whip-crack noise and it's so overdone at times it is borderline ridiculous. Despite that fact, there's some solid action in this movie that lovers of the genre will certainly appreciate. The plot is more serviceable than engaging, but it works as a backdrop for the action and the pacing never really skips a beat. This is a gem that undoubtedly slipped under the radar for many and it's nice to see FUNimation dusting these off so to speak. After this one I'm curious to see what else the Hong Kong Connection has to offer!

Maki Rating:

Review material provided by FUNimation. Shaolin Hand Lock is unrated. Please support Anime Maki and buy from Amazon

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