DVD Review HTF Review: Last Hurrah for Chivalry

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Neil Middlemiss, Aug 12, 2007.

  1. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer

    Nov 15, 2001
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    Neil Middlemiss

    Last Hurrah for Chivalry

    Studio: The Weinstein Company / Dragon Dynasty
    Year: 1979
    US Rating: Not Rated
    Film Length: 107 Mins
    Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1
    Audio: English and Cantonese 5.1, Original Cantonese Mono
    Subtitles: Optional English and Spanish and English SDH

    US Release Date: July 24, 2007

    The Film - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    “Between friends…there are millions of moves. They’ll catch you by surprise”

    The Golden Harvest Studios produced volumes of great films during its heyday, eventually replacing the Shaw Brothers as the principal studio in Asian Cinema. In the late 1970’s, Director John Woo was invited to join the Golden Harvest and was soon working on the Last Hurrah for Chivalry. Woo’s distinct techniques and style weren’t fully fledged when this film began shooting in 1978 but he was clearly finding his voice.

    The story involves all the familiar tenets of epic period martial arts cinema; bloody family revenge, deception, love and of course, an abundance of elaborate and intricately choreographed fight sequences.

    Kao (Kong Lau), on the evening of his wedding, has the celebration at his villa interrupted by a fierce rival, Pak (Hoi San Lee). During the battle, Kao discovers that his bride was paid to murder him. Many are killed and his rival succeeds in reclaiming the villa, a home he says was taken from him years earlier by Kao’s now dead father.

    Kao befriends Chang (Wei Pai), a skilled swordsman, so skilled in fact that he is known as the King of Broadswords. At the same time, Chang finds a friend in a local drunken assassin, Tsing Yi (Damian Lau). Eventually, Chang and Tsing agree to help their new and desperate friend avenge the murder of his family, unknowing that they are being used merely as pawns in a sinister game of greed and vengeance.

    Asian cinema was enamored with martial arts comedies when Last Hurrah for Chivalry was released, perhaps accounting for its less than stunning box office performance. However, over the years, and with John Woo finding international fame, Last Hurrah for Chivalry has become something of a valued treasure among Martial Arts fans. And there is much to enjoy about the film. A familiar story, capably told with hints of Woo’s calling card in the intensely choreographed action and violence. Also, Woo demonstrates his keen eye for when to employ slow motion to accentuate or exaggerate moments during a scene for dramatic effect.

    The film is well cast, using the talents of Wei Pai and first time feature film star Damian Lau as the main protagonist, Chang and Tsing Yi. Both are extremely likeable, sympathetic characters, whose skills onscreen with fist and weapon alike are laudable. The two ‘bad guys’ of the film, Kong Lau as Kao and Lee Hoi-San as Pak are a little larger than life with their dastardly ways but well carved out examples of martial arts cinema antagonists, and thus, enjoyable too.

    Woo loves to explore troubled heroes, who often in comedic ways are their own worst enemies when it comes to women. It is an interesting storytelling technique that he uses, having the evil characters in the film exist as bigger than real, magnificently cold and driven bad guys pitted against troubled, grounded and suffering heroic figures. These heroes, while they have near unrivaled skills with weapons, fists, guns etc, always seem to crumble just a little under the weight of morality or honesty.

    This is primarily a weapons based martial arts film, as the characters use broadswords, spears and knives to engage in combat. Each of the films many action sequences are complex, involved and entertaining, even if they aren’t quite as fluid as we have come to expect with recent films of this genre. Some feel a little, “1..2..3 countermove, 3..2..1, countermove” but don’t let that fool you, they do become progressively more violent, quick, entertaining and innovative through the film. The Sleeping Wizard fight scene near the climax, clearly an ode to the Drunken Master style, is a particularly enjoyable moment.

    Some meandering of the story and lack of originality aside, there is plenty to entertain you in Last Hurrah for Chivalry.

    The Video - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Woo’s Last Hurrah for Chivalry is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2:35.1 and is enhanced for widescreen TVs. Far from perfect, the image is somewhat better than I expected from a less than successful film from 1979. The presentation has a great deal of print dust and dirt, which show up from the opening frames to the closing moments. Never having seen this film in the theater, I cannot say how representative this version is, but I can say that most of the martial arts films I saw growing up were of the poorest quality. They were often overly dark and as grainy as sand-paper, so in many ways this presentation is a greatly improved tribute to how I experienced these films in my youth.

    Ratings for image quality, to me, are relative. They depend on the source material, the films atmosphere or style as conveyed by the image and lastly, the reasonable expectation we can have for its quality. Some restoration, even a minor one, of the print for Last Hurrah for Chivalry would have reduced many of the imperfections. However, this is a film from 1979 when Golden Harvest Studios was pumping out films like there was no tomorrow and with that in mind, the less than stellar image quality is, in context, worthy of at least three stars.

    The Sound - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Weinstein’s ‘Dragon Dynasty’ label has provided some nice audio options, with the original Cantonese mono, a nice 5.1 Cantonese track and an English Cantonese (dubbed) version. I watched the film using the 5.1 Cantonese track, but checked out both the English dubbed and original Cantonese mono options as well. The dubbed version is just as difficult for me to enjoy as every other dubbing job I have experienced, but the original Cantonese mono track is surprisingly good, with a real natural, authentic feel to it.

    The Cantonese 5.1 track is faithful to the mono track when it comes to the center channel dialogue, a little softer perhaps and less of the minor hiss, but faithful none the less. The surrounds provide a nice immersive quality, especially during the well staged night action sequence during the rain storm. The music track sounds a little louder when compared to the dialogue, but not distracting.

    The Extra's - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Feature Length Audio Commentary by Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan: Bey Logan’s vast knowledge, love and deep appreciation of Martial Arts/Asian cinema is incredibly interesting. As with the recent Hard-Boiled Ultimate Edition commentary, Bey provides an absolutely jam-packed two hours of tidbits, facts and history. Definitely an informed commentary and worth your time.

    Pray for Death : An Interview with Fung Hak-On - (9:36) - Fung Hak-On served as the films Martial arts consultant. He also played the character of Pray in the film, a swordsman who sought to challenge Chang, the great ‘King of the Broadsword’ in hopes of claiming the title from him. This interview covers the challenges of choreographing the films many fight sequences.

    Deliver Us from Evil: An Interview with Lee Hoi-San (10:55) Lee, who portrayed the villainous Pak in the film, shares his perspective on Woo as a director and working in the business. It is an interesting and honest conversation with this friendly man.

    Legendary Weapons of China - Featurette - (10:50) – Bey Logan, in addition to providing his thoughts on the film during the feature length commentary, gives us a nice 10 minute lesson on the various weapons used during the film. Sharing a little history behind each of the weapon’s origin and some hands on demonstrations of their primary purpose during combat, Bey proves to be an engaging host. This is actually one of the better special features I have seen.

    Trailer Gallery – Hong Kong Theatrical Trailer & US Promotional Trailer

    Final Thoughts

    Let it be said that there are few directors who know how to build the emotional investment required to make the final encounter, the Face/off (pardon the pun) in the finale quite as rich and satisfying (or as long) as Director John Woo. In Last Hurrah for Chivalry, working from his own screenplay, Woo treads familiar story ground but succeeds in leaving his indelible footprint on the end result. This is an entertaining, but flawed entry into the library of martial arts cinema from a highly creative period. For John Woo completists out there, this film is a must have. For those who love a good old fashioned martial arts film, there is more than your fair share of action sequences to keep you entertained. For everyone else, you could do much worse than Last Hurrah for Chivalry.

    Overall Score - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Neil Middlemiss
    Kernersville, NC
  2. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer

    May 9, 2002
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    Thanks for the excellent review! Adding it to my Netflix queue.
  3. Jeff Reis

    Jeff Reis Stunt Coordinator

    Dec 6, 1998
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    Beware--I bet all they have is the old Tai Seng version. I queued up King Boxer thinking I would get the pictured Dragon Dynasty version and instead got the crappy old Crash Cinema version. [​IMG]
    Netflix's biggest (only) weakness for me is their continued failure to get newer editions of stuff.

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