Jackie Chan's POLICE STORY: Looong comparisons of multi-versions (DVD, LD, VHS)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Matt_Stevens, Oct 1, 2001.

  1. Matt_Stevens

    Matt_Stevens Supporting Actor

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    This is looooong, but worth a read for fans of Jackie Chan. Please message me with any errors you find or additional information you may have that I can add to the review.
    POLICE STORY: Region 2 DVD vs. Region 0 DVD vs. New Line Laserdisc vs. Tai Seng imported VHS tapes vs. U.S. dubbed version vs. extended widescreen Japanese Laserdisc.
    Note: This is a long post. Comments on the Region 2 DVD are about halfway down.
    The movie: After the horror of the Hollywood produced THE PROTECTOR, Jackie Chan returned to Hong Kong, devastated, frustrated and angry that for the second time, Hollywood courted him for a big budget U.S. feature, only to ignore his abilities, his advice and instead, attempt to turn him into what he is not: A Chinese Dirty Harry.
    So Jackie returned to Hong Kong and made his own cop movie, POLICE STORY, and it is regarded as his greatest film set in “modern” times. Story, performances, direction, music are all as good as it gets with this film and the action sequences are so riveting, so powerful, so damned exciting, that many who saw it in a theater jumped out of their seats applauding and cheering when it was over. It received a well deserved standing O at the New York Film Festival back in 1985 (could be 86. I don’t remember the exact year).
    Unfortunately, Jackie’s best film has long been seen at home in versions that are simply a disaster. The Tai Seng imported Hong Kong VHS tapes are panned & scanned from worn theatrical prints, with subtitles that are cut off on the left and right of the screen. These tapes are unwatchable.
    The dubbed, cropped U.S. VHS tape, which has been long out of print, is a real abomination. The music score has been replaced, for no apparent reason, and the new music is cheap synthesizer stuff that is so laughable, it’s like listening to fingernails on a chalkboard. The dubbing is lame and the transfer is a mess. Thumbs way down.
    Picture: [​IMG] out of 4.
    Sound: [​IMG] out of 4.
    Extras: none
    Value: [​IMG] (a complete joke)
    New Line Cinema bought the rights to this dubbed edition a few years back and did a new sound mix with music that is taken from FIRST STRIKE and RUMBLE IN THE BRONX. The results are a useless improvement, as the film is still cut, devoid of much of the humor and gratingly painful to watch because of the dubbing. The laserdisc is widescreen and the transfer is very good. But who cares?
    Picture: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] out of 4.
    Sound: [​IMG] [​IMG] out of 4 (just [​IMG] if you don't like dubbing).
    Extras: none
    Value: [​IMG] (don't bother)
    Media Asia released a version of the 96 minute Hong Kong version on DVD through Mega Star over 3 years ago and the results were terribly disappointing for fans who had hoped for the Holy grail. The transfer on the Region 0 DVD was a conversion from a PAL source and suffered from heavy DVNR (digital video noise reduction), creating ghosting effects/trails and shimmering that even the most uncaring viewer would notice. Compression artifacts plagued the video and the transfer was so bright and washed out, there was no contrast. Making matter worse, Media Asia remixed the soundtrack, using all new foley effects, which actually sounded inferior to the original mono track! The sound was shrill, like it was recorded in a tin can, and was also frequently out of synch by as much as a full second. Many times things that had sounds no longer had them at all. Nothing about the new soundtrack was an improvement. It was a 100% failure and infuriated Jackie Chan films around the world. The subtitles were even lame, with constant grammar and spelling howlers. The font even sucked.
    Picture: [​IMG] & 1/2 out of 4.
    Sound: [​IMG] out of 4.
    Menus and extras: [​IMG] out of 4
    Value: [​IMG] (avoid)
    In Japan, POLICE STORY was released on laserdisc and for years, it has been “the” version to own, despite the lack of subtitles. The 2.25:1 transfer was better than anything else out there (despite way too much artificial sharpening), the mono soundtrack was pure and undistorted, but more importantly, the film featured an extra prologue and opening credit sequence, plus an epilogue and alternate out-takes sequence that most fans regard as superior to the Hong Kong cut. My laserdisc will never go on eBay, I can tell you that.
    Picture: [​IMG] [​IMG] out of 4. (artifical sharpening hurts the score)
    Sound: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] & 1/2 out of 4. (uncompressed, unaltered mono original)
    Extras: none
    Value: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] out of 4 (If you can find it, grab it)
    A PAL version of this was broadcast on Australian TV some years ago, but is apparently taken from the same print used for the Japanese LD. I have been unable to obtain this version, but I do hear it is about as good as the Japanese edition, if only slightly inferior.
    Unfortunately, the footage for these extra scenes is lost or destroyed, according to Media Asia and the Japanese studio that released the longer version, so the brand new Hong Kong Legends DVD does not include the scenes in the film. Only the end out-takes sequence is included, and is taken from a widescreen analog (non-film) source.
    Now, the new “HONG KONG LEGENDS” DVD: Please note, this review is based on one sitting of the R2 DVD straight through and about one full hour of comparing between the other editions and this DVD.
    This is not the Holy Grail. But it IS, without a shadow of a doubt, the best version of this film, ever, despite numerous flaws that will infuriate purists (like myself), some of which probably cannot be helped. I’ll go through this one section at a time.
    The film is the 96-minute version. This is Jackie Chan’s cut (he directed the film). He prefers this version. Since the extended sense cannot be found, HKL cannot be blamed for this. The alternate ending/out-takes are presented here as an extra, so that is a nice bonus and I applaud them for including it.
    The transfer: Easily the best I have seen for this film. Color saturation, contrast, etc. are all improved upon when compared to the other versions of this film. The level of detail here is unmatched. A vast improvement over what we have been watching these many years. Grain is sometimes present, but most of the time it is due to the extra clarity of the DVD format. In a few shots, it’s clear the element used is aging and suffered damage. This can be seen 3 minutes & 15 seconds in, where a faint vertical line appears for just over 3 minutes. There are some other spots and scratches, but they are few and far between. HKL’s digital restoration process is amazing in removing these flaws, while not adding ghost trails or noise.
    The brightness level does fluctuate in a few scenes. Viewers familiar with older films will know what I refer to. Check out BEN-HUR for a clear example of this. What a shame films that are less than 20 years old are deteriorating all throughout Asia. Hong Kong studios have neglected their films and the original negative for POLICE STORY was in a terrible state when HKL got a hold of it. There is nothing that could have been done to improve the transfer, short of a multi-million dollar restoration, and we all know that won’t happen. 20 years from now, POLICE STORY may only exist on DVD and that will be a crime. With Media Asia’s vast wealth, they should be forced into restoring and preserving these classic films (Media Asia now owns 90% of all Hong Kong films). Did you know PROJECT A’s original negative is lost and had to be recreated from an IP?! Terrible, but true.
    MPEG2 compression artifacts are not a problem on this DVD. I only noticed them a few times during the film. However, when zooming in, they can be seen. Some high bit rate DVD’s don’t show artifacting, even when zoomed in (2.35:1 to 1.85:1 zoom). I think HKL should step up the video bit rate to the 6mb level, instead of the 3.8 to 5.5mb level they average.
    UPDATE: (Warning!! If you think the aspect ratio is perfect, do not read this update because it will change your mind and you will hate me for it) While watching this DVD, I found the aspect ratio to be wider than normal for a 2.35:1 film and now I know why. The image has been vertically squished, making everything a little too short and fat. After comparing this DVD to the Media Asia transfer, the Japanese transfer and the U.S. transfer, I was 90% positive of this. But I thought maybe it was my Malata N996’s PAL to NTSC conversion. So I put the DVD into my DVD Rom drive and low and behold, the distortion is there, so I am now 100% certain that HKL had some kind of mastering error and squished the image a bit too much.
    Those of you with the MALATA N996 or other DVD players with X-Y scaling capabilities will be OK. I was able to correct the aspect ratio with the XY feature by raising the vertical height by just 3 clicks (hit “Feature” on the remote, go to X-Y Scaling and then hit the UP Arrow 3 times). Of course, those of you with Home Theater PC’s or PAL DVD decks that have no X-Y scaling are out of luck, so I think Hong Kong Legends has to address this issue. Fans over at asiandvdguide’s forum and Bulletsnbabesdvds’ forum have noticed this problem without doing an A-B-C comparison, so it’s not so minor that it will go unnoticed by all.
    For the record, this is the second Hong Kong Legend DVD to have a problem like this. MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER has the opposite distortion, with the image too tall, causing me to use the X-Y scaling to lower the vertical height by 3 or 4 clicks. I wonder if something in HKL’s Telecine equipment is out of adjustment. They need to address this right now, otherwise future releases will be marred by distortion.
    END UPDATE
    The soundtrack: Here is where purists (like myself) will lose it. The original mono soundtrack is not included. HKL has been releasing these films with 5.1 remixes wherever possible. In the past, the only films that were released with their original mono tracks were the ones where the original sound stems were missing and all that was left was a combined track. Many retail stores in England will not stock DVDs if the soundtrack is mono and many of their Joe Six-pack crowd will not buy them. So 5.1 is a must. I wish they would include the mono originals, but it is rumored that Media Asia will only let them release them in 5.1 or mono. Not both.
    POLICE STORY’s new 5.1 soundtrack is actually quite good, but it does not contain the original sound effects and instead has the replaced sounds that are heard on the Media Asia DVD. First let me comment on how this soundtrack actually sounds to the ear.
    There is not a lot of bass, but there never has been. The surrounds are used mostly for ambient sounds and the exceptional music score, which is one of the best scores for a Jackie Chan film. Compared to the Media Asia remix, this 5.1 soundtrack is undistorted and cleaner, with a more natural sound field AND, more importantly, sound that is always in synch. No more punches and gun shots that are a full second too late. It’s essentially a L/R stereo mix, with some enhancements to bring it out.
    HKL says they were provided the original mono soundtrack to POLICE STORY, only to find it was badly damaged, with entire sections missing. A decision was made to use the Media Asia 5.1 tracks (which have replaced sound effects) to try and create an acceptable soundtrack for this film. Of course, controversy ensues. Entire nations rise up in revolt.
    This 5.1 remix is not a true representation of the original mono track. There are sounds that have been added (the honking horn when Jackie drives the car down the shanty town, as an example) and many sounds that are just missing (the loud crash when that same car hits the stone side of the hill). The shattered glass during the finale does not have the punch of the original mono mix, but it also does not sound distorted and completely lacking bass, like with the Media Asia mix. Most punches and kicks are from the Media Asia library and sound similar to the original sounds. Many times I had to play them one after the other to be sure they were different.
    Dialogue on this release is somewhat distorted in a few sections. Probably due to damage. I compared the damaged sections and the Japanese LD does not have the problem. However, the Media Asia DVD does. Not quite as noticeably, but it’s there.
    Good news: The laughably bad distortion and dropouts that plagued loud punches, explosions and gunshots with the Media Asia sound mix do not plague the HKL soundtrack at all. There is a major difference in that regard. However, the kick of the very well produced mono original is lost. I’m not saying that the mono track is outstanding. But I do think it has a slight edge in some departments.
    The only real improvement with this soundtrack over the mono original is the more spacious feel of the music score. It moves into the surrounds and sounds cleaner than before. But I wonder how it can be so good, while the original sounds are supposed to be so unusable? I’d love to know the real story behind all this.
    Yes, I would be happier with the original mono, but the remix is not an abomination (remember, I am one of the critics of Warner’s SUPERMAN remix and am pretty upset at what Anchor Bay has done with SUSPIRIA). It’s a begrudgingly acceptable alternative to no film at all, or that ridiculous Media Asia abomination. So a reluctant thumbs up on the sound.
    English Language dub: It’s here. I refuse to listen to it. It was also remixed. Knock yourself out.
    Subtitles: What an improvement! Easily the only good translation this film has ever received. Your Region 0 DVD is officially a coaster. J
    Menu design: As usual, it takes what seems like ten minutes to get past the forced copyright warnings and Media Asia logos. This shit should be illegal. You can’t even hit stop. The menus are quite nice, though I wish they included the original music over the new techno stuff.
    Extras: Plenty to talk about here.
    First, an audio commentary by Bey Logan that I have not had a chance to listen to (he always does a fine job though).
    A Jackie Chan Bio that is strange in how it’s presented, but informative, nonetheless.
    Some yawn inducing photos.
    A 20 minute Jackie Chan interview, in English, and absolutely worth watching. We even see him back at the shopping mall as he talks about the film. Very cool.
    Trailers for other upcoming HKL releases (Game of Death & Iron Fisted Monkey).
    And what most people have hoped for, the Japanese Outtakes montage, as seen on the very rare Pony Canyon laserdisc. It’s 2 minutes and 50 seconds long and clearly taken from the laserdisc master. This does include the scene outside the mall, where the characters move their separate ways and the bad guys are put into the squad cars. A nice touch and I wonder why Jackie deleted it. Note: It took HKL a full 12 months to secure the rights for this footage from the Japanese studio, which did not want to show it outside Japan! Asian studios are the absolute worst.
    There you have it. That’s everything. So what are fans to do? Clearly, the only good way to see this film, outside a theater, is to view the HKL DVD, despite its shortcomings. We’ll never know if Media Asia is full of shit or of HKL is lying their asses off. But there is no doubt that this is the only acceptable version of POLICE STORY available to English speaking fans.
    Picture: [​IMG] [​IMG] 1/2 out of 4 (would be higher of distortion was not present).
    Sound: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] out of 4.
    menus and extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] out of 4
    Value: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] & 1/2
    The new and popular MALATA N996 converts the PAL signal perfectly and the picture quality is outstanding, both in 480i and especially in 480p. I urge any that can to invest in this player.
    Those of you waiting for an NTSC version like this, I hope your rocking chair is comfortable. [​IMG]
    Equipment used for review:
    Malata N996 Region 0 480p DVD w/PAL to NTSC conversion
    Panasonic 47WX49 HDTV
    Pioneer VSX D509S Dolby Digital/DTS receiver
    JBL speakers and powered subwoofer
    All Better Cables & Monster Cables
    Matt Stevens
    Here are some links for more discussion on the film, the DVD, etc.
    Bulletsnbabesdvds.com
    Asian DVD Guide Forum
    [Edited last by Matt_Stevens on October 02, 2001 at 01:10 PM]
     
  2. Chris Dugger

    Chris Dugger Supporting Actor

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    Mine arrives tomorrow!
    Dugger
     
  3. Matt_Stevens

    Matt_Stevens Supporting Actor

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    If you are new to this film, hold on to your seat. [​IMG] If you know the film, this edition will put a smile on your face. [​IMG]
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  4. Graham Perks

    Graham Perks Second Unit

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    I wish a good version of this would come out in the US. I have a VHS I copied from I don't know where. It's terrible quality, but better than nothing! I would love to get a good Police Story DVD!
     
  5. Evan Case

    Evan Case Screenwriter

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    Hey!
    I liked the music on my crappy P&S OOP USA VHS [​IMG]. At least during the double decker bus chase at the beginning.
    Still, I'd kill for even a "just-decent" R1 version of Police Story. Easily my favorite Chan film and one of the best examples of action cinema ever.
    Evan
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    "* * * * * * * * * * * * *" - Buster Keaton
    S&S: 16 films left
    Most recent: Paisan
     
  6. Matthew Brown

    Matthew Brown Supporting Actor

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  7. Matt_Stevens

    Matt_Stevens Supporting Actor

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    [​IMG]
    Thanks to Matt at Love & Bullets for the screen cap. I can't get my computer to do that (never have been able to). [​IMG]
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  8. Garry Cowell

    Garry Cowell Stunt Coordinator

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    I've listen to the Logan commentary and it's a goody!
     
  9. Matt_Stevens

    Matt_Stevens Supporting Actor

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    I have updated my review in regards to the aspect ratio and the problem this transfer has. Those of you who have already watched the DVD and did not notice anything wrong, keep it that way and don't read the update, which I have abbreviated in the SPOILER tag below.
    Spoiler:The vertical height has been squished slightly, making everything a bit too short and fat. This can be corrected with DVD players that have XY scaling (like my Malata). I pushed the vertical height up by 3 clicks and that made it perfect. But clearly, something is wrong with HKL's Telecine equipment and they need to fix it.
    [​IMG]
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  10. Matthew Brown

    Matthew Brown Supporting Actor

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    Matt's updated his review on my site to address concerns that the aspect ratio may be off. It is probably due to the PAL to NTSC conversion. If you have a Malata, you don't have to worry about it. You can fix it. http://www.loveandbullets.com/policestory.htm
    Matt
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  11. Ken_Pro

    Ken_Pro Extra

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    I'm finding it necessary to keep all my different Police Storys, because they're all so different. The "Police Force" VHS tape includes courtroom scenes that aren't in the Tai Seng subtitled version, which is LONGER because it includes the telephone juggling scene the "Police Force" version doesn't have. (?!??!) The Media Asia disk has more footage than either of the others, but as Matt points out, the sound is atrocious.
    There's a name game going on too with all the different versions. Chan's character name is Ka Kui. They call him Ka Kui in the Tai Seng and Media Asia versions. They call him "Kevin" in the "Police Force" version. And in the New Line version, they just forget all that and call him "Jackie"....which is sort of disconcerting, because it makes you think Chan is playing himself, which he isn't...
    This HKL disc sounds nice...for those with region-free players.
    *sigh*
     
  12. Matt_Stevens

    Matt_Stevens Supporting Actor

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    I showed it to some friends tonight (he has a HT PC) and it blew them away. We only watched about 10 minutes (had to watch ENTERPRISE, which was just terrible tonight), but they were knocked out and are all coming over this weekend to see it on my system. Guess my girlfriend and I won't be alone Saturday evening. [​IMG]
    The HKL version is shorter only to the Japanese version, which has the extra prologue and epilogue. You can ditch your Media Asia disc if you have the ability to view the HKL version. If not, that sucks. [​IMG]
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  13. Jason Fanesi

    Jason Fanesi Auditioning

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    Anyone know of any U.S. based e-tailers that have this for sale (HKL version)?
     
  14. Matt_Stevens

    Matt_Stevens Supporting Actor

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  15. Jason Fanesi

    Jason Fanesi Auditioning

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    Well, hopefully Poker Industries will be getting it in, as they carry some of the other HKL titles.
     
  16. AJ Johnson

    AJ Johnson Stunt Coordinator

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    Police Story is my all time favorite Jackie Chan movie. I saw part of the new U.S. dubbed version on cable (USA I think) and I was disgusted by the way they treated this movie with the new soundtrack and the horrendous dubbing. I couldn't believe Jackie Chan would allow one of his best movies to be presented this way in the U.S. All my favorite comedy scenes were butchered. I have the Police Force version of this movie (the one where's Jackie's name is Kevin) and the VHS tape is getting worn down from repeat viewings. I don't think I've seen the other versions so I guess I'm in for a treat when I order it.
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  17. Matt_Stevens

    Matt_Stevens Supporting Actor

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    Jackie had no say at all about the cut POLICE STORY.
    By the way, I detected NO Edge Enhancement on this DVD! HKL does not use it, from what I can tell.
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  18. Jason Fanesi

    Jason Fanesi Auditioning

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    For those interested, Poker Industries is now selling this title. 29.95 plus 10% off coupon from mhvf.net. It usually takes 3 days from ordering from them for the package to reach me. Beats ordering from England!
     
  19. Ushabye

    Ushabye Projectionist

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    Absolutely stupendous DVD! This now replaces my old recorded from the TV a decade ago VHS copy I've got on my shelf.
    A note on the commentary: I dont know if this was in error by HKL but while listening to the great Bey Logan commentary you cannot hear any of the movie soundtrack in the backround as is normal with commentaries. Bey at one point indicates and talks about Jackie's song and theme music when it appears in the film with the impression that we can hear it in the background as he is discussing it.
    I'm convince this is a disc error by HKL.
    Can anybody else clarify?
     
  20. Ken Stuart

    Ken Stuart Second Unit

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    I've been trying to see this film for awhile.
    Finally, it was scheduled to air on WPIX, but was pulled at the last moment, my guess is that it was too soon after 9/11 (since I still haven't seen the film, I can't be sure what the possible offending scene was...)
    One reason I'd like to see this film is because it is one of Brigitte Lin's only modern-era roles.
     

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