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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts > Action > Crime > Hong Kong > Mystery > Animation > Fantasy > Big Boss (1971 aka Chinese Connection aka Iron Fist aka Fists Of Fury/two versions/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray)/Flag Of Iron (1980/MVD/88 Films Blu-ray)/Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941)/Thin Man

Big Boss (1971 aka Chinese Connection aka Iron Fist aka Fists Of Fury/two versions/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray)/Flag Of Iron (1980/MVD/88 Films Blu-ray)/Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941)/Thin Man Goes Home (1944)/Song Of The Thin Man (1947/all MGM/all Warner Archive Blu-rays)/Spine Of Night 4K (2021/RLJ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B/B+/B+/B Sound: C+/B+/B/B+ Extras: B/B/B/C+ Films: B-/B/B C+ C+/C

PLEASE NOTE: The Big Boss Import Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia and can play on all 4K and Blu-ray players, while The Thin Man films now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Now for some martial arts, mystery and animation action...

First we start with the first major feature film lead role for Bruce Lee. Lo Wei's The Big Boss (1971 aka Chinese Connection aka Iron Fist aka Fists Of Fury) which we covered in a truly awful DVD version (one of many issued over the years, including bad VHS and Beta copies) and had this to say about it at the time with slight updates:

''Considered one of Bruce Lee's best films, The Chinese Connection (1972) is also one of Lee's most graphic, but it is also the film of his bouncing around in public domain for reasons that make no sense. You will find more copies of this film, even in both letterboxed and pan & scan editions, than almost any other well-known video title on the market. National General distributed this film at the time (the dubbed version in 1973,) but that does not automatically make anything they released public domain, especially considering it was made in Hong Kong. The tale of a student (Lee) avenging the murder of his teacher in early 1900s Shanghai, done very convincingly and is a true highlight of his too-short career.''

Lee's first film lets him let lose as he eventually has to get revenge against some very evil people, but he tries to be a pacifist and let things go. Too bad for them that does not last long. Turns out the boss of the ice factory he works at is a drug kingpin and major gangster, a secret that has led to some employees (et al) 'mysteriously disappear' and worse, so things can only get worse. One of the most important Golden Harvest Studio films ever made, it holds up very well and some of it is like never seeing the film before in this solid restoration. The U.S. version was made with a brand new soundtrack and became as iconic as the original version with its native score. Nice to have both here in great shape.

The film was shot on 35mm color negative with anamorphic Dyaliscope lenses and has a great look to it from a lens that was popular at the time, if not always the best. Technicolor apparently did the lab work, but no dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints were issued in the U.S. at least. Still, especially after bouncing around in some very awful video copies, the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer might show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on video and in some other bad or played-out prints out there from over the decades.

Director of Photography Ching-Chu Chen knows how to use a scope frame and not only lensed more of Lee's films, but also key films for Jackie Chan and Jimmy Wang-Yu, so he is one of the originators and innovators of filming martial arts in widescreen so memorably and deserves more credit than he gets. The restoration here is very welcome and has some great shots to it too.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless English and Mandarin/Cantonese mixes all have dubbing in them and show their age, the theatrical mono releases they were, but these have been fixed and cleaned up as much as possible and will likely never sound better. The different music scores fare very well in each case too.

Extras include a Collector's Card, while the disc adds an Alternate Opening, Stills Gallery, Trailers, Alternate Ending, rare scene extension, featurette Bruce Lee vs. Peter Thomas and feature length documentary Bruce Lee: The Man, The Legend.

Another Shaw Brothers classic gets a HD restoration courtesy of 88 Films, The Flag of Iron (1980) directed by Chan Cheh (The One-Armed Swordsman, Five Venoms), this Kung-Fu flick is pretty impressive even by today's standards and has many of the classic tropes and characteristics that fans come to love in the Shaw Brother's library of films. If you're unfamiliar but a big fan of Tarantino's Kill Bill series, then you can see that he got some creative inspiration a bit from some of these films, especially with some of the sound effects used during the fight sequences. The money is on the screen here and its nice to see a film like this that would be predominantly digital if done today more than likely.

The film stars Phillip Chung-Fung Kwok, Sheng Chiang, Li Wang, Feng Lu, Tien Hsiang Lung, Shen Chan.

The Five Venoms actors star in a clan of good vs a clan of evil mashup where fists fly!

The Flag of Iron is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and lossless audio mixes in English and Mandarin DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono with English subtitles. The restoration is clean and overall the film really does look pretty nice in this edition.

Special Features:

Audio Commentary with Asian Film Experts

Slipcase with brand-new artwork from R.P. "Kung Fu Bob" O'Brien

Double-Sided A3 Foldout Poster

and an Extensive Insert Booklet Notes "Red and Black Attack Unfurling the Fury of Cheh Chang's Gloriously Inventive Martial Arts Masterwork, The Flag of Iron (1980)" by Andrew Graves

Next up are three sequels in what some consider the best mystery movie series of the Classical Hollywood period. Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941)/Thin Man Goes Home (1944)/Song Of The Thin Man (1947) mark three more of the 14 Thin Man movies have made their way from the 1940s and onto Blu-ray disc courtesy of Warner Archive. The films feature William Powell and Myrna Loy as the leads in various situations and storylines that are comedic at times and a bit more serious in others. The films are fun to watch and look back on and remind us of a simpler time in American cinema.

Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) - Nick Charles (Powell) and his wife Nora (Loy) reluctantly come out of retirement to solve the murder of a race jockey.

The Thin Man Goes Home (1944) - Full of murder, intrigue and espionage, Nick and his Nora go up against Edgar Drauqe (Leon Ames)!

Song of the Thin Man (1947) - Whilst on a gambling boat, a murder takes place whilst the two culprits end up asking the Detective and Nora, who are also on board, for help. Things get even wilder from there!

All three of the films are presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray discs with MPEG-4 AVC codecs, black and white clear transfers, and full frame aspect ratio of 1.37:1 with lossless, English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit) lossless sound on each disc. These are pretty sharp looking transfers and I'm guessing likely the best these films have seen on disc. I'm surprised a box set wasn't planned and Warner Archive is just releasing these films sporadically.

Special Features add Original Theatrical Trailers in all three cases, then the individual films add:

Shadow of the Thin Man:

Vintage Short: The Tell-Tale Heart

Classic Cartoon: The Goose Goes South

The Thin Man Goes Home:

Robert Benchley Comedy Short: Why Daddy?

Classic Cartoon: Screwball Squirrel

Song of the Thin Man:

Passing Parade Short: A Really Important Person

and Classic Cartoon: Slap Happy Lion

All three of these films are available exclusively from Warner Archive and are worth hunting down if you are a fan and want to teleport yourself into the past. I'm surprised that this franchise hasn't been resurrected in some way as of yet, though a TV series attempt a long tie ago was tried and did not work out. Needless to say many TV shows and feature films have tried to imitate them since, but few have worked.

Finally, The Spine Of Night 4K (2021) is an animated film that I hadn't heard of until this new steel book edition came my way. The film overall is interesting and reminded me a little bit of the old Heavy Metal movie series or Fire and Ice in terms of its subject, tone, and overall style. The film has beautifully painted backgrounds throughout, but the characters themselves are in an animated style that is a bit lacking. They almost look like characters you would see on Beavis and Butthead put up against beautifully hand painted scenic backdrops. This leaves the viewer with a kind of mixed feeling - the animation is intriguing yet lackluster at the same time. The story of the film itself is interesting, but I see it appealing mainly to those who are fans of medieval or folklore type films or stories.

The film features the voice talents of Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, and Joe Manganiello.

The story starts with a nude witch who has the power of supernatural witchcraft at her side and a sacred plant that grants her special powers. A young man steals the plant from her and turns evil while showing the lesser qualities of mankind through his actions. Other characters intertwine in this medieval fantasy that sports familiar subtext to such a tale.

The Spine of Night is presented in 2160p 4K with an HEVC/H.265 codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (without any kind of HDR), and a lossless, English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 mix (48kHz, 24-bit). The animation is crisp and clear with more detail in the 4K version obviously. There's also a lesser quality 1080p Blu-ray version which features identical specs in lesser quality. As mentioned, the animation is a mixed bag, with beautiful background that look hand painted in some instances, but lesser detailed, kind of generic looking humans. Had the animation been more even and the humans looking a bit more detailed or realistic, the film could have been a bit more easy on the eye.

Extras: The Making of Featurette and Exordium and Mongrel Short Films.

The Spine of Night is an interestingly animated film set in medieval times, but its backgrounds and a bit more beautiful than the ugly looking characters themselves.

To order the Big Boss Umbrella import Blu-ray, go to this link:


...and to order any of the Warner Archive Thin Man Blu-ray discs, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo (Boss) and James Lockhart



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