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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > House Of The Flying Daggers (EDKO R3/NTSC DTS DVD)

House of Flying Daggers (EDKO Films Region 3 NTSC)


Picture: A-     DTS 6.1: A     Dolby Digital EX: B     Extras: B+     Film: A-



My introduction to director Yimou Zhang began with his first film Red Sorghum, an absolutely gorgeous, delicate film that quickly brought the director to even more serious projects.  Then came Raise the Red Lantern, another film dealing with the color red, which if you are familiar with Zhang’s work you know already how important color and texture are.  His 1995 film Shanghai Triad was another critical success, but most people are started to become more familiar with his work since 2002’s Hero, starring Jet Li.  While I was impressed with much of the visual imagery of that film in particular it wasn’t one of my favorites by any stretch and I began to doubt Zhang’s work to some degree because American audiences kept getting Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon mock ups. 


My doubts came to rest quite quickly in the beginning moments of 2004’s House of the Flying Daggers as I saw a director who was out to prove he was capable of just about anything.  His ability to capture mood, feeling, tenderness, and compassion as if he was making a Kurosawa film, but then the stylized fighting sequences that possess a beauty in a graceful dance-like fashion that only a skilled director could handle so well.  When I say Kurosawa I am thinking more specifically about some of his color films towards the end of his career, some of those colors we rarely see in today’s film unless you are watching one of Zhang’s.  Certain greenish hues or teals and aqua’s that are so vibrant and dazzling you feel like you could reach out and just feel the coolness of it. 


The purpose of this review does not serve as praise towards the director, nor is it a summary of the film.  Moreover I am most impressed with its delivery to DVD from Edko Films, which is a Region 3 NTSC version that is worth seeking out!  If you want a synopsis you can pretty much narrow it down to a story of betrayal, deception, love triangle, and lots of combat fighting and stylized martial arts.  If you truly want to experience the film the way it should be for home viewing purposes this is the disc to get!  Edko films has brought forth House of Flying Daggers as a full bit-rate DTS-ES discrete edition, which also contains a second disc loaded with extras. 


Even without the extras, this is a solid disc just for its performance sake.  Since this is a full bit-rate DTS audio track the transfer is at an astonishing 1536Kbps and full demonstrates the spectacular work in producing one of the best surround sound experiences for the DVD market.  The film itself has such an incredible amount of detail placed in all areas, especially the visual work, but with that also comes the sounds delicately mixed throughout to give the viewer the feel of the film.  Whether it be voices, swords clashing, or the music all detail is fully realized here. 


Most DTS mixes are only transferred at 768Kbps on DVD to make room for the Dolby 5.1 mix, but even that cut version is still far better than most Dolby, which hovers between 384Kbps and 448Kbps.  There are two Dolby mixes presented here as well, one of which is a 5.1 EX Mandarin and the other a 5.1 EX Cantonese, both are Dolby and both sound so inferior you almost wonder why they bothered!  The DTS-ES discrete Mandarin will blow you away with its power and precise mixing.  Most people are only concerned with how fight scenes sound when it comes to good mixes, but throughout this entire film the sound design is impeccable.  Dialogue sounds crystal clear and cuts through the mix no matter what chaos is happening abound.  There is also an ambiance created as well and you can hear reverb and echo when appropriate that gives such a dimension and depth you feel surrounded in your own little world of sound.  The ES channel helps enclose the listener in the rear soundstage, which becomes very active throughout. 


The second disc also contains a plethora of extraordinary extras including a 45-minute ‘making of’, storyboards, trailers, and a music video.  Starmax also issued a limited edition Region 3 version of the film on DVD, and that contains an 180-minute ‘making of’ for the film, but the film does not contain a full-bit rate DTS transfer only a 768kbps DTS audio track, which I am sure is good, but not nearly as staggering and the picture is a bit softer as well. 


If you are looking for an interesting film that is worthy of showcasing for reference quality in terms of picture and sound this might be a nice new edition granted you can play Region 3 DVD’s.  What is great about this particular film when it comes to demonstrations is there are so many scenes that lend themselves well for spatialness of the mix, depth, ambience, overall mixing effects, surround feel, bass management, etc.  The list goes on and every scene contains some amazing cinematography as well capturing some superb colors that would look good on any High Definition system.  My best guess is that this is as good as the film will look until HD-DVD or Blu-Ray come along and bring worth a remarkable full-bit High Definition transfer, which will just leap off the wall!



-   Nate Goss


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