Out of the many hundreds of traditional kung fu films that have poured out of Hong Kong, "The Prodigal Son" is often hailed as the best ever made. It certainly has technical qualities that the others simply don't possess, which you'll learn from a DVD that will soon turn you into an expert on the movie.
Picture We've learnt to expect excellent restorations from Hong Kong Legends, but they keep pushing the boundaries of what's possible. There are some scenes so clear in this transfer you could nearly be fooled into thinking this was a new movie. Other soft moments give the game away, but you simply don't expect a film of this age from Hong Kong to look this good (bearing in mind the many years when films were left to rot).
Sound On offer are 2.0 mono presentations of either the laughable English dub, or the original Cantonese. Both are strong and handle punch effects and verbal challenges without distortion.
Audio Commentary Bey Logan is once again on hand to impart absolutely everything he knows about this movie, which is a lot! He fills in on plot, the historical basis for the movie, and points out the many character actors populating the cast. Amongst the many anecdotes is one about star Yuen Biao who is often known by his English name Bill, but when Golden Harvest decided to push his career internationally they came up with a better name. They promoted him as Jimmy Biao but never told Biao this which created no end of confusion when fans would shout "Jimmy" at the bemused actor.
On the film itself, Bey points out the many technical traits of the movie which seasoned viewers of 'old skool kung fu' features will spot as innovative for a film of its type. In particular, the depth of the shots, and careful framing of the action was a radical change from the 2D approach to film-making that had been used until then, and Sammo Hung is to be congratulated for this, which in Bey's eyes produced, "the "Citizen Kane" of martial arts movies".
Heroic Trio This 26-minute documentary includes interviews with writer, director and star Sammo Hung, and co-stars Yuen Biao and Frankie Chan. All seem to have fond memories of working on the film, with Sammo quite happy to acknowledge a job well done.
Life Imitating Art In this 27-minute documentary we're offered a look into the martial art of wing chun. It's used extensively in the film and Sifu Guy Lai talks us through its use in Hong Kong movies, and the method behind it, the moves of which are demonstrated by Sifu Austin Goh. Guy rather amusingly explains that he wanted to learn to play the drums when he was young, but the neighbours complained of the noise, which forced him into finding a quieter hobby. Wing chun, with its gentle movements and lack of needing to scream and yell in order to deliver blows seemed perfect, so he took it up.
Additional Extra Features Also on the disc are essays on The Art of Wing Chun, and a Tribute to Lam Ching-Ying. Additionally you'll find a trailer gallery for the film along with a Hong Kong Legends trailer archive.
Ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic)
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono)
Technical Features: Scene selection, animated menus, and multiple languages and subtitles.
This DVD was reviewed on a JVC XV-S57 DVD player.