ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Hand of Death (1976)

When Golden Harvest first released this movie, no one knew who director and writer Wu Yu-sheng, actor Chen Yuen-lung or fight choreographer Hung Chin-pao were.

Today we know them as John Woo, Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung.

After Shih Shao-Feng (James Tien), a traitor to the Shaolin eliminates thousands of their number for his own power, a surviving Shaolin master named Yun Fei (Tan Tao-Liang) has one goal. Revenge.

The problem is that he’s going up against an army — and Tu Qing (Sammo Hung) — all by himself. He’s already lost one battle against Tu Qing and his extended iron claw technique. Saved by a blacksmith by the name of Tan Feng (Jackie Chan), and soon joins forces with a swordsman named Zorro (Yang Wei) who has refused to draw his weapon since he accidentally killed a lover.

You can see the influence of Chang Cheh on Woo, as he allows us to get to know every single hero so that their heroic sacrifice means something at the end of the movie. The action is great in this, giving you an idea of the magic that Woo would bring in the 80s, as well as the loyalty between violent men, another theme that continually comes up in his movies.

It’s interesting to see Woo tackling a traditional Hong Kong film, one about the Shaolin Temple, the brave warriors who defend it and the cruel ones who attempt to tear it down. Tao-Liang Tan fights literally armies of people in this all by himself and looks great doing it. Credit for the fight choreography goes to Hung, who also has to wear a ridiculous set of teeth.

The Arrow Video blu ray of Hand of Death has a 2K restoration from original film elements by Fortune Star. There’s also a new feature commentary by martial arts cinema experts Frank Djeng and Michael Worth; From Hong Kong to Hollywood, an archive featurette on John Woo’s early career, including interviews with Woo, Chow Yun-fat and Peter Lau; a never-before-seen archive interview with star Tan Tao-Liang, filmed by his former student Michael Worth; an archive interview with co-star Sammo Hung; the Countdown to Kung Fu credits; a trailer and image gallery.

You also get a double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch and an illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by film programmer William Blaik.

You can order Hand of Death from MVD.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.