Color, 1975, 105 mins. 58 secs.
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring Jimmy Wang Yu, George Lazenby, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Roger Ward, Ros Spiers, Grant Page, Rebecca Gilling, Sammo Hung
Camera Obscura (UHD & Blu-ray) (Germany R0 4K/HD), Twilight Time (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Umbrealla (Blu-ray & DVD) (Australia R0 HD/PAL), Fortune Star (DVD) (Hong Kong R1 NTSC), Network (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK RB/R2 HD/PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Though his name is synonymous with the heyday of Aussie exploitation thanks to titles like Escape 2000, Stunt Rock, Dead End Drive-In, and of course Leprechaun 4: In Space, filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith was something of an untested quantity when he made his first narrative feature film, The Man from Hong Kong (also shown as The Dragon Flies), in 1975. The decision to mount an action spectacle in Australia using talent from the Hong Kong martial arts craze exploding at the time made perfect sense, and Trenchard-Smith had turned out several documentaries about stunt performers and other film-related subjects. Here he got to unite to particularly important names in that arena, legendary Aussie stunt man Grant Page and Hong Kong action legend Sammo Hung, both of whom get to shine here in memorable showdown sequences. Though it delivers everything you could possibly want and more, The Man from Hong Kong took a while to really build up a cult following and can still cause jaws to drop during some of its more ambitious moments.
When a drug courier (Hung) is captured following a protracted and violent confrontation that takes the life of an Australian officer, Hong Kong Special Branch's Inspector Fang (The One-Armed Swordsman's Wang Yu) is brought in from Hong Kong to Sydney to help with the extradition process. Along with winning the romantic allegiance of reporter Caroline Thorne (Alison's Birthday's Spiers), he ends up teaming with Inspector Taylor (Stone's Ward) and Sergeant Grosse (Mad Max's Keays-Byrne) to discover the source of the city's biggest organized crime ring: Jack Wilton (On Her Majesty's Secret Service's Lazenby), who hides his nefarious activities behind fronts like a martial arts school. Much action mayhem ensues.
Sporting a catchy hit theme song ("Sky High" by Jigsaw, who also did the soundtrack for Pete Walker's Home Before Midnight), The Man from Hong Kong wastes no time with a show-stopping action sequence unfolding before the main titles even roll. Wang Yu (who's pretty convincingly dubbed) gets to perform in a number of hard-hitting moments throughout the film including a lengthy chase and fight bit with Page that's become a staple of Ozploitation highlight reels, while the climax with Lazenby is so audacious you can't believe the star actually performed some of the most dangerous gags himself. (To say any more would spoil things.) Both Wang Yu and Lazenby would team up again on screen the following year in International Assassin (a.k.a. A Queen's Ransom), but this is the stronger film by far and a great party movie choice for action movie fans. It's also odd to see Wang Yu running around fighting organized crime given his real-life activities off camera, but that's another story.
Released by Fox in the U.S., The Man from Hong Kong has had numerous home video releases over the years, most of them a real mixed bag; the original scope framing has been restored on virtually every release since the DVD days including its editions in Hong Kong and Australia, but image quality has been sorely lacking with loads of excessive noise reduction making it look very soft and waxy. The Blu-rays as a whole haven't been so hot either, with the first one from Umbrella in 2016 in Australia (featuring DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 mono tracks with optional English subtitles) not only suffering from loads of noise reduction. Extras on that disc include a lively commentary with Trenchard-Smith, Keays-Byrne, and Page, "The Making of The Man from Hong Kong" (14m14s) featuring loads of silent behind-the-scenes footage accompanied by the score, a 2m24s B&W newsreel look at the cast and crew getting together at the airport followed by premiere coverage, an 81m34s reel of uncut interview footage from Mark Hartley's Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (with Trenchard-Smith, Lazenby, Rebecca Gilling, Ward, executive producer David Hannay, and second unit cameraman John Seale), two trailers, a Trailers from Hell presentation by the director, and a promo for Trenchard-Smith's book, The Headsman's Daughter. Also tucked away in a separate section are presentations of five more Trenchard-Smith films: Deathcheaters (95m19s) in HD with optional director commentary, Stunt Rock (95m13s) in cropped SD with director commentary and a promo reel, Kung Fu Killers (76m21s) in scratchy HD, the shot-on-video Dangerfreaks (94m22s), and The Stuntmen (50m48s) in SD. An alternate Umbrella release ditches three of the bonus films (retaining The Stuntmen and Kung Fu Killers) while adding an extra "Raw! Real! Quick" interview with Page, a soundtrack CD, and a Trenchard-Smith trailer reel. In 2021, Twilight Time bowed the film on U.S. Blu-ray, taken from the same master but at least with competent compression; extras on that one include the commentary, Not Quite Hollywood interviews, and Aussie trailer.
Finally in 2023, Camera Obscura in Germany released a combo UHD and Blu-ray mediabook with a variety of cover options. To put it mildly, the new 4K scan here is a gigantic leap over the presentations we've had before; it finally looks like actual film with detail, texture, grain, etc. It really looks glorious and makes for a refreshing experience after suffering through substandard discs over the years. The UHD (featuring HDR10) and Blu-ray both have German and English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono options plus an alternate 2.0 English stereo mix, with German and English subtitles; the commentary is also here with optional German subs. Both discs also have the English and German trailers, while the Blu-ray adds the extended 93m14s reel of Not Quite Hollywood interviews (tacking on cinematographer Russell Boyds and 1st Assistant Director Hal McElroy, present on one of the Umbrella releases), the Grant Page interview (10m22s), the making-of footage reel (14m31s), the two newsreels, the Trailers from Hell presentation, and a 58-image gallery of promotional material and photos. The mediabook also comes with an illustrated German-language essay by Tobias Hohmann.
Camera Obscura (Blu-ray)
Reviewed on June 16, 2023.