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Shaolin Mantis Blu-ray Review

“Shaolin Mantis” contains a strange mix of tones.

“Shaolin Mantis” (AKA “The Deadly Mantis”) is 1978 Shaw Brothers martial arts film that revolves around a scholar (Wei Fung) who becomes forced by the Emperor to infiltrate the Tien Clan to retrieve proof of their involvement with the Ming rebels. It’s a time sensitive mission as Wei Fung’s family will be punished the longer he takes. Wei Fung meets Chi Chi Tien (the granddaughter of Grandfather Tien) and decides to teach the brat in order to learn more about the Tien family. This is where things really get complicated for poor Wei Fung as Chi Chi falls for him and wants to marry him. Unfortunately, Grandfather Tien learns that Wei Fung is a spy and plots to have him assassinated. 

Directed by Liu Chia-Liang, “Shaolin Mantis” is a decidedly odd martial arts movie about family feuds, politics, romance and revenge. The beginning is fairly lighthearted as there is a distinctly dopey back and forth between Chi Chi and Wei Fung. Later on though, the tone takes a complete 180 as Wei Fung (played by David Chaing) becomes targeted for death. It gets even darker than that later on when main characters start dying! Writer On Szeto presents a lot of interesting concepts throughout (especially Wei Fung’s central conflict), but it also feels like he’s throwing too much together that doesn’t mesh well. The tacked on ending and the out of nowhere tack on Wei Fung making up his own martial arts style based off of seeing a praying mantis are more head scratching than anything else. Had this been strictly a more dramatic martial arts movie or a more lighthearted martial arts movie, it would have worked better and been a more consistent kung fu film.

If you aren’t as invested in the plots of martial arts movies, worry not as “Shaolin mantis” has no shortage of action sequences. Not only are there a fair number of one on one fights with martial arts and weapons, but there are a few instances with 3 or more combatants (no spoilers). There’s also the aforementioned praying mantis training sequence which is as goofy as it sounds. 

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How does it look? The film has been given an HD remaster from the original 35mm negative and the result is a super clean print with vivid colors. 

Audio Track: English LPCM Mono 2.0 and Mandarin LPCM Mono 2.0. How do they sound? Both the english dub and the Mandarin track sound crisp here.

Extras:
* 4 postcards
* A double-sided poster
* U.S. trailer for “The Deadly Mantis” and a Hong Kong trailer.
* 2 commentary tracks. One by Asian cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema and one by Asian cinema expert Frank Djeng.
* An interview with actor John Cheung (Uncle Tien Chung).
* “Complicated Families: David West On Shaolin Mantis”- David West digs into the history of the film.
 

March 16, 2022 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , ,

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