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Martial Club Blu-ray Review

‘Martial Club’ is a tiresome martial arts movie.

Directed by Lau Kar Leung, 1981’s ‘Martial Club’ (AKA ‘Instructors Of Death’) is a Shaw Brothers martial arts film revolves around tension between 3 rival martial arts clubs led by Master Lu, Master Chan, and Master Wong Kei Ying that only worsens when the arrival of the skilled Master Shan (who is being used as a pawn by one such school). The story primarily centers on the legendary Wong Fei Hung and Wong Chi-Ying characters who were rivals turned friends.

Sometimes it’s downright puzzling to see praise heaped upon a certain film. ‘Martial Club’ is one of those movies. Why this martial arts title is often cited as a classic of the genre is beyond me as it’s both tedious and overlong (seriously, why does this run 118 minutes?). Had the story been bigger, the runtime would have been justified, but this is very much a small scale feature with cheap sets, very little story, dollops of dopey humor, long lion dances, characters boasting about and or showing off their skills, and an endless amount of brawling (including a theater brawl near the end). As a fan of both martial arts movies and Shaw Brothers movies, fight sequences are always a thrill, but they have to be integral to the story or characters or have some amount of stakes and tension. This movie consists primarily of essentially petty school feuds that result in no deaths (but a few injuries). We’ve seen this type of story done better before. Truth be told, the entire proceedings just drove me nuts as it was near impossible to care about anything happening on screen. You’d think a movie featuring the legendary Wong Fei Hung character would be better than this. Granted, ‘Martial Club’ has a devoted fanbase who will no doubt be enamored by this release, but to me, a more serious martial arts movie with a deeper story (and deeper characterization) would be preferable. 

Despite how one may feel about the film itself, there’s no denying the cast is loaded with talent including the legendary Gordon Liu, the scene stealing Kara Hui, Johnny Wang (as Master Shan), Robert Mak and Ku Feng.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How does it look? This 88 Films Blu-ray contains an HD transfer from the original negative. The result is a nice clean restoration. 

Audio Track: 1.0 Cantonese Mono and 1.0 English Mono. How do they sound? The Cantonese track is the best option here. The English audio is all over the place as there are crackles in spots and stretches where the audio levels drop down in quality. 

Extras:
* 2 commentary tracks. One by Asian cinema expert Frank Djeng and actor Michael Worth and one just with Frank Djeng.
* Original trailer and ‘Instructors Of Death’ trailer.
* 4 separate interviews with Lawrence Wong, stuntmen Hung sun-Nam and Tony Tam, actor Johnny Wang and Robert Mak.
* A Grindhouse presentation of ‘Instructors Of Death’ (the U.S. version of ‘Martial Club’).
* A double-sided poster
* A booklet with an essay by Barry Forshaw

August 11, 2022 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , ,

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