The Buddhist Fist (1979)
Tai Seng Video Marketing
Although "The Buddhist Fist" had been released on DVD through a different publisher earlier, Tai Seng Marketing has decided to re-release this classic martial arts film, mostly for the reason to allow fans of the Yuen Wo Ping’s film to enjoy it in its original <$PS, widescreen> aspect ratio. Yuen Wo Ping as many of you may remember has also been responsible for the breathtaking action choreography in last year’s mega-blockbuster "The Matrix." What many people have conspicuously overlooked in the flurry of that release is, that its success has a lot more to do with the integration of skilled martial arts and action specialists as well as cinematographers of legendary cult status from Hong Kong than the script itself. The entire visual style of the film has been dictated by the Hong Kong action genre, and "The Buddhist Fist" is one of the more traditional martial arts films that built the foundation for the increasingly popular American interest in Hong Kong-style action.
Two orphans are raised by Shaolin monks and trained in the martial arts. From their earliest childhood until their adulthood they share their lives, but after these many years of education and practice in the Shaolin monastery their paths finally separate. While one of the brothers stays within the monastery, the other one leaves for the city, to find his riches there. Ultimately however, Ha-Sien only finds rag-tag jobs that don’t get him very far.
One night, one of the Shaolin master is killed and a stealthy masked intruder attempts to steal an important artifact, the Jade buddha. After the failed attempt, the attacks on the monastery continue, and when Ha-Sien returns home one day and learns that his master has been killed he is determined to find out who is behind those attacks on the monastery. Trying to find out who the masked invader is makes him many enemies until one night he devises a plan that should allow him to finally get the better of his opponent. But he has underestimated the martial arts skills of the masked invader.
The stunning martial arts choreography has long made "The Buddhist Fist" a cult classic among martial arts fans. With films like Jackie Chan’s "Drunken Master", as well as its sequel "Drunken Master Part 2", director Yuen Wo Ping was specialized in the field of traditional martial arts films and knew how to create breath-taking fighting scenes. While he would outdo himself in some of his later films like "Tai Chi", "Wing Chun" and "The Iron Monkey" the beautifully arranged and lengthy fights presented in "The Buddhist Fist" are clearly showing his trademark signs of over-the-top action and precisely choreographed athleticism.
The acting in the film is good and brings across the humorous nature of the film nicely to contrast and balance out the fighting. Overall, "The Buddhist Fist" is a 90-minute thrill ride that shows what the human body is truly capable of.
Tai Seng Marketing makes a <$PS,widescreen> version of "The Buddhist Fist" available on this DVD in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Sadly the source print that was used for this transfer is in rather bad shape, showing signs of age. The first ten minutes of the movie show a distracting scratch on the left side of the image and for the rest of the film speckles, dust and scratches are also quite noticeable. The image appears very soft at times and the color reproduction is quite inconsistent, ranging from washed out to fairly natural. The compression reveals some signs of <$pixelation,pixelation> artifacts which also reduce the level of detail in the transfer quite noticeably.
"The Buddhist Fist" contains audio tracks in English, Cantonese and Mandarin and the disc defaults to the English track. Since the dub has a very thin quality and the voice acting skills of the cast is rather limited, I intended to switch to the original Cantonese track with English subtitles, only to find that no subtitles are available on this disc at all. I am not sure why that is, especially since Tai Seng has traditionally a very good track record with their domestic DVD release which have always included well-translated subtitles.
Despite all the technical flaws, "The Buddhist Fist" is a very enjoyable movie, mostly because it is a standout martial arts movie. Combining great humorous elements with the furious kung fu sequences in the film, the movie offers viewers a great variety of encounters and fighting scenes. While it is obvious that the technical side of the release could have used some additional attention, for martial arts fans this release of "The Buddhist Fist" is the real deal, as it preserves the movie’s fine cinematography by presenting the film in its <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio and makes it available at the low price point of $19.95.