Butcher Wing (Sammo Hung) is a student of the legendary Wong Fei Hung who causes trouble wherever he goes. When he accidentally sparks off a feud between his master and the Five Dragon sect, it is up to Butcher to make amends. A Golden Harvest production, directed by Yuen Woo Ping ('Drunken Master').
Based on the real-life exploits of Butcher Wing, Magnificent Butcher
is an action-packed kung fu comedy filled with lowbrow physical slapstick and breathtaking, if repetitive fight scenes. Sammo Hung is the well-intentioned 19th-century butcher whose unerring ability to misread a situation leads to trouble. When Wing's long-absent brother comes to town, Ko Tai-Hoi (Hark-On Fung) imprisons his wife, and our hero joins forces with an old drunken kung fu master played by Siu Tien Yuen (reprising his title role from Drunken Master
which brought Jackie Chan to fame). This is Siu Tien Yuen's last film and it's obvious he's been replaced by a stunt double at times, although it remains a fine tribute to his remarkable martial arts talent. Taking an unexpected turn with a brutal attempted rape and murder, farce gives way to bloody retribution. The gradual return of comical elements may seem at odds with the later more realistic violence. While the uneven tone jars, the film is an impressive showcase for some of the greatest talents in Hong Kong cinema. Director Woo-ping Yuen has since found fame as the kung fu/action choreographer on The Matrix
(1999) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
On the DVD: Considering how poor most 1970s Hong Kong films looked on video, the anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 image here is superb; pin sharp with accurate colours and barely a hint of grain. Unfortunately there is still a little of the image missing at the sides, though it is a vast improvement over any panned and scanned cassette. The mono audio is generally good, though the music distorts occasionally. There are two soundtracks: the original Cantonese with optional subtitles, and a bad English dub. Additionally there is an outstanding audio commentary by Bey Logan packed with fascinating information about martial arts, Hong Kong cinema and the historical characters the film is based on. A 12-minute interview with Sammo Hung and 20-minute interview with Woo-ping Yuen are both interesting, though are not specific to Magnificent Butcher. Beyond these there are detailed biographies of star and director, an extensive stills gallery, stills from deleted scenes, two trailers and text information and photos of the real Butcher Wing. Finally, making stylised ultra-violence look extremely cool, there are ten anamorphically enhanced widescreen trailers for further releases. When "Hong Kong Legends" say they want to produce the best quality DVDs in the world they clearly mean it. This is a fine package assembled with the loving care of true fans. --Gary S Dalkin