The Shaw Brothers, the company known for their many releases of Hong Kong films for many decades ran by producer Sir Run Run Shaw, knighted by the British government and founder of Shaw University in Hong Kong and even founded the HK-TVB TV network was a major power behind the company and his third brother Runme Shaw (who founded South Sea Film), the film company would become known as Shaw Brothers Studio and become the first studio to bring Hong Kong cinema with sound in 1934.
The Shaw Brothers have created over a thousand films and with several having been aired on US television and some being released on video, "The 14 Amazons" gets its release on DVD courtesy of Celestial Pictures and FUNimation Entertainment via their Hong Kong Connection line featuring original masters of the original film and both the Mandarin and English dub dialogue.
In 1978, the film "Shi Zi So Hou Shou" (Shaolin Hand Lock) was released in theaters and would feature action star David Chiang (who is currently regarded as a Kung Fu legend/icon).
The film revolves around brother Li Cheng-Ying (played by David Chiang) and his sister Meng Ping (played by Chan Ping) who are trained at their father's martial arts school. Li Cheng's father Li Bai (played by Dick Wei) is the creator and master of the Shaolin Hand Lock which he teaches to his son. But because the move leaves open a vulnerable spot, his father gives him his armored vest to protect him from battle.
As Cheng-Ying and his sister go out for grocery shopping, an old acquaintance visits Li Bai but immediately, goes under the attack and tells him that someone has hired to kill him. Li Bai uses the Shaolin Hand Lock but because he gave up his armor to his son, the killer strikes him with hidden knives from his forearms in the vulnerable areas and killing him. The killer then kills two students who he thinks is the children of Li Bai.
When Cheng-Ying and Meng Peng arrive, they find out that their parents and friends have been murdered and immediately want revenge. Cheng-Ying goes to find the killer while his sister stays back home. Eventually, when Cheng-Ying finds the killer, he finds out that person responsible is the rich Ling Hao who is now living in Bangkok. So, off to Thailand and Cheng-Ying must do what he can to infiltrate his father's killer by joining the enemy and pretending to be his bodyguard in order to kill him.
But killing Lo Lieh is not going to be easy as the man is still agile and is a master of secret weapons. Also, to make things difficult for Cheng Yang, another bodyguard of Lo Lieh is suspicious of him and Ming Ping who was supposed to stay home ends up going to Bangkok to kill Lo Lieh as well.
Will the children of Li Bai get their revenge?
"Shaolin Hand Lock" is presented in 16:9 and received restoration by Celestial Pictures. I was absolutely impressed by the restoration since a lot of the older Shaw films I have seen definitely shows its age. Watching this film, I was impressed by the colors and how the film looks as if it was made recently (of course, by the clothing is a dead give away the film is from the '70s) versus the film being made in 1978. I can definitely imagine how beautiful the print would be on Blu-ray where I'm sure the colors of the film would definitely pop.
The film utilizes quite a bit of colors and since the characters are seen during the outdoors, a good level of natural light is shown through the film. While watching the film, I saw no major scratches and a few speckles. The remastering of this film looks very good on DVD. Colors are vibrant, outdoor scenes are well shot (especially a scene at the temple) and blacks are very good on DVD. Just the scene where Cheng-Ying is given a tour through Bangkok is a beautiful sight!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for audio, the film is presented in English Dolby Digital stereo and Mandarin Mono. Personally, having endured these Shaw films with the terrible (yet humorous) English dubs back in the late '70s and early '80s, just watching it again with the English dub just didn't make sense anymore. So, watching it with the Mandarin mono track was my choice and preference.
I did watch the film again via English dub and for this film, the English dubbing is not bad. Especially since this is an action-driven film, the dialogue is short and for the most part, I usually get irked by the English dubs for this film, I wasn't.
"Shaolin Hand Lock" comes with trailers of upcoming or previous released FUNimation Entertainment live action releases.
The DVD comes with a slipcase.
I was quite impressed by "Shaolin Hand Lock". There is a bit of humor in the film but it's a film that has a good amount of action and a pretty enjoyable storyline. David Chiang definitely shines in this film as Li Ching Yang. He and Ling Hao (who plays Lo Lieh) really have great chemistry as the boss and bodyguard including the scenes where these two must battle each other. Two veterans who have done a good number of Shaw Brothers films, they definitely did a really good job during their fight sequences.
There is also pretty good cinematography during several major scenes from "Shaolin Hand Lock". We get to see the beautiful scenery and statues of Bangkok but of course, the film is primarily all action from martial arts combat to even a boat chase scene!
"Shaolin Hand Lock" looks absolutely great on DVD. As mentioned previously, the colors look very good and there is no way I could tell what year this film was made (I was thinking early '80s but it was late '70s). Celestial Pictures really did a good job on the remastering of many of the Shaw Brothers films and it shows with the release of this film. Also, both the Mandarin and English audio tracks are included and the English dub is not too bad, especially since the action scenes seem to be much more numerous than the actual dialogue scenes. Unfortunately, there are no special features.
If there was any surprises about "Shaolin Hand Lock" was that the film had full frontal nudity of a woman during as a scene featured Fang Yun Biao about to make love to a prostitute in Bangkok. Rarely do you see nudity, let alone full frontal in a Hong Kong film, let alone a martial arts film, let alone a live action film from FUNimation Entertainment. So, for those looking to screen this film at your local college or club, although the film is unrated, aside from the violence and blood shown, the film does have nudity.
As for the violence and parents who are wondering what kind of violence in this film aside from the martial arts, there are knives being used and people being stabbed and killed. Of course, there are no blood splurging out of limbs or anything too disgusting but "Shaolin Hand Lock" does have its fair share of blood featured in the film.
So, far FUNimation Entertainment's entry with their first two Shaw Brothers martial arts films "The 14 Amazons" and "Shaolin Hand Lock" have been quite impressive thus far. With over a thousand films made by the Shaw Brothers, "Shaolin Hand Lock" and "The 14 Amazons" are two films that are very well-done and are quite enjoyable.