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Alternate Titles: "Mr Canton and Lady Rose"; "The Canton Godfather"; "The Black Dragon"

This is the film that Jackie Chan is most proud of in his entire career.  J.C. envisioned this movie as his answer to the critics that thought his talents only lay in his (brilliant) stunt choreography but that he had no head for drama or even plot - which I feel he'd already accomplished with "Heart Of Dragon" and "Project A" (both of which Sammo Hung was involved in).

So after a string of extremely successful action forays including "Police Story I & II" he set out to prove that he was not just an action junkie.  The result was an homage to the great "Lady For A Day" (which was also remade as "Pocket Full Of Miracles"), both directed by Frank Capra.  The production of J.C.'s incarnation was extremely ambitious and revolutionary in terms of Hong Kong film-making.  What was already old hat by Hollywood standards is given a whole new life in Hong Kong - the complex crane movement shots, the sumptuous art design, and the warm creative use of lighting is simply breath-taking.  The amount of fisticuffs-action is probably less than in most of his other films, but it's the quality of the action and its ability to propel the story along that makes this film probably outshine everything he has done before or since.

It's nice to know that with this DVD we can now go back and relive the former glory that is "Miracles" in the days when extended shooting schedules and lavish productions were what Jackie Chan could easily have demanded from the studios.  Now that the movie companies are only thinking about the bottom line these days, it seems totally bizarre to me that even with the budget for each successive J.C. film topping the previous one, the level of art direction (and especially acting) gets worse everytime - except for 1994's "Drunken Master II", the last of the great period films I expect.  Maybe this will change when he brings out "The Highbinders" in 2002 ... can you imagine 2 million extras in a battle scene, this is the plan!

Arriving in 1930s Hong Kong, Chen Wah (Jackie Chan) is conned out of his money and right out of luck, so he buys a rose on a whim from an elderly lady whereby his luck changes dramatically (for better or worse is for you to decide :).  He links his 'good fortune' with the mysterious rose-seller, so he regularly buys one from her each day.  He later discovers that this lady has been harbouring a painful secret that involves her daughter who is due to arrive in Hong Kong.  Chen Wah feels obligated to help her so he unwittingly develops an elaborate deception that he must keep hidden at all costs, all while he attempts to avoid a gang war with his rivals, the Black Dragons.  There you have it - Drama, Plot and Action all in one!

I have just one word to describe the quality of the image - OMIGOD!  The presentation of this now 12-year-old film is nothing less than stellar - the folks at 'Hong Kong Legends' have surpassed themselves yet again.  The colours are all beautifully saturated to their natural levels (with all blacks and shadows perfectly rendered), there is no grain, dust or scratches to speak of, absolutely no moire patterns or shimmering effects, and the image from foreground to background is as clear as a bell!  Pretty darned good for a 1989 (Hong Kong) film.

In fact, I have discovered so many previously hidden details that were easily missed from the original R3 NTSC DVD that it's like watching a whole new movie - it is an absolute dream to watch.  The real credit for this virtually blemish-free film must go to the unusually excellent storage conditions that this print has obviously been afforded (which is virtually unheard of in a Hong Kong film, at least according to the myth :).  This is definately reference quality material - the people at THX have a lot to learn!

Both the Cantonese and English dubs are equally enjoyable in terms of the 5.1 remixes that have been masterfully recreated from the original source elements.  The dialogue is easily understandable and the music is of a very pleasant sounding quality without it ever becoming distorted or washed out.  The sound effects are a mixed bag though ... The various fight sequences have all the over-the-top quality that you'd expect from a HK flick with a healthy enough dose of sub-woofer activity to boot (hehe).  But the environmental sounds such as the explosions and gunfights are not nearly as audible, which ultimately serves only as a guide to the on-screen action rather than involving the viewer in an all-out gang war as the story suggests.

I have to give credit to the sound engineers for limiting the use of the rear-speakers rather than trying to overwhelm the viewer with unnecessary orchestral surround sound or irrelevant SFX just for the sake of it.  Since the 'Foley' was all recorded in Hong Kong (without much of the Hollywood know-how) the remixers have managed to provide a very good ambience (albeit mostly frontstage directed).  There is the occasional split rear-channel effect that applies to specific action off-screen which allows us better audio cues as to the upcoming action that will follow it on-screen.  Kudos to HKL.  As is the norm, the original Cantonese dub is the preferred listening environment.

The most notable extra has to be Bey Logan's full-length audio commentary, and I mean full-length - this guy doesn't even take a breath or drink of water in case he misses some piece of trivia about the actors or the production sets.  It's obvious that he has made it his life's work to be involved as much as he can in Hong Kong films, indeed he is always helping to work on film-scripts and appear in a few cameo roles in some HK films, that's how dedicated he is.

The animated biography (which runs for 30mins!) has the same bored American voice-over man commentating the text on-screen; however the information here would be of great interest to those people who know very little of Jackie Chan's film career (and life) but is probably old news to fans who know his history well (like me :).  There is a new UK promotional trailer and the original HK theatrical trailer which contains behind-the-scenes footage (very long too, clocking in at around 4 minutes or so).  There is also a 10-minute interview with Jackie Chan which is mildly interesting but nothing that really strikes out as a gem of information.  Finally, the photo gallery presents a collection of the best shots of the film maybe taken from different angles.  

Even without the limited extras on offer here, the quality of this DVD is enough to warrant purchasing on its own for the brilliant video image quality that is provided.  I cannot stress enough how good this DVD looks - it's only until now that I have finally begun to appreciate the level of technical skill and artistry that was lovingly afforded for this Hong Kong production to recreate an authentic 1930s environment.  This is bar-none the finest Jackie Chan film ever made, and indeed is the finest looking Jackie Chan DVD ever made, so you'd be a fool not to have this one in your collection.

As a footnote, this DVD is encoded for both R2 & R4, so all you Aussies may import this title and it shall work on your non-modified DVD player.

Region Comparisons
[All DVDs present the complete uncut movie with English subtitling]

R1-NTSC (issued by Columbia Tri-Star) contains
 - Cantonese Mono & Mandarin Mono soundtracks; Isolated Score
R2-PAL (issued by Hong Kong Legends) contains
 - Cantonese 5.1 & English 5.1 soundtracks; audio commentary; interview with Jackie Chan
R3-NTSC (issued by MegaStar) contains
 - Cantonese 5.1 & Mandarin 5.1 soundtracks; movie only