Big Trouble In Little China is a film I never quite got into when I was younger, so figured it was worth a re-viewing in the brand new Blu-ray transfer.
Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) is an irresponsible truck driver in his rig, “The Pork Chop Express”, leaving a string of ex-wives in his wake.
When his friend Wang Chi’s (Dennis Dun) girlfriend, Miao Yin (Suzee Pai), is kidnapped at the airport by street gang The Lords of Death, Jack and Wang chase after them in the truck and end up getting caught in the middle of a Chinese Standoff until the mysterious Lo Pan (James Hong) and the Three Storms – Thunder (Carter Wong), Rain (Peter Kwong) and Lightning (James Pax) – appear in a green ball of smoke, and they soon learn that traditional fisticuffs doesn’t always win out when you’re up against men who can fly(!)
Big Trouble In Little China is enjoyable hokum, but the longer it goes on for, the less sense it makes. However, it does have a welcome female love interest in Kim Cattrall as local girl Gracie Law who gets caught up in the whole shebang. In addition to the case is Victor Wong as Egg Shen, a local tour operator who has the complete low-down on Lo Pan.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high defintion. The print is a very pleasing highly-detailed, crisp-looking and colourful transfer, with John Carpenter making fantastic use of the full 2.35;1 Anamorphic Panavision frame, as always.
The audio is in DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio, but there’s nothing of note in the way of directional surround sound. There’s a lot going on when Lo Pan turns up for the second time in the film, around 31 minutes in, and occasionally towards the end, but the rest of the time, it’s all happening up front.
The extras on this disc are as follows – some of which are in HD, too (obviously, not those bits from the ’80s). Big fans of the film will be well-catered for:
- Interviews: Five here. John Carpenter (12:16) with his love of kung fu movies; Kurt Russell (20:59) on Jack Burton, the lipstick issue and working with Kim Cattrall, to name but a few aspects; plus director of photography Dean Cundey (15:40), producer Larry Franco (15:22), stuntman and character Needless, Jeff Imada (12:32), and visual effects producer Richard Edlund (13:27).
Oddly, the sound for the first two interviews comes mostly out of the right-front speaker. The rest are fine, though.
- Deleted/extended scenes (43:45): Eight of them here. As the disc states, for these scenes, which are mostly small edits rather than cutting out entire scenes, Arrow have used the original film elements where possible, while at times only transfers from Betamax work tapes were available, hence why the picture quality dips a bit. However, in all cases, it’s great to be able to have the content here because it’s not going to be available anywhere else.
Hence, there’s nothing desperately needing to go back into the final edit, but it’s nice to have them as additional extras.
- Extended ending (3:17): Involving sorting out the bad guys, I would definitely put this back into the final edit.
- Vintage featurette (7:28): A comparatively brief featurette which was put together to promote the film at the time and features brief soundbites from key cast and crew members.
- Music video (3:28): Whatever your feelings on the film, “Big Trouble In Little China” is a great cheesy track, with intentionally bad singing from John Carpenter and Alan Howarth.
- Trailers: Three here. One in a widescreen ratio of 2.00:1 (2:47), one cropped to 4:3 (1:32) and a Spanish-narrated one in 16:9 (2:42).
- TV Spots: Six of them, in 4:3 as you’d expect and mostly 32 seconds apiece, one at 55 seconds and a final home video one (1:02).
- Gallery: Scroll through 262 images taken from the film’s production.
- Audio commentary: from John Carpenter and Kurt Russell.
- Isolated Score in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio: Does what it says on the tin.
The package should also contain a ooklet featuring new writing on the film by John Kenneth Muir, author of The Films of John Carpenter, a re-print of an article on the effects of the film from American Cinematographer, illustrated with archive stills and posters
As you put the disc in, the menu bursts into life with clips from the film and a piece of the theme. There are subtitles in English, but when it comes to the chaptering, I feel one should come every five minutes on average. Arrow, like many other distributors, go for a low 12 however long the film. I would like them to increase this number.
Running time: 100 minutes
Released: December 16th 2013
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 Dolby Surround
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: John Carpenter
Producer: Larry J Franco
Screenplay: Gary Goldman, David Z Weinstein and WD Richter
Music: John Carpenter and Alan Howarth
Jack Burton: Kurt Russell
Gracie Law: Kim Cattrall
Wang Chi: Dennis Dun
David Lo Pan: James Hong
Egg Shen: Victor Wong
Margo: Kate Burton
Eddie Lee: Donald Li
Thunder: Carter Wong
Rain: Peter Kwong
Lightning: James Pax
Miao Yin: Suzee Pai
Uncle Chu: Chao Li Chi
Needles: Jeff Imada
Joe Lucky: Rummel Mor
One Ear: Craig Ng
White Tiger: June Kim
Worker in Chinatown: John Carpenter (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.