« Western Classics II | Main | The Rookies »

April 13, 2021



Qian dao wan li zhu
Mei-Chung Chang - 1977
KL Studio Classics BD Region A

I was curious about Dynasty based on having a bit more knowledge about Chinese language cinema than at the time of the film's initial release. Also, I have had a continual interest in 3D films, either those of a certain vintage, or by certain filmmakers. What I was not aware of until I did my research prior to viewing Dynasty was the involvement of Michael Findlay. And yes, indeed, this was the same Michael Findlay most infamously known for the rough sex films made primarily with his wife, Roberta. Those of more delicate dispositions may not want to know some of the seamier aspects of Findlay's life by those who knew him, but it seemed like his invention of of a single camera 3D attachment might have changed his life instead of indirectly being the cause of his death. Then again, 3D films seemed to trend in and out of popularity at the time. While King Hu's A Touch of Zen played recently at the New York Film Festival, Chinese language martial arts films were generally considered a step down from porn in the mid-1970s, dismissed, if reviewed at all, as "chopsocky".

Findlay served as a technical adviser on three films, all Hong Kong-Taiwanese coproductions. A second film directed by Chang, Revenge of the Shogun Women is reportedly even more extreme in its depiction of violence. The third film, Magnificent Bodyguards (1978), directed by Wei Lo, features an early starring role for Jackie Chan. The title translates from Mandarin to "Chase after a thousand knives". Basically, the evil eunuch, Lord Chao, is plotting to rule China. It is up to a young man, Tan, to stop Lord Chao. There follows various battles, ambushes and assorted mayhem. Heads and hands are lopped off. Spears, knives, bricks and arrow fly towards the camera. Not being aware of the quality of the competition, I can only report that Chang's film was regarded well enough in Taiwan to be nominated as Best Film for the Golden Horse awards, the Taiwanese equivalent to the Oscars. Ying Bai won as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Chao. The film, as presented here, is only in an English dubbed version, which makes judging the quality of the performances difficult. Whatever qualities Dynasty has might be more credited to stunt coordinator Ying Chieh-Han and the production's uncredited editors for cleverly piecing together the extended action scenes.

The blu-ray has offered two ways of watching Dynasty. There is the polarized version for those with the television and the glasses. For myself, I watched the anaglyph version with an enclosed cardboard set of glasses. The viewing experience may be different depending on how one watches the film as well as the variables pertaining to the viewer's vision. My own take is that the 3D worked best in shots involving depth and distance. Objects coming towards the camera tended to vibrate and appear less solid. The intended effect is lost when that sword pointing at you seems very flimsy. Some leeway may be needed here as there were reportedly some technical imperfections at the time of production, and the 3D Archives was tasked with restoring a film that was probably not well preserved since its run through various drive-ins and grind houses.

The blu-ray comes with an assortment of extras. The most useful in relation to Dynasty is an explanation of how Michael Findlay created his Supertouch 3D system and its subsequent history. Also a couple of shorts on how 3D was used as a sales device, as well as 3D cameras for consumers. The animated music video, "Go Away I Like You Too Much" is cute and funny. The one misfire is the inclusion of a 1953 3D comic book, The House of Terror. Two full pages are on the screen, but the panels are still too small and wordy. Reproduction of individual panels or two at a time would have worked better in this case.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 13, 2021 06:12 AM