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Blu-Ray Review: Scream Factory’s Big Trouble in Little China (Collector’s Edition)

Big Trouble in Little China

Scream Factory has pulled out all the stops for John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little ChinaThe two-disc Blu-Ray comes with hours of bonus content.

The Film

How does one talk about a film critically that you’ve held the closest to your heart?  A film that you’ve loved since you were eight-years-old?  Well, in my case with Big Trouble in Little China, it’s just figuring out why you love it so much. 

Why did I love it as a kid?

It was because I was primed to love it. 

My mother and father both loved Asian action cinema.  I’m a quarter Japanese, on my mother’s side, so it should surprise no one that I grew up on a healthy diet of Samurai Epics, Sonny Chiba, Bruce Lee, and Jackie Chan throughout the formative years of my life. 

It should also not surprise anyone that in my household Kurt Russell reigned supreme over all other movie stars, including Harrison Ford, Arnold, Eastwood, Stallone circa 1986.  His swagger, charm, good looks, bravado it was the whole package my mom could pine over him, my dad could want to have a few beers with him.  In essence the perfect leading man. 

When these two very huge cultural entities collided you bet your ass we were there at the Drive-In opening weekend.  To me, it was the biggest thing since Star Wars and I was expecting further adventures from Jack Burton (eg Starlog even listed Bigger Trouble in Big China as a thing back in the day when they had their Production Board Calendar section).  But it wasn’t too be.  Pop culture and audiences weren’t ready for it and like many of John Carpenter’s filmography it bombed. 

That didn’t stop me from loving it and wearing down the recorded copy that my Dad made.  When my parents divorced one of the first films that I made sure I recorded off HBO was Big Trouble in Little China

Why do I still love it as an adult?

It’s still a kick-ass movie.  A hybrid mashup that still feels like when you first heard your Dr. Dre joint… classic cinema remixed and reproduced with so much audacity that it comes out something wholly new and fresh.  By taking the troupes of both American Westerns and Chinese Mysticism, Screenwriter WD Ritcher and director John Carpenter have essentially created a “You Got Peanut Butter in my Chocolate”, “You got Chocolate in my Peanut Butter” situation.  No matter how you slice and dice it, the film works like gangbusters because the formula’s compliment each other. 

To further compound it’s awesomeness it allows the Chinese supposed “sidekick” to become the very functional and kickass hero while taking its John Wayne-Esque American Hero and showing us he’s the blowhard ill-equipped braggart he and the entirety of the 1980s action heroes were.  The film deconstructions as much as it rebuilds anew the action film in a way that wouldn’t in en vogue for twenty years. 

The film has that secret sauce and ability to make fun of itself as it’s taking itself deathly seriously.  The fast and loose way that the characters and events turn is almost a magic trick as it’s blink or you miss it tonal shifts are so spot on and so beautifully done that it would be reproduced until almost thirty years later when The Guardians of the Galaxy found that balance of arched and sincerity that is more a magic trick than actual act of skill. 

That is more to the point.  Big Trouble in Little China is a magic trick.  Looking into the seams too hard on how it was accomplished takes away from the illusion itself.  Or as my fiancée had said as we watched in late on a Saturday night, this her time watching;

Me: Are you okay? You following along?

Her: Not really. [Laughs] But I’m sure I’ll pick it up as it moves along.

Like Jack Burton says, It’s all in the reflexes.  Thirty-years-plus into its life and its still all in the reflex. 

The Transfer

This appears to be the same transfer from the Arrow Video Release done in 2013.  This is the biggest disappointment as one would have loved to have Fox Release the materials necessary for Scream Factory to do a new 4K Remaster.  That being said that the original 2K transfer from 2013 isn’t a slouch and represents the film. 

The Extras

They include the following:

DISC ONE: THE FILM

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Producer Larry Franco
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Special Effects Artist Steve Johnson, Moderated By filmmaker Anthony C. Ferrante
  • Audio Commentary With Director John Carpenter And Actor Kurt Russell
  • Isolated Score
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Vintage Audio Interview With John Carpenter
  • Electronic Press Kit – Interviews And Profiles
  • Gag Reel
  • Music Video
  • Deleted And Extended Scenes
  • Extended Ending
  • Photo Galleries – Movie Stills, Posters, Lobby cards, Publicity Photos, And Behind-the-scenes Photos

DISC TWO: BONUS FEATURES

  • You’re The Hero – An Interview With Actor Dennis Dun
  • The Soul Of Lo Pan – An Interview With Actor James Hong
  • Able To Be Myself – An Interview With Actor Donald Li
  • The Tao Of Thunder – An Interview With Actor Carter Wong
  • The Tao Of Rain – An Interview With Actor Peter Kwong
  • The Hatchet Man Speaks – An Interview With Actor Al Leong
  • Damn Wiley Prescott – An Interview With Writer W.D. Richter
  • It Was A Western Ghost Story – An Interview With Writer Gary Goldman
  • The Poetry Of Motion – An Interview With Associate Producer/Martial Arts Choreographer James Lew
  • Into The Mystic Night – An Interview With The Coupe De Ville’s Member Nick Castle
  • Since We Were Kids – An Interview With Second Unit Director/The Coupe De Ville’s Member Tommy Lee Wallace
  • Love And Art – A Conversation With Movie Poster Artist Drew Struzan
  • Return to Little China – An Interview With Director John Carpenter
  • Being Jack Burton – An Interview With Actor Kurt Russell
  • Carpenter And I – An Interview With Director Of Photography Dean Cundey
  • Producing Big Trouble – An Interview With Producer Larry Franco
  • Staging Big Trouble – An Interview With Stuntman Jeff Imada
  • Interview With Visual Effects Artist Richard Edlund
  • Vintage Featurette

DISC ONE: THE FILM

The first of the three commentaries is by Larry Franco hosted by Justin Beam from Shout Factory. The all-new commentary is a great informational track where Franco discusses all aspects of filmmaking. Beginning with his work as an extra, which he recounts with some great clarity, he discusses how he got involved with Kurt Russell and John Carpenter starting with Elvis and then moving to just about every film that Carpenter did until the late 90s. Franco discusses a lot of his history within the industry working up from a PA to Assistant Director to Production Manager to finally a producer. Franco even discusses his time on Apocalypse Now. He really goes through a lot of production anecdotes from The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing, Christine, and more. They work their way to Big Trouble in Little China. The most interesting is the discussion of studio interference with this film which Franco is pretty honest about this and other anecdotes. The track is not really a traditional scene-specific commentary track for half of the film but rather a long form-interview. Then moving over to a full-on commentary track. Franco is a great commentator as he really does give a breakdown of what happened in this film. If you’re a Carpenter fan you will want to hear this one.

The next commentary is by SFX Artist Steve Johnson moderated by Anthony C. Ferrante. Ferrante is the director of Sharknado 1 – ??? and does a great job of prompting Johnson to discuss the work, how he was hired, and the production itself.

The original Commentary with Russell and Carpenter is also included. You know. You either love it or hate it because of how they really don’t talk about the film for very long before diving into their personal lives and catching up. It’s a hilarious track that gives a small amount of information about the production.

Not to be slept on is the isolated score in 5.1 DTS sound. Having sampled the track it is a treat for all Carpenter Score enthusiasts.

Theatrical Trailers – is three trailers running a total of 7-minutes including an early teaser trailer and a Spanish language trailer. Each can be accessed through the next Chapter but not on the menu screen.

TV Spots – is six 30-second TV Spots. Each can be accessed through the next Chapter but not on the menu screen.

Vintage Audio Interview with John Carpenter is a 6-minute audio interview. With an overabundant 7-Chapter stops shows that this was a canned ready for radio interview. Various topics are discussed such as a plot breakdown, what he likes most about working Russell, working with Richard Edlund, and much more.

Electronic Press Kit is 27-minutes which is literally a vintage making-of. It’s brokering into various topics like Director Profile, Kurt Russell Profile, Chinese Involvement, and Influence, Dun talks about the positive image of Asians in Big Trouble in Little China are among the 24 sections. Each section uses various Scenes, Interviews, b-roll footage you make up these vintage Featurettes.

Gag Reel is also ported over from the original release. Still, as much fun as it was on the original release.

Music Video is the 3.5-minute Video from the Coupe De Villes singing the theme song to Big Trouble in Little China.

Deleted Scenes

  • Airport has two versions a workprint 6-minutes or a videotape 7-minutes.  Both are extended versions of the kidnapping of Miao Yin. 
  • The Dragon of the Black Pool has two versions a workprint 3-minutes or a videotape 4.5-minutes.  Both are just extended scenes at Wang Chi’s restaurant with some alt-lines from Burton and the rest of the crew.
  • The White Tiger has two versions a workprint 2-minutes or a videotape 7-minutes.  The videotape scene is a full-on completely extended version with Kurt Russell going full-on “Ham and Cheese” with Burton’s character trying to get a girl “with green eyes”.
  • Gracie’s Office is a 4-minutes extended version of the original scene with a bit included about the Shake that Gracie makes Jack. 
  • Thunder’s Tour is a 2-minutes extended version of Thunder (Carter Wong) taking Gracie, Margo, and Eddie around the Wing Kong Exchange. 
  • Beneath Chinatown is a 2.5-minutes extended version of the scene in which the Chang Sings, Egg Shen, Wang, and Jack take the “backdoor” to the Wing Kong Exchange.  
  • Lava Sequence is a 4-minutes interesting “multi-angle” featurettes from back in the DVD days that let you look at the scene and the storyboards.  This has been ported over just as four sections you can Chapter Jump but not as originally conceived to use in multiple views.
  • Six Demon Bag 12-minutes is shorts, and odds and ends that were either cut or alt takes. It’s honestly the best of the best of the deleted items. Those that have never seen this in any form should definitely watch this grab bag of awesome. 

Extended Ending is a 3-minutes long extension adding in a revenge subplot on the gang that kidnaped Miao Yin and took Jack’s car.

The Image Galleries

  • Movie stills consist of 80-stills that can be navigated by using the Next Chapter button on your remote or let it run automatically for 6-minutes.
  • Poster and lobby cards 82-stills that can be navigated by using the Next Chapter button on your remote or let it run automatically for 6-minutes.
  • Behind the scenes 185-stills that can be navigated by using the Next Chapter button on your remote or let it run automatically for 6-minutes.

DISC TWO: BONUS FEATURES

You’re the Hero with Dennis Dun is an all-new 14-minute interview with the actor. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. The interview begins with how he came to acting. How he was cast in the film. His discussion though brief is very informative on how they approached Wang Chi.

The Soul of Lo Pan with actor James Hong is an all-new 24-minute interview with the actor. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. The interview begins with his childhood in Minnesota and how at the time their “Chinatown” was literally two stores. The actor is a delight recounting his childhood, how he got his start in a small theater in West LA, working with Gene Wilder, how the star informed on his comedic chops, the technical acting required for Big Trouble in Little China with regards to costume changes, makeup, and everything, a great story involving Carter Wong and his shins, working with Steve Johnson, and much more.

Able to be Myself with actor Donald Li is an all-new 18-minute interview with the actor. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. Li begins discusses his childhood trained as an actor and performing artist at the San Fransisco Conservatory, moving to New York City and getting cast as a baddie in a Soap Opera. The actor recounts the production, how it was to work with Russell and much more.

The Tao of Thunder with Actor Carter Wong is an all-new 26-minute interview with the actor. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. Wong Born in Macau where he began training in martial arts (specifically Northern Shaolin). Wong does a great job of recounting how this lead to training in Japan in the 1960s, Working with John Woo in his first role, but how he lived with Woo, how his career evolved in the 70s and 80s, martial arts in film vs reality, how he got attached Big Trouble in Little China, and much more. Wong gives a great interview, they do subtitle him though he does speak English to help people (re white people) who may have trouble understanding.

Tao of Rain with actor Peter Kwong is an all-new 28-minute interview with the actor. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. Beginning with his childhood in Northern California and a very particular upbringing and how he began to learn dance and became a professional dancer. Kwong goes into details of how he evolved learning marital in his 20s, the landscape of Asian portrayal in TV and Film at the time in the 70s when he started, the racism inherent in the industry at the time, how he fought that, and along with of course his time working on Big Trouble in Little China and some great stories about Carpenter personally promoted behind the scenes crew.

The Hatchet Man Speaks with actor Al Leong is an all-new 6.5-minute interview with the legendary Cult Stunt Actor. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. Moving from St Louis to Los Angeles as a child. The actor is brutally honest and gives a great story of how he was hired by Carpenter.

Damn Willie Prescott and the Horse he rode in on with WD Richter is an all-new 20-minute interview with the screenwriter. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. Richter talks about the in’s and out’s of how he came into the project to modernize or adapt the script which was originally a western into a modern-day film. This interview is devoted entirely to the creation of the script and the unique voice they Richter imbued the script with. The best anecdote is how the talking into the CB Radio informed on Willie Prescott now renamed Jack Burton’s character and bravado. Anyone that loves the films and Burton as a character definitely will want to check this one out as Richter really does break down the script and the characters.

It was a Western Ghost Story with Gary Goldman is an all-new 28-minute interview with the screenwriter. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. Beginning with how he had been fired at Paramount and teamed up with co-writer David Z Weinstein. The writer discusses his time with Weinstein creating some unproduced scripts, how they created the idea germinated through a Tsui Hark film at the time (the movie is The Butterfly Murders), the creation of a very long treatment, the differences between their script and WD Richter’s version, and much more.

The Poetry of Motion with Martial Arts Choreographer James Lew is an all-new 35-minute interview. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. Beginning with his childhood in Los Angeles in an all-Black neighborhood, and how he eventually got into marital arts being inspired by Bruce Lee, how he learned martial arts, how he went to a cattle call that turned out to be a role in the original Kung Fu, how he got into Big Trouble in Little China, learning the ropes from the films, storyboarding, Lew is great at discussion the big set pieces he worked on like the huge Chang Sing vs Wing Kong in the alley, and much more.

Into the Mystic Night with The Coupe De Viles member, Nick Castle is an all-new 12-minute interview with the musician/filmmaker/friend of Carpenter. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. Beginning with his father who was a choreographer Castle was cast in multiple films with the likes of Dean Martin and Bing Crosby, working on Variety Shows that we’re big in the 60s. His love of rock music and his tendency to go towards music. How he fell in love with classic film, how he got involved with film school, and meeting Carpenter during Carpenter’s tenure in film school, how they formed the Coupe De Viles with Tommy Lee Wallace and their first gig at the Halloween (1978) wrap party and how that extended to other wrap parties, and recording Coupe de Viles albums.

Since We Were Kids with Second Unit Director/The Coupe De Viles Member Tommy Lee Wallace is an all-new 29-minute interview with the filmmaker. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. Beginning with his love of music that came first Wallace discusses how he started early with music in school and how rock music in high school led to his friendship with Carpenter. Wallace discusses the music more than actual filmmaking even discussing the various albums they produced together and apart. It’s a very interesting deep-dive discussion about Carpenter’s musical interests.

Love and Art with movie poster artist Drew Struzan is an all-new 18-minute interview with the artist. Screen prompts lead the discussion for the actor. Struzan discusses his hard childhood and making it through some truly harrowing situation and how that informed on his art as an escape and how Stanford Art school had taken an interest and how much art is more communication form than talking is. Struzan discusses iconic work from the film.

Return to Little China with John Carpenter is an all-new (to the US) 12-minute interview. Carpenter discusses with a huge dollop of honesty recounts his hiring, the casting, production, and release of the film. Some of the anecdotes include a very different recounting of James Hong’s beginnings. Carpenter is great and lively including his trademark cantankerous wit.

Being Jack Burton with Kurt Russell is an all-new (to the US) 21-minute interview. Russell beginning with his casting in Elvis, the actor recounts his working relationship through Big Trouble in Little China. Russell is very honest about the behind-the-scenes turmoil of making the film.

Carpenter and I with Dean Cundey is an all-new (to the US) 16-minute interview. Beginning with their work with Halloween Cundey discusses his and Carpenter’s working relationship both the technical and creative aspects of that relationship including Big Trouble in Little China (along with a bunch of details of the Halloween Series, Escape from New York, and The Fog).

Producing Big Trouble with Producer Larry Franco is an all-new (to the US) 16-minute interview. A lot of this interview is covered in the audio commentary which is still great. Beginning with Elvis Franco gives a narrative of how he came to Big Trouble in Little China as a producer and second unit director. Franco discusses the hardship of making the film which leads to Carpenter’s rejection of studio pictures and leads to his next two projects (Prince of Darkness and They Live).

Staging Big Trouble with stuntman Jeff Imada is an all-new (to the US) 12-minute interview. Beginning with his childhood and his martial arts training Imada discusses his work before trading up to extra work and acting in the late 70s and early 80s. Imada’s interview is fascinating as he discusses how he navigated the early years of his career. He does discuss in great detail his work for Big Trouble in Little China beginning with his casting and then as a stunt double on the film and eventually doing some fight coordinating the film.

Visual Effects Artist Richard Edlund is an archival 13-minute interview with Richard Edlund. The FX master discusses the various effect work that he contributed to in the film. The greatest thing is that a window box continually shows behind the scenes pictures of the various FX work that was done that he’s talking about.

Vintage Featurette is a 7-minute EPK style making-of with B-Roll footage, interview clips, and film scenes.

The Final Thought

Scream Factory really shook the pillars of heaven with this release of Big Trouble in Little China!  HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATIONS!!!!!

Scream Factory’s Two-Disc Blu-Ray of Big Trouble in Little China is out December 3rd

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