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Blu-Ray Review: Arrow Video’s Heart of Dragon (Collector’s Edition) 

Heart of Dragon

Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung team up for a decidedly different film in Heart of Dragon.  Arrow Video has given the Blu-ray loads of special features and two different versions!

The Film 

There’s a sentiment that I always love.  It’s when you get to a point of being obsessive about something, that you realize the depth of the obsession, how much you haven’t seen and probably will never see.  People oftentimes are swallowed whole by that notion.  There are others, as in the case of this reviewer, who find this a part of the allure of becoming an obsessive about a particular area of interest. If one allows themselves to ride that wave when something you had no idea of becomes an adventure in viewing, paying dividends to that obsessive nature.

Case in point: Heart of Dragon 

A film in the thirty-plus years I’ve watched, adored, and obsessed over Hong Kong Genre Films I never heard of once.  Nor was it ever mentioned to me by fellow enthusiasts/obsessives.  It gives you an indication of how much is out there for you to digest and take in… a film starring Jackie Chan, co-starring and directed by Sammo Hung would go unheard of by someone who loves these films.  And that isn’t to say that the film isn’t good, far from it, it’s a great drama-based action film.  

Chan and Hung play brothers Tat and Dodo Fung respectively.  Tat is a CID police officer with dreams of sailing around the world as a merchant marine.  Dodo is his developmentally disabled brother he’s cared for since his parents passed.  One would think that the film would eventually show Dodo as capable as his brother is at defending himself but that isn’t the case.  Heart of Dragon excels at showing just how people will be and take advantage of someone innocent to the crueler nature of people. 

In fact, the film, in its HK form is a drama that spikes at the end into an action film but more of a harrowing one than one would expect.  Though those familiar with Hung’s directorial efforts without Chan will know that he specializes in hard-hitting action films.  The biggest difference between the HK cut and the International/Japanese Extended Cut is the action.  All of the additional footage is devoted to action which tips the scales in the Extended Cut to an Action Drama rather than a Drama with Action in it, like the HK Cut of the film.  

No matter though.  Heart of Dragon in any version one sees it in is truly a special film with Chan and Hung at the top of their acting game.  Rather than playing for the jokes, which many films of similar ilk did during its day, Heart of Dragon sides on compassion towards its leads.  In the end, which will surprise many, the film ultimately sides on the drama and reality of a man who sacrifices everything to protect his brother.  

The Transfer

The 2K restoration from the original negative by Fortune Star of the 91-minute Hong Kong Theatrical Cut and the 99-minute Extended Japanese Cut is beautiful.  The image has been beautifully restored, the result being a handsome Blu-ray.  There isn’t a fault or issue with the image, not a scratch or defect, not any digital issues like artifacting or ghosting.  It doesn’t matter which version you watch both are stunners on this Blu-ray. 

The Extras

They include the following;

  • All-new commentary by Frank Djeng & FJ DeSanto on the Extended Cut
  • The Making of The First Mission and The First Mission: Pre-Release Event
  • Archive interview with star Jackie Chan
  • Archive interview with star Rocky Lai
  • Two archive interviews with director/star Sammo Hung
  • Archive interview with cinematographer Arthur Wong
  • Alternate English credits as The First Mission
  • Trailer gallery, including the ‘music video’ trailer by Su Rui
  • Image Gallery

The all-new commentary by Frank Djeng & FJ DeSanto on the Extended Cut begins with introductions, discussing the success at the box office, and the two versions which they will be discussing more thoroughly.  Some of the details include Chan was starring in three films concurrently including Police Story, the different scores in the HK and Japanese cuts, the cameo of director Fruit Chan, Yuen Biao’s contribution to the film, a cameo by Sammo Hung’s brother, a large discussion of Hung’s work – his acting, direction, and action choreography, the cruelty on display in the film towards Hung’s character, the work of cinematographer Arthur Wong, the relationship between Hung’s character and the children in the film, the fact that Sammo Hung was working on another film during the time, the finale and the various car chases, motorcycle stunts, martial arts action, a discussion about the differences between the HK version and the Japanese extended cut – how much action was added in for the Japanese cut, discussion throughout the film about the various cast and crew that contributed to the film and a larger discussion of their work with Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan, and much more.  Djen and DeSanto make a great pair of commentators – listen to their work on the equally informative Millionaires Express.  

The Making of The First Mission (48:43) – is the first of two extended archival featurettes made to promote the Japanese release by Shochiku.  This making of special is culled from B-Roll footage shot by a Japanese crew with the permission of the production.  The TV Special takes a look at the various areas of the production and what it took to make it – along with quite a few side tangents.  Those familiar with various making-of’s that the Japanese – still make – for TV will be familiar with the fly-on-the-wall with heavy infographic information.  This TV Special is a gold mine of footage for anyone with even a passing interest in Chan and Hung during this era.  The TV special does a great job of showing us just how fluid it appears everything was on set and how much the creatives in front and behind the scenes carried responsibility on an HK Set circa 1980 – at the very height of both Hung and Chan’s careers respectively.  They even manage to devote an entire section to the various stunts gone wrong – complete with the footage of said stunts gone awry and the outcome of the injury – including the massive explosion that caps off the final action sequence. Though it is silly enough to show the actors eating and drinking various “sponsored” foods.  All in all, this is a great behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film.  The quality of the TV Special is such that it rivals some of the modern era making-of featurettes produced.  

The First Mission: Pre-Release Event (15:23) – is the second of two extended archival featurettes made to promote the Japanese release by Shochiku.  This featurette focuses on the Japanese announcement of the film being released showing off footage – both behind the scenes and actual footage from the film – to hype the film’s release.  The featurette does show some alternate takes and footage that appears to have been shown in theaters – hence the polished film-like appearance of the featurette.  

Archive Interviews – the various archival interviews are accessible under a submenu.  

  • Jackie Chan (9:27) – Chan discusses why he chose Heart of Dragon and made it more of a drama rather than an action film, his love for his film, how difficult it was to produce the dramatic scenes, his working relationship with Sammo Hung, and much more.  In English.
  • Rocky Lai (10:05) – Lai discusses how he entered the film industry thanks to his time working in construction, his work on Heart of Dragon – including the final explosion in the film, working with Sammo Hung on the film, the differences in working with Chan and Hung, and much more.  In Cantonese with English Subtitles. 
  • Sammo Hung #1 (7:29) – Hung discusses how he disliked the script and after a single day they shut down and rewrote everything with screenwriter Barry Wong in a week, how he approached the material with Jackie Chan in mind, discussion of directing action and directing drama – how his want to do something dramatic led to this and the troubles it was to get produced, and more.  In English. 
  • Sammo Hung #2 (11:24) – the second interview discusses the rewriting process in more detail than the first interview, his development as an actor of the character Dodo, the fight he had with Golden Harvest over wither he should fight in the film, the differences and similarities to the archetypes that Chan plays in this film and in other films, and much more.  In Cantonese with English Subtitles. 
  • Arthur Wong (15:12) – Wong discusses how he got started at Shaw Brothers and became a Cameraman at 20 years old, his inspiration from Western Films, how he met and began to work with both Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung – at Golden Harvest, working with Sammo Hung as a director, where he took inspiration from, Chan’s concerns with how the production approached dealing with the public with more responsibility, the dangers of stunt work during the production, and much more. In English. 

Alternate English credits as The First Mission (2:32) – these alternate Beginning and Ending English credits are SD and not restored.  

Trailer Gallery 

  • HK Theatrical Trailer (5:57) – a trailer / music video hybrid 
  • English Export Trailer (1:44) 
  • Japanese Theatrical Trailer (2:38) 
  • Japanese Theatrical Teasers (2:38) – two teasers from Shochiku. The first is more like the teasers for Spielberg films of the 1980s showing up behind the scene footage.  The second is more traditional.  
  • Fortune Star Re-Release Trailer (2:31) – the trailer as it is the re-release version has been beautifully restored and is much more of the tone of the actual film.  

Image Gallery – consists of 27 various production and publicity stills, poster art, and home video covers.   The gallery can be navigated by using your remote’s next and back chapter stop buttons.  

The Final Thought 

Heart of Dragon is a beautiful dramatic turn for Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung at the height of their powers as filmmakers and their collaboration.  Arrow Video has given it the great special edition it deserves.  Highest Recommendations! 

Arrow Video’s Blu-Ray edition of Heart of Dragon is out on April 11th

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