BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA Blu-ray Review

     August 16, 2009

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Roger Ebert once said that Bugs Bunny was the person we all wanted to be, and Daffy Duck was the person we really were. What makes Jack Burton such a great character is that thinks he’s Bugs Bunny, but is actually Daffy. And that’s one of the great jokes of Big Trouble in Little China, John Carpenter’s Kung-fu opus, and one of the most purely entertaining goofs ever made. My review after the jump.

big_trouble_little_china_movie_image_kurt_russell_01.jpgKurt Russell’s Jack Burton is a truck driver with a whole lot of attitude, a man who likes to drink heavy and thinks he’s king shit. He hooks up with Wang Chi (Dennis Lin), who owes him money, but can’t pay cause he’s got to go to the airport to pick up his fiancé Miao Yin (Suzee Pai). Jack tags along But at the airport gang members steal away Miao, and so Jack ends up on the chase with Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall) join them. It turns out that David Lo Pan (James Hong) has stolen Maio for the purpose of marrying her, as he accursed with ancient Chinese magic that has made him immortal. Because Miao has green eyes, he can marry her and become mortal again, as green eyes are a rarity for Asians and enough to free him from his curse. Lo Pan also has supernatural men Rain, Thunder and Lightning on his side, and they’re three dudes with powerful magic. The film gets stranger and stranger as it goes, as Jack and Wang wade deeper and deeper into the underworld, with the help of magician Egg Shen (Victor Wong).

Basically, John Carpenter directed a script by W.D. Richter, who was best known for Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai, that is bug fuck nuts. It seems that most of the makers had seen a ton of chop socky films back in the day, and introduced a couple of westerners into the plot. In doing so, the white people become outsiders, and mostly useless throughout. It’s a clever way to make a kung fu film for and with white people while not really desecrating that which came before.

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But the film is made by the conceit of Jack Burton, alcoholic truck driver. If you haven’t seen this film the action is very mid 80’s, and yet that’s one of the great things about it. There’s a lot of crazy practical effects, and it’s just a wild, all over the place creation. But that’s what makes it loveable. Big Trouble in Little China is one of cinema’s great re-watchable movies. I’ve had the Blu-ray for a couple of days now, and it just ends up on in the background often. Why? Because it’s Big Trouble in Little China.

The Blu-ray looks awesome. It’s in DTS. 5.1 HD, which is better than the 4.1 DTS from the previous DVD. Also included is an isolated score track in 5.1 DTS-HD, for the fans. Picture quality is excellent. This is a cinemascope film from the mid 80’s, so it’s going to have some wear, but it’s crisp and clear, and filmic. Extras include the previously released commentary by Kurt Russell and John Carpenter. Man, they have a fun hanging out, talking about the movie and their kids, and whatever’s on their mind. Seriously, they just BS their way through it. There’s also a number of deleted scenes. Airport/Chinatown extends the kidnapping of Maio Yin in either the workprint (6 min.) or video version (7 min.). “The Dragon of the black Pool” follows the alley fight in workprint (3 min.) or video version (4 min.). “The White Tiger” offers more of Russell playing dork in workprint (2 min.) or video version (7 min.) . Gracie’s Workplace (4 min.) is only available on the workprint, as is the “Thunder Tour” (2 min.), and “Beneath Chinatown” (2 min.) which offers more of the caves. The “Lava Sequence” was cut out of the film in a way, but there’s a multi angle that shows what was intended for the demise of lightning (1 min.), and the deleted wrap out with some trims called a “six Demon Bag” from the workprint (12 min.). There’s also an extended ending (3 min.) that gives a resolution to the airport thugs, and a little more Egg Shen. There’s a vintage featurette (7 min.) on the making of the film.

Deserving its own paragraph is the music video for the film starring John Carpenter, Tommy Lee Wallace and Nick Castle. Here you have three directors doing a mid 80’s music video based around  the movie, and Carpenter editing. If you’ve never seen this video, your life is incomplete.

There’s a multi-angle Richard Edlund interview (13 min.) with still images from the effects work in on angle, and Edlund in the other. There’s two American trailers, a Spanish trailer, six TV spots (5 min.) and a stil gallery. This is essential.

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