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The Man From Hong Kong (1975) Blu-ray review
Website last updated: 23-8-2017

The Man From Hong Kong (1975) Blu-ray review

By: Stuart Kortekaas
Published:
2016-11-28
While George Lazenby is best known for being the first person to take on the role of James Bond after Sean Connery, appearing in 1969’s On Her Majesty's Secret Service, he has in fact starred in over 60 film and television roles, including 1975’s The Man From Hong Kong, which has recently been newly-remastered as a 1080P HD release on Blu-Ray from an exclusive 4K transfer by Umbrella Entertainment (and can be purchased online from www.umbrellaent.com.au).

To put The Man From Hong Kong in context for Bond fans, it was released the year after The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), and two years before The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). The Man From Hong Kong contains a number of exciting action sequences and martial arts fight scenes featuring Lazenby, including one at the climax of the film during which the former 007 is set on fire! Note this was filmed with real fire, with Lazenby himself performing the stunt. That definitely never happened to the other fella.

George Lazenby in The Man from Hong Kong
Reflecting that it was co-produced by Raymond Chow, the famous martial arts film producer, visually The Man From Hong Kong is much closer in style to the movies he made a few years earlier starring Bruce Lee. While watching The Man From Hong Kong I couldn’t help but wonder what this movie would have been like had Bruce Lee starred in the title role instead. As it turns out this is exactly what was originally intended to happen. Included in the Blu-Ray special features are interviews with various cast and crew members, beginning with Brian Trenchard-Smith, the writer & director of The Man From Hong Kong, who mentions he wrote the movie with Bruce Lee specifically in mind. In fact Trenchard-Smith was on a flight to Hong Kong to meet Bruce Lee when the martial arts superstar unexpected died at the young age of 32 (Lazenby was already in Hong Kong at the time, and was one of the last people to see Lee alive).

The Man From Hong Kong was produced for 550,000 AUD. To put this in perspective The Man with the Golden Gun had a budget around 14 times larger, while The Spy who Loved Me cost twice as much to make than The Man with the Golden Gun. Despite this The Man From Hong Kong is well-filmed, with Russell Boyd responsible for the cinematography. He was also the Director of Photography for Picnic at Hanging Rock (released the same year as The Man From Hong Kong), and would later win an Oscar® for his work on 2003’s Master and Commander. During The Man From Hong Kong the production team would often try out unique approaches for the special effects and actions sequences. Behind-the-scenes footage showing how various scenes were created is included in the special features of the Blu-Ray, in the featurette “The Making of THE MAN FROM HONG KONG”.

As an Bond fan growing up in Melbourne I had read various books and articles over the years that mentioned The Man From Hong Kong, yet had never seen it prior to this Blu-Ray release, so I was very curious to see what it was like. The biggest surprise was the locations used within the film. To my mind the title had suggested exotic settings in Hong Kong and Asia, so it was a surprise to see virtually the entire film was shot in Australia!

In many respects The Man From Hong Kong is a movie that couldn’t be filmed again today. The film’s opening sequence includes a chase sequence on the top of one of Australia’s most distinctive natural landmarks, the famous red rock formation Uluru in the Northern Territory (which was still called Ayers Rock at the time The Man From Hong Kong was made). Visitors to the Northern Territory are now requested not to climb the rock, out of respect for the significance it has in the local Aboriginal culture.

The title character in The Man From Hong Kong is Inspector Fang Sing Leng, played by Jimmy Wang Yu, who is sent to Sydney to extradite a Hong Kong drug courier (played by a future star in the martial arts world, Sammo Hung). In the process he discovers the courier has been working for Sydney’s biggest crime boss, Jack Wilton (George Lazenby), who he decides to wage a personal war on.

George Lazenby in The Man from Hong Kong
To sum up the entire movie in a single sentence, The Man From Hong Kong is a Chinese Dirty Harry who travels to Sydney to take on the city’s Mr Big. Often I found the movie hilarious, featuring dry Australian humour throughout. Interestingly this was no accident, as the director intended the film to work as both an action film as well as a tongue-in-cheek parody of the Dirty Harry movies/genre, with the title character committing ever-increasing acts of destruction and violence while remaining unaffected by the consequences of his actions.

Several stand-out scenes include one in which Inspector climbs up ten stories in order to infiltrate a martial arts school controlled by Wilton, and a genuinely suspenseful scene at the end of the film when he travels down the outside of a skyscraper in order to reach the villain, who has barricaded himself inside his apartment behind a door blocked by a thick sheet metal barrier.

George Lazenby in The Man from Hong Kong
Fans of muscle cars should also enjoy the very realistic car chase, which involves the title character chasing after the bad guys in a Chrysler Charger. While the film did not have had a massive budget, one benefit of this is that the special effects were essentially all captured in-camera, and the action sequences are quite believable as a result, more Bourne than Bond.

The most successful aspect of the film was the main title theme, ‘Sky High’, which reached the top of the music charts around the world at the time. Despite not particularly being a fan of 1970’s music in general I immediately recognised the catchy song, which was written especially for the movie, and performed by British band Jigsaw.

Perhaps the biggest weakness of The Man From Hong Kong involves the casting of the title role, as suggested earlier. Within the interviews included in the Blu-Ray special features, several cast and crew members (including both George Lazenby and writer/director Brian Trenchard-Smith) mention that Jimmy Wang Yu was difficult to get along with during filming, treating other crew members, particularly the director, with little respect. I felt this was reflected on screen, with the title role character displaying little likeability throughout the film, coming across as taking himself far too seriously. This lack of charisma is particularly evident during the love scenes, where there is no chemistry between “the man from Hong Kong” and the girl he’s supposedly fallen in love with. Despite this I found the movie entertaining, bearing in mind what it is intended to be, first and foremost an action film & parody of the Dirty Harry movie genre.

Worth mentioning for anyone keen to see more of director Trenchard-Smith’s work after watching The Man From Hong Kong, the Blu-Ray special features contain not one but five more of his films, complete with commentary from the director & cast members! Like The Man From Hong Kong they were filmed on limited budgets, however have a keen sense of adventure and fun that makes them worth checking out.

Keeping in mind that the movie was filmed in the mid 1970’s and on quite a tight budget, the quality of the remastered footage on the Blu-Ray is excellent. The film transfer looks very clear, and the audio is equally impressive. I think fans of George Lazenby and action movies in general will definitely enjoy Umbrella Entertainment’s exclusive newly-remastered Blu-Ray release of The Man From Hong Kong!

The Man From Hong Kong can be purchased online at www.umbrellaent.com.au.

Review by Stuart Kortekaas. Copyright © 2016 From Sweden with Love

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