With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

ACF 069: "Royal Tramp" DVD Collection

The latest release from The Weinstein Company and Genius Products' Dragon Dynasty label is The Royal Tramp Collection. This tw0-disc DVD contains Royal Tramp and Royal Tramp II, both originally released in 1993 and starring Stephen Chow.

Chow plays Wei Siu Bo, a fanciful story-teller and conman who gets drawn into a conspiracy to restore (or perhaps it's to save) the Ming Dynasty. His quick thinking and glib tongue save him from numerous skirmishes with death, and enable him to score with a bevy of beauties.

Man Cheung as the Empress Dowager

The ending of the first movie sets up the second, so it was both a smart and considerate move to issue both in one release. There's a good bit more action in the second film, which also benefits from the presence of Brigitte Lin, one of my all time favorite Hong Kong actresses, once again doing one of the many androgynous roles for which she is well known.

Wei Siu Bo (Stephen Chow) is carried away by Hoi Tai Fu (Man Tat Ng)

I'm in the middle of reading Asian Cinema: A Field Guide by Tom Vick, film programmer for the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution. In it, without mentioning any specific films, he describes Chow as the slapstick star of Cantonese "nonsense comedies" before his international breakthroughs with Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. He certainly could be referring to the two Royal Tramp films. (I must mention that I highly recommend Vick's book; it's both very informative and enjoyable.)

The story line, such as it is, goes all over the place. Further compounding things are the numerous betrayals and shifting loyalties. Still, a great deal of the comedy comes across even with subtitles, and the action sequences - particularly in the second film - are well done, considering when they were made. (I did notice one wire in the climactic fight seen at the end of the first film.)

Both discs have Cantonese and English-dubbed soundtracks or a feature length audio commentary by Hong Kong cinema authority Bey Logan to chose from; optional English, English for the deaf and hard-of hearing, and Spanish subtitles; and the original theatrical trailer. Disc 2 also has an interview with writer and co-director Wong Jing.

I've only had time so far to watch the films in the original Cantonese with English subtitles, so I can't comment with authority on Logan's commentaries or the English-dubbed soundtracks. I have a feeling that it might work really well to first watch the films with Logan's commentary on, so that you get a sense of what's gong on. Then go back at some time and watch them with subtitles. You just might get a better sense of the story line and plot twists. As for the dubbed versions, I tend to watch them only when I'm too tired for subtitles or otherwise mentally impaired.

These are not great films, certainly not ones that an Asian Cult Film Fan would absolutely have to own. But packed together with the audio options, the two-disc set is a worthwhile purchase. I certainly appreciate that The Weinstein Company and Genius Products have offered them so attractively packaged and reasonably priced. The films give some interesting perspective on Stephen Chow's early career. And did I mention that Brigitte Lin is in Royal Tramp II!!!

Considering the two movies as a package, I give them an ACF rating of 2.5 out of 4 stars (fairly good). The extras get a 3 out of 4 star rating (good). The only thing that I would have liked to have been included is an interview with Stephen Chow.

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