King Boxer appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Boxer brought a good but not great image.
In general, the movie came with reasonably precise sharpness. Occasional soft shots materialized – most of which appeared to stem from the source photography – so the flick lacked consistent definition, but the majority of the flick seemed well-rendered.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects emerged, and I saw no edge haloes. Grain felt natural, and print flaws remained absent.
Boxer opted for a fairly earthy palette, with a mix of sandy amber and blue on display. While the hues didn’t excel, they appeared fairly vivid and occasionally came across as reasonably lively.
Blacks seemed pretty deep and dense, while shadows displayed adequate clarity and smoothness. Overall, this became a mostly satisfying presentation.
Don’t expect much from the wholly ordinary DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Boxer. Speech felt generally natural, with lines that suffered a little edginess but that usually came across in a decent manner.
Though neither music nor effects boasted much range, they also didn’t show prominent distortion. The effects could become a bit rough around the edges, but they usually seemed accurate enough. The movie offered an average soundtrack given its age and origins.
Note that in addition to the original Mandarin audio, the Blu-ray comes with an English dub. I sampled some of it and found it predictably awful in terms of acting quality.
As we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from film professor David Desser. He offers a running, screen-specific look at the movie's various iterations, genre elements, cast and crew, the film's release, reception and legacy, various production elements and some story thoughts/interpretation.
For the film's first half, Desser offers a fairly standard "historian commentary" that covers the production and its participants. After the midway point, though, he goes more into a discussion of the movie itself.
This means the initial half fares better than the second, as Desser gives us some good details. Once he goes into "interpreter mode", the commentary loses steam. We still get a smattering of useful tidbits, but expect the meat of the chat to appear over the opening half of the flick.
An “appreciation” comes via Tony Rayns on King Boxer. In this 42-minute, 56-second piece, critic/historian Rayns offers info about the Shaw Brothers Studio as well as the development of martial arts cinema in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and additional details related to Boxer and the genre/studio.
Don’t expect a lively presentation here, as we mostly get flat “talking head” shots of Rayns. Nonetheless, Rayns gives us some good information, even if he probably should’ve done an audio commentary instead.
From 2003/04, an Interview with Director Chung Chang-wha goes for 39 minutes, 54 seconds. Here we learn about his career and aspects of the King Boxer shoot.
Like the Rayns reel, this chat can lean a little dry, and a dull visual presentation doesn’t help. Still, we get enough worthwhile notes to make the interview worth a look.
Circa 2007, an Interview with Actor lasts 25 minutes, 51 seconds and brings Ping’s thoughts about her career and work on Boxer. Expect a fairly engaging chat here.
Shot in 2005, an Interview with Film Festival Organizer Cho Young-jung fills 33 minutes, 24 seconds and gives us notes about Chung Chang-wha and King Bower.
However, she mostly discusses her film festival and her impressions of the movie. A few decent notes emerge but this seems like a less than insightful piece overall.
The first part of three, a documentary called Cinema Hong Kong: Kung Fu goes for 49 minutes, 36 seconds. Here we find notes from actors/directors Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, film historian Dr. Ng Ho, actor Kwam Tak Hing’s son David HC Kwan, martial arts choreographer Liang Ting, director/choreographer Lau Kar Leung, directors Siu Sang, Chu Yuan andTerry Tong, producer Run Run Shaw, stuntman Tsu Chung Hok, and actors Jet Li, Shek Kin, Wai Ying Hung, Gordon Liu Chia Hhui, Bruce Lee (circa 1971) and Shannon Yao.
The documentary covers the origins of kung fu and its initial use in films as well as fight choreography, the genre’s progress through the 1960s and its 1970s tropes, various styles of martial arts, Bruce Lee’s impact on cinema, and other developments.
Overall, this becomes a fairly informative program, though it follows a less than logical thread, as it tends to hop about from one domain to another in an awkward manner. Nonetheless, some good information appears and we get a reasonable overview of some genre domains.
Footnote: I assumed parts two and three of this documentary would appear somewhere on the other seven Blu-rays that come as part of this “Shawscope” package. Nope – the set only includes Part One.
I suspect the other two parts deal with post-1970s martial arts movies so Arrow thought they didn’t make sense in this 1970s-centric package. Nonetheless, it still seems “off” that we only get one-third of a documentary.
Next we find the film’s US Opening Credits. They occupy one minute, 26 seconds and show the 5 Fingers of Death title and different music. The credits look and sound terrible, but I guess they’re acceptable for archival purposes.
A Trailer Gallery follows. In includes five trailers – two Hong Kong, two German, one US – as well as a US TV spot, a US radio spot and a “digital reissue trailer”.
Finally, an Image Gallery delivers 52 stills that mix shots from the film and publicity materials. I like the latter but the film elements seem less interesting.
This Boxer disc exists as part of a boxed set that also includes a 60-page book. It provides various essays as well as credits/notes about each film. Unfortunately, my review package lacked the book, but I wanted to mention that it comes with the large release.
As a pioneering efforts in the 1970s martial arts genre, King Boxer deserves respect, and its fight scenes continue to provide reasonable excitement. However, much of the film fails to age well, so this becomes an erratic action experience. The Blu-ray comes with generally good picture as well as adequate audio and a mix of bonus materials. I respect Boxer for its place in cinema history, but the actual film offers only inconsistent pleasures in 2021.
Note that as of December 2021, this version of King Boxer appears only as part of an eight-disc/12-film set called “Shawscope Volume One”. It also includes The Boxer From Shantung, Five Shaolin Masters, Shaolin Temple, Mighty Peking Man, Challenge of the Masters, Executioners from Shaolin, Chinatown Kid, The Five Venoms, Crippled Avengers, Heroes of the East, and Dirty Ho.