Wednesday, May 18, 2022

HUMAN LANTERNS (1982) (88 Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: 88 Films

Region Code: A
Rating: A/B
Duration: 95 Minutes 
Audio: Mandarin DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Sun Chung
Cast: Liu Yung, Chen Kuan-Tai, Lo Lieh, Tanny Tien Ti

Human Lanterns (1982) is a bizarre early 80's Shaw Bros. flick that taps into early 80s slasher craze with a well executed martial arts/horror approach, the period set film is well directed by Sun Chung (Revenge of the Corpse) and should appeal to both Wuxia-style martial arts film fans and the horror kind. In it
a pair of wealthy socialites Tan Fu (Kuan Tai Chen, Bloody Monkey Master) and Lung (Tony Liu, The Big Boss) are established to have a long-running rivalry, their latest competition is the upcoming annual lantern festival, and whomever displays the most elaborate and spectacular lantern will be crowned the winner and recieve much coveted public accolades. Tan Fu has already revelaed his magnificent lantern entry, which leads to the younger Lung approaching a reclusive lantern craftsman named Chun Fang (Lo Lieh, The Chinese Boxer)
 to construct a very special lantern to out-do that of his socialite nemesis. It turns out that lantern maker Fang is a former warrior who Lung disfigured with his blade years earlier, but despite this the lantern maker accepts the offer, with one condition, that Lung not return to see the lantern until it is finished and he is summoned.   

Not long after decapitated heads and skinned corpses of the socialites lovers start showing up around the village, and  the competitive pair accuse each other of the heinous crimes. However, it's the cunning and psychotic Fang who is the one playing them against each other, often while disguised as an eerie skull-faced monster with seemingly supernatural fighting skills.

The balletic Wuxia-style martial arts choreography is fun stuff for sure, but the real centerpiece here is how gruesome it is, as the sadistic Fang sets about kidnapping women victims and taking them to his remote mill, where he then flays the skin from their tortured bodies. It's a crazy film, chock full of some very cool fight choreography and grisly "human lantern" carnage, and I especially loved the skull-faced disguise that Fang where while prowling for the women, it's wild stuff. 

Audio/Video: Human Lanterns (1982) arrives on region A/B Blu-ray from 88 Films in 1080p HD widescreen framed in 2.35:1 widescreen. This is not advertised as a new scan,  to me it looks like an older HD master with some filtering having been applied. The grain levels are generally wiped away and details are smoothed over, it's not ideal. With that said, colors look quite good, black levels are decent, and the image is free of blemishes and print damage. Audio comes by way of Mandarin 2.0 mono with optional English subtitles. It's not the most dynamic track but it's clean and the dubbed dialogue is decently synced. 

Extras begin with Audio commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon of the Podcast On Fire Network, a solid listen as they get into the horror hybrid nature of the film, it's censorship, the European lighting style, and plenty of talk about director Sun Chung. We also get a new 14-minute A Shaw Story - an Interview with Susan Shaw who discusses becoming a star in several erotic films, noting she never had an issue with baring skin, and how she was blacklisted after being accused of being a Chinese spy, and her singing career. The Beauty and the Beasts - An Interview with Linda Chu runs 15-min, featuring Chi talking about breaking into film, working for Shaw Brothers Studios, her refusal of doing nudity, and shooting her torture scenes with the help of director Sun Chung. 

The last of the interviews is the 52-min Lau Wing - The Ambiguous Hero wherein he gets into how he started in film, what it was like working for both Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest, how he was typecast as a villain. The last of the extras is a 20-min Original Trailer.

The single-disc release arrives in a clear Scanavo keepcase with a reversible sleeve of artwork featuring the original movie poster and a new illustration from  R.P. "Kung Fu Bob" O'Brien, which kicks ass. The new artwork is also featured on the limited edition slipcover. Inside there's a 2-sided fold-out poster with both artwork options, plus a 24-page illustrated booklet with writing on the film by Barry Forshaw that gets into the martial art/horror hybrid nature of the film, the story, the production design, fight choreography and more. 

Special Features: 
- HD Transfer from the Original Negative
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- 2.0 DTS-HD MA Mono Mandarin with Newly Translated English Subtitles
- Audio commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon of the Podcast On Fire Network
- A Shaw Story - an Interview with Susan Shaw (14 min) 
- The Beauty and the Beasts - An Interview with Linda Chu (15 min) 
- Lau Wing - The Ambiguous Hero (52 min) 
- Original Trailer (2 min) 

Screenshots from the 88 Films Blu-ray:


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