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Big Trouble in Little China : Special Edition

MGM/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 120 mins . M . PAL


Ok, you people! Sit tight, hold the fort and keep the home fires burning. And if we're not done reviewing by dawn... call the president.

This is Jack Burton in the Pork-Chop Express and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there. It's like I told my last wife, I says, "Honey, I never drive faster than I can see. Besides that, it's all in the reflexes." You just listen to the Pork-Chop Express and take his advice on a dark and stormy night. When some wild-eyed, 8 foot tall, maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your head up against a bar-room wall, he looks you crooked in the eye and asks you if you've paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye and remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that "Have you paid your dues, Jack?" "Yes sir, the cheque is in the mail."

It's like I was saying when I was meeting my old friend Wang, who's a dead ringer for an Asian Peter North look-alike and he tells me to come with him to pick up some broad he's bringing in from China who he hasn't seen for like 5 years with these beautiful green eyes. I says "What's in it for me Wang" and there's this other broad Gracie Law checking me out and soon "It's Miller time" when out of nowhere these thugs take off with Wang’s girl and we're on their tail into the heart of little China town and these guys with lightning coming out of their hands decide to take over. I ain't one to stick around but they've got my truck and I'm paying 6 G's in insurance premiums each year and I want it back because no insurance company in their right mind is going to believe a cockamamie story like this one.

Wang tells me of this Lo Pan guy who's been around for over 2000 years, like I'm gonna believe that, and who's some sort of living dead spirit and that he's taken his girl to marry her so he can become mortal again but Gracie has gotten herself captured too and we're back into the bowels of Chinatown again to get these girls back and I still haven't found my damn truck. When Egg Shen tags along to end this once and for all I find myself face to face with the three storms and do you know what ol' jack Burton says at a time like this? "What the Hell!"

John Carpenter does it again in this rip-roaring yarn about your typical yank truck driver getting caught up in the world of Chinese religions and superstitions. In what has become a cult classic over the years, Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall ham it up to bring a fresh change to the oriental martial arts action adventure film. With Carpenter providing his directorial genius, suspenseful setups, edge of your seat action and the signature musical score, what more would fans of the genre want than a special edition DVD to compliment this hell of a good time that is Big Trouble in Little China.


Having only ever experienced Big Trouble in Little China on the VHS format and never in the cinemas, it was a welcome sight to have the movie presented on DVD in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and anamorphically enhanced. In what was expected to be a stellar transfer from past efforts from 20th Century Fox, this effort is sorely lacking. The only thing that comes to mind is 'a sub-par effort'.

The print used exhibits splashes of dirt from time to time that appear as flecks and lines when they become apparent. The print seems to be from an interpositive due to the subtle shift in hue of the image even if the colors a properly saturated. Some of the skin tones seem to be off in certain scenes whilst in others they look fine.

Detail is also lacking with a soft look to the image. DVD has spoiled us in the past with transfers as sharp as a tack and this one aint it. There is also excessive edge-enhancement throughout the movie showing up as halos around people and any other transition on objects from dark to light. One could be excused for thinking that this was a very good laserdisc transfer being rehashed for the DVD release.

On the plus side though, the black levels are pretty spot on with only the occasional scene being darker than expected which could also be attributed to the directors intention. Shadow detail is also fair.


It's not often, if at all, that a Dolby Digital 4.1 soundtrack will provide the kind of aural experience you would expect from a 5.1 soundtrack. In reality, this is just a Dolby surround soundtrack encoded into it's constituent 4 channels of left, center, right and mono rears with the subwoofer handling the LFE channel.

Given the weighting the front channels received, that is where the majority of the sound action occurs with fidelity in the range of what is expected for an 80's soundtrack. Dialogue is decent enough with some harshness creeping in and some bleed into the left and right channels occurring. Directionality across the front is also lacking with not much channel separation occurring.

Surround action is at a minimum with very little going on behind your seated position. There were only a finger full of moments that brought a head turn as the lack of action showcased ANY action that did occur. The subwoofer was also sleeping like a baby and like a baby only woke up a few times throughout the evening to cry a little and then wander back to sleep. This becomes obvious in scenes where you expect the subwoofer to kick in yet there is silence from the little black box in the corner of the room.


20th Century Fox have gone to the effort of providing us with a 2 disc special edition presentation of Big Trouble in Little China. Disc one features an Audio Commentary by director John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. These two sure know how to enjoy each others company and it shows, given that they've worked on other Carpenter hits as The Thing, Escape from New York and Escape from L.A. The two reminisce about working on the movie, their lives in general and the all round coolness that is Big Trouble. A hearty commentary indeed.

Disc two provides a single layered DVDs worth of extras beginning with a collection of 3 trailers. The first 2 are your typical fare with some ordinary video, even if one is anamorphically enhanced. The third is a Spanish version of one of the previous trailers. A collection of Deleted scenes and an extended ending show what could have been were it not for time constraints. The quality varies here from film stock to beta-max tape, but the contents of some would have been nice to reinsert, particularly the extension of the final scene.

A video interview with special effects wizard Robert Edlund makes use of the multi-angle feature where angle one gives you Edlund talking about the various effects throughout the movie with a picture-in-picture photo of the scene/prop in question and angle 2 provides a full-screen version of these images.

Up last are the usual suspects in a few different flavors with production notes and cast/crew Filmographies making their presence felt as well as a batch of images in a stills gallery and entire excerpts from two magazine articles featured in Cinefex and American Cinematographer. Finally there is a very bad/cheesy music video for "Big Trouble in Little China" performed by the Coupe De Villes featuring John Carpenter himself.

Oh, and there are some Easter eggs. To access them, simply purchase the region 1 DVD because they are not on ours. I'm a reasonable man but I've just experienced some unreasonable things.


You just listen to the old Pork-Chop Express here and take his advice on a dark and stormy night, when the lightning's crashin', the thunder's rollin' and the rain's comin' down in sheets thick as lead. Just remember what old Jack Burton does when the earth quakes and the poison arrows fall from the sky and the pillars of heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big old storm right square in the eye and he says, "Gimme your best DVD, pal. I can take it."

It's a travesty that this film wasn't given the proper special edition treatment it deserved in the video and audio department and to whoever is responsible, Jack Burton said it best with "The son of a bitch must pay!"

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      And I quote...
    "It's a travesty that this film wasn't given the proper special edition treatment it deserved "
    - Steve Koukoulas
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Playstation 2
    • TV:
          Hitachi CMT2979 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS777 THX Select
    • Speakers:
          VAF Signature I-91
    • Centre Speaker:
          VAF Signature I-91
    • Surrounds:
          VAF Signature I-91
    • Subwoofer:
          VAF LFE-07
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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