Johnnie To’s The Heroic Trio/Executioners (1993): Criterion Blu-ray review

Flights of martial arts fantasy in Johnnie To & Ching Siu-Tung's Executioners (1993)

Before attaining international critical success with a series of cool, formally precise thrillers, Johnnie To made a pair of wildly inventive superhero movies fraught with anxiety about the approaching hand over of Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997. The Heroic Trio and Executioners (both 1993) mix fantasy, science fiction, traditional martial arts and modern action into a potent dystopian stew centred on three of Hong Kong’s biggest female stars – Anita Mui, Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Cheung. Criterion’s three-disk dual-formal edition showcases stunning restorations by L’Immagine Ritrovata.

Recent Asian releases from Eureka

Disillusioned Christians Shiro Amakusa (Kenji Sawada) and Hosokawa Gracia (Akiko Kana) return from the dead to seek revenge in Kenji Fukasaku's Samurai Reincarnation (1981)

Eureka, and their specialty label Masters of Cinema, continue to release a range of Asian films, from pulp action to classical tragedy. Among recent releases are a two-disk set of four sequels to Rickay Lau’s Mr. Vampire (1985), Cynthia Rothrock’s first lead role in Mang Hoi & Corey Yuen’s Lady Reporter (1989), and a pair of very different samurai epics: Tadashi Imai’s bleak dissection of the Bushido code in Revenge (1964) and Kenji Fukasaku’s mix of history and supernatural horror in Samurao Reincarnation (1981).

Vinegar Syndrome closes out 2022

Fong Sai Yuk (Willie Chi) faces a Manchu army in Ringo Lam's Burning Paradise (1994)

Vinegar Syndrome wraps up 2022 with a very mixed bag of releases, including no less than four grubby, bottom-of-the-barrel slasher movies, a dynamic Hong Kong martial arts movie, and loaded special editions of Freeway (1996), Matthew Bright’s reworking of Little Red Riding Hood as serial killer black comedy, and Rowdy Herrington’s red-neck action-romance Road House (1989).

Summer grab-bag, part one

An attempted robbery becomes a bloodbath in Javier Elorrieta's Night of Rage (1985)

As usual, there’s no coherent pattern to what I spend my time watching. In the past few months, I given my overtaxed attention to quite a few movies from the ’70s and ’80s – British sex comedies and cop movies, Italian gialli, French and Spanish thrillers, Chinese martial arts movies and an Australian superhero musical – plus a pair of recent Korean action movies and two ultra-low-budget do-it-yourself movies from the ’90s.

Winter viewing 1: Vinegar Syndrome

Detective Linda Masterson (Cynthia Rothrock) investigates a killer martial artist in Kelly Makin's Tiger Claws (1991)

A long cold winter, a working-from-home schedule and pandemic-induced malaise means I’ve been watching a lot of undemanding genre movies over the past few months. One of my primary sources in the past couple of years has been Vinegar Syndrome, a company whose dedication to unearthing obscure, often forgotten genre movies equals my own passion for watching them. Although by no means a complete account of my VS viewing, here are brief notes on two dozen titles.

Blasts from the past

Movies and reality intersect in two recent releases

Mad Max: from B-movie to Myth

The future crimes of David Cronenberg

Tripping, shopping and the airborne multiplex

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