There is plenty of digital ink spilled on this site and many others about the wonderful work of US and UK cult home video specialists like Severin Films, Arrow Video, Vinegar Syndrome and many others like them. But, there are other companies on the far side of the world also doing great work and we'd like to showcase a few releases from them as well.
Australia's Umbrella Entertainment is mostly known for being home for thousands of catalog movie and TV releases, but over the last few years they've been buil;ding up their cult collection and in the last half of 2016 they really put down their flag in a big way. Here's a look at some ofd their best releases of the last six months, Brian Trenchard Smith's debut feaure The Man From Hong Kong, nature vs. man exploitation flick Long Weekend, early '90s goo-fest Body Melt, and ill-fated 80's Marvel movie The Punisher.
Filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith has been in the trenches of mid-budget movies since the early '70s. However, it wasn't until Mark Hartley's Australian exploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood, and getting the Quentin Tarantino seal of approval that his name became one that film fans really started to recognize.
Back in 1975 he was just a young, hungry film fanatic looking to make his mark and he somehow managed to talk his way into directing The Man from Hong Kong, a big action film co-production between Hong Kong's Golden Harvest and The Australian Film Development Corporation starring the biggest martial arts hero in the East, “Jimmy” Wang Yu.
The film was the story of a Hong Kong cop brought into Sydney to extradite a lethal drug dealer who had escaped prison back home. The dealer was very well-connected in Australia, so catching him was to be no mean feat. Fang Sing Leng (Wang Yu) teams up with Aussie film legend Roger Ward (Turkey Shoot) and Hugh Keays-Bryne ( Mad Max: Fury Road) to track him down and eventually take down the drug syndicate altogether. The only problem is the local big man on the scene, gangster Jack Wilton (George Lazenby doing some of his own martial arts stunt work) and his crew of henchmen, led by the gonzo stunt legend Grant Page.
The resulting chase is an amazing series of set pieces that begins at the top of the great Uluru (Ayer's Rock) and spans hang gliders, back alley gambling hot spots, and a number of bedrooms on its way to a resolution. It's great fun and one hell of a calling card as the debut feature from the man who would become Australia's action king.
Umbrella Entertainment does right by The Man from Hong Kong on all fronts in this amazing new Blu-ray. The new 4K scan looks excellent, quite a bit better than their 4K restoration work on Road Games, presumably not from a release print like that disc was. The sound is also grand, with dialogue and a ton of music and FX cues pop in a way they haven't in years. However, even though this film is really the star of the disc, it's only the beginning of the gold herein.
The team at Umbrella really went over and above all expectations with this release in terms of bonus content. Not only is there the usual audio commentary from a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable Trenchard-Smith, co-star Keays-Bryne, and the inimitable Grant Page. There is also a great making of-doc, plenty of fascinating contemporaneous newsreel footage of the film's production and release, tons of uncut interviews with all of the major players from outtakes of Not Quite Hollywood, and a Trailers From Hell segment narrated by Trenchard-Smith, himself. But even that is only the beginning.
The Man from Hong Kong also serves as a primer for Trenchard-Smith's early work as it features an additional five full feature films in SD on the disc, with little to no adverse effect on the main feature. The additional films, Deathcheaters (with audio commentary), the gonzo Stunt Rock (with audio commentary), Kung Fu Killers (a TV doc that features Grant Page exploring martial arts alongside the greats), Dangerfreaks (a stunt doc featuring Page from the '80s), and The Stuntmen (an earlier stunt doc featuring Page), are all very good markers for the filmmaker that BTS (as his fans know him) would become.
This is an astonishing release of a very fun film and it comes highly recommended. The disc itself is all region, but be aware that the additional features are in PAL SD, so your mileage may vary.