Editor, Asia; Hong Kong, China (@Marshy00)

Tsui Hark's wonderful 1986 action comedy gets a Blu-ray upgrade, courtesy of Fortune Star, but as has been the case with all their releases to-date, the improvement on their digitally remastered DVD releases from a few years back is subtle at best.

The Film:

The lives of three very different women collide during China's turbulent Warlord period, after the fall of the Last Emperor. Musician Sheung Hung (Cherie Chung) is performing at a local general's mansion when soldiers begin to riot over unpaid wages. In the melee she steals a box of jewelry, only for it to end up at a local theatre. There she meets Pat Neil (Sally Yeh), frustrated daughter of the troupe leader who forbids her from performing, and Tsao Wan (Brigitte Lin), General's daughter and secret leader of the local resistance. Before long all three are involved in a covert mission to retrieve vital documents from the General's safe and potentially end the campaign of a particularly nasty Southern warlord.

Combining action, comedy, politics, drama and Chinese opera, PEKING OPERA BLUES might be difficult to pin down tthematically, but more than holds up as an enduring classic from Hong Kong's golden era. Those that have seen the film before will already recognise its wide-reaching and undeniable appeal, while newcomers need only know that it's the perfect opportunity to watch three of the industry's finest actresses all performing at the top of their game. Whether the script demands that Brigitte Lin play the romantic lead, Cherie Chung the comic relief or Sally Yeh the full-blown action heroine - and often times the film asks all three of each actress simultaneously - they more than deliver, with beauty, grace and a lightness of touch that keeps the film on its toes. If only Hong Kong was still producing actresses of this calibre today!

The Disc:

Forgive me for not being especially au fait with the required technical jargon to go in depth into picture and sounds quality specifics, suffice to say it appears Fortune Star have made no effort to improve upon their previous DVD release. While the image looks pretty clean for the most part, the picture is soft and overly bright throughout. PEKING OPERA BLUES is a film where the colours need to pop, but the transfer lacks the level of definition we have perhaps unfairly come to expect from Blu-ray releases the world over due to the startling work of some distributors in other regions. It is by no means a bad transfer, and never impedes on your viewing pleasure, but Criterion's THE RED SHOES this most certainly is not.

The audio, however, was clear and strong throughout. I favoured the Cantonese TrueHD 7.1 and it resonated fantastically. There is also a Mandarin Dolby Digital 6.1 track on the disc, which was also decent. However, this being a Hong Kong film, both audio tracks were clearly post-dubbed, causing the trademark syncing issues that come almost as a prerequisite with Hong Kong films. Likewise, the English subtitles were rife with typos and grammatical errors that while some find endearing, do take away something from the enjoyment of the film.


There is only the original theatrical trailer, which appears not to have been remastered at any stage.


Ultimately this is a decent, if unspectacular, way of watching a true gem of Hong Kong Cinema that more than holds up 25 years on, back when Tsui Hark knew how to make action films about women and had the pool of talent to cast them right. Some day, hopefully, PEKING OPERA BLUES will get the full scrub & brush up it deserves, as the opera scenes alone have the potential to dazzle, but until then this will just about suffice. Not worth trading in your remastered DVD release for, but definitely the best version out there if you're adding the film to your collection for the first time.

Peking Opera Blues

  • Hark Tsui
  • Raymond To
  • Brigitte Lin
  • Sally Yeh
  • Cherie Chung
  • Mark Cheng
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Hark TsuiRaymond ToBrigitte LinSally YehCherie ChungMark ChengComedyAction

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