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Issue #171a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES August 4th, 2003

Notorious Eight
(1981; Shaw Brothers)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Chin mun baat jeung
Mandarin: Qian men ba jiang
English: Swindling Sect Eight Soldiers

Aspiring do sun Chen Jiqian (HUMAN LANTERNS' Liu Yung; image) decides to sharpen his skills by challenging noted "Gambling Devil" Hu Guantian (Lo Lieh). Things go badly for Chen and he finds himself HK$300,000 in debt. Hu set this situation up in order to get revenge on Chen's elderly father, who had previously utilized his table skills to bankrupt the gangster. Chen travels to Hong Kong and seeks out lo chin Zhou Shiqiang (Chen Kuan-tai), who agrees to help him get revenge. Gathering together his associates (including co-writer Wong Jing, Wong Yue, Lam Fai-wong, Leung Tin, and Fan Lai), Zhou gives Chen a crash course in gambling trickery and then masterminds the events that will prompt Hu to challenge the youth to a high stakes match. First, however, everyone will work to undermine The Gambling Devil's confidence, beginning with Chen's seduction of the man’s young, sex-starved wife (Linda Chu Hsiang-yun).

As with some films in this genre, a working knowledge of mahjong and paigow is needed to fully appreciate the matches but poker is also included and director Sun Chung (AVENGING EAGLE, HUMAN LANTERNS) presents each match (and the opponents' clever sleight-of-hand manoeuvres) in dynamic fashion. The plot follows the Old School kung fu template (talented but undisciplined youth learns from self-exiled master so that he may avenge the murder of his father) and the change in setting works well. The climactic match is not as involved or intense as those seen in some later films but remains rivetting and boasts the sort of twist the best of these pictures always deliver. Less palatable is the final scene, a hoary "square-up" of the sort demanded by the Hays Code in Hollywood and censors in conservative countries like Malaysia. The large supporting cast includes Jason Pai Piao, Yuen Wah, Chan Shen, Hon Yee-sang, and Ha Ping.

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.

Lo Lieh (centre). Image courtesy Intercontinental.
Intercontinental #613036 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional Subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.36:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

102 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains mild violence, mild sexual content, and mild language

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Australia: M 15+
Ontario: AA (Not Recommended for Children)
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]

Unfortunately, this looks to be another instance where Celestial has taken a 4:3 letterbox master and squeezed it into a faux 16:9. The image is distractingly soft and this altering of the transfer heightens the PAL conversion flaws (an early tracking shot of some cards spread out on a table jitters like mad). The presentation is fine in all other respects, including the audio. Supplements consist of the original theatrical trailer and a new video promo spot, a photo gallery, the original poster, production notes (which usually just duplicate what is on the case but feature an even shorter, less persuasive write-up this time), and bios/filmographies (which unfairly give top spot to minor player Wong Jing). There are also promos for three other recent SB releases.

is available at Poker Industries.

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