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September 2, 2009
Big Touble in Little China Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
14/8/19863/9/2009FoxJohn Carpenter
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MKurt Russell

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Kurt Russell in his heyday.

While it has since become a cult classic Big Trouble in Little China was, upon release, a box office failure with an American box office take of just over $US11 million which was less then half the $US25 million production budget. It was made even worse due to the director, John Carpenter, and Kurt Russell's star power. This was the third collaboration between the director and star after Escape from New York and The Thing.

When trucker Jack Burton agreed to take his friend Wang Chi to pick up his fiancée at the airport, he never expected to get involved in a supernatural battle between good and evil. Wang's fiancée has emerald green eyes, which make her a perfect target for an immortal sorcerer named Lo Pan and his three invincible cronies. Lo Pan must marry a girl with green eyes so he can regain his physical form. Now, Jack must save Wang's fiancée from Lo Pan and his henchmen, and win back his stolen truck. But how can he defeat an enemy who has no body?

Make no mistake about it, this is very much a campy 1980's martial arts action movie. Dialogue is pretty horrendous in places, and the acting is pretty average in places too. Still, despite all that this remains a movie which I can watch over and over. It's over the top, whacky, and just a joy to sit back and watch. I can understand why this failed at the box office, but I can also understand why in the last two decades this movie has built a cult following.

If you've seen Big Trouble in Little China then you should recall the wonderful lightning effects (Which still look great today we might add), the floating head with multiple eyes, and of course the truck which Jack Burton seems to love more then anything else. In recent years one of the movies' stars, Kim Cattrall, has hit major stardom thanks for Sex and the City so you can get that to lure your wife/girlfriend to watch this movie - not that they will stay too long though! If you have never seen this movie then we recommend you check it out, as long as you have an open mind (and/or a bottle of whisky nearby).

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Big Trouble In Little China - mysterious.
Dated, yes. Camp, yes. Classic, of course.

Initial impressions of Big Trouble in Little China on Blu-Ray are extremely disappointing, and quite concerning, with a lack of detail, inconsistent contrast levels and excessive grain. Fortunately after the first few minutes this movie improves considerably. Encoded at the films original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 using the AVC MPEG-4 codec, this is a quite impressive transfer overall.

For a movie now 23 years old the detail levels are good, and colours are vibrant. There is a fairly consistent level of grain throughout and the print is remarkably clean. Certainly a highly are the visual effects which, to this day, still look quite wonderful - particularly the lightning bolts and electricity which frequently appear. Without doubt this is as good as the movie has looked on any home format - certainly much improved over the DVD releases.

If I am to nitpick beyond the opening scene it's that some of the scenes look a little blurry and lacking definition while some of the darker scenes can look a little washed out and lacking deep black levels without grain appearing. Still, there's nothing horrible here, just don't expect a glossy 'Hollywood' look.

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That is, in fact, Kim Cattrall.
As with almost every other 20th Century Fox release the primary audio track is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Big Trouble in Little China was released in cinemas with a Stereo audio mix and as a result the mix on this release is very front heavy with little use of the surround sound channels. We were, however impressed with the LFE effects to get that sub-woofer shaking the room nicely. Dialogue is pretty clear.

Other audio tracks on this disc include English and Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks at 224kbps, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps, and a Russian DTS 5.1 at 768kbps. All tracks are pretty good but there are certainly improvements as you move up from 2 channel, to 448kbps, 640kbps, DTS and then the primary English DTS-HD Master Audio track. Subtitles are provided in multiple languages and the English track looked to get the job done to an acceptable level.

All the extras on this disc have been ported over from the 2-disc DVD set so if you have that you won't see much new here at all, if anything actually. Anyway time to see what we have...

Audio Commentary with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell: This really is a fantastic commentary with some great recollections and banter between the two participants. Well worth a listen if you're a fan of the movie (as one would assume you are if you're buying the disc!).

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Big Trouble in Little China - strange.
Isolated Music Score: Presented in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 this allows you to watch the movie with the delightful music score isolated so you can listen to it on its own. Impressive, 1980's, electronic, by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth.

Deleted Scenes (35:54): Seven deleted/extended scenes as well as a long video with a tonne of short deleted moments are presented here in both work print and video form. The audio and video quality is pretty average but it's interesting to see what could have been.

Extended Ending (3:05): An alternate ending taht has been put together from workprints for the DVD/Blu-Ray release.

Vintage Featurette (7:28): We assume made to coincide with the theatrical release this is an EPK styled promotional piece. There's not much more here then retelling of the story and very brief interviews with some of the cast.

Music Video (3:28): Oh dear. It's the theme song from the movie which is as terrible as 1980's rock/pop/electronic ever got. It may be terrible, but its welcome on this disc in any case.

Richard Edlund Interview (13:25): Quite an interesting interview about the production of the movie. Still images of what is being discussed are shown to the side, however you can change to look at them in full screen by changing angles which is cool.

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It's a head/eye/thing - just watch the movie.
Trailer A, Trailer B, Spanish Trailer, TV Spots (11:07): The title says it all really. Sadly like all the extras these are only in Standard Definition.

Gallery: This is an impressive gallery of 262 images from the production of this movie. You can skip images, or they cycled through in about seventeen and a half minutes.

If you like this movie then there is no reason not to pick up this Blu-Ray release. The visuals and audio are both superb, and the extras are also impressive (although ported from the 2-disc DVD set). Big Trouble in Little China is well worth adding to your collection.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.