Comparison between the German Blu-ray from Koch Media (identical to the Japanese Blu-ray by Twin/Paramount and several DVD releases worldwide, e.g. the US DVD by Dragon Dynasty) and the 2021 British Blu-ray from Arrow Video
Those who are somewhat familiar with the Shaw films should know that the versions on DVD and Blu-ray, which have been in common use worldwide since the mid-2000s, often have "framecuts". The Asian rights holder Celestial messed this up during the restoration: frames around the splices between individual shots or fractions damaged for whatever reasons were rigorously cut instead of carefully reconstructing the moments or simply leaving them as they were. Depending on the length of the film, this resulted in a loss of up to 5 minutes of running time, which is hardly noticeable during normal viewing. Fights in particular, however, often seem a bit jerky due to the quick shots being cut further for a few frames each. Annoyingly, some shots were also completely lost from time to time. That's why it was so exciting to see what the 7 new Arrow restorations might finally reveal in comparison to previous versions.
King Boxer is included on disc 1 in the set. It was initially released as 5 Fingers of Death in the US by Warner, becoming the first major Shaw title with success at the box office outside of Asia. The US DVD release by Dragon Dynasty used the Celestial restoration. The running time difference here is immediately noticeable:
Minus Arrow's missing references to Celestial at the beginning/end, the new restoration is 4:43 minutes longer. At least we can state after a detailed comparison: These are almost without exception irrelevant, classic "framecuts". Almost every shot is a few insignificant frames longer, without there being anything exciting for the viewer to discover.
As with the report on The Boxer of Shantung, however, there is at least one shot that is completely missing. Much more often, more than 2 seconds in the beginning/end of shots are lost at a time. We also mentioned these somewhat longer missing moments. All not too spectacular. Nevertheless, it is nice to be able to see the film in its complete form again for the first time since the VHS days.
The introductory logo of the framecuts perpetrators from Celestial is consequently missing from the new Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
Note: It does, however, come separately before the film file.
+ 11 sec
04:14 / 04:12-04:15
The first close-up of the meal starts much earlier.
05:06 / 05:08-05:11
The long shot at the beginning of the fight is much longer. You can see various other steps taken by the two competitors.
08:45 / 08:56-08:59
Yen rests her head longer on Zhao's shoulder and turns it away to the side.
Note: In the 60th/62nd minute this can be seen again in a shortened flashback. At this moment, the head movement can also be seen in the old Celestial Master.
19:17 / 19:54-19:57
For the scene transition, a shot of the moon can be seen here briefly. This shot is the first/only one that is missing completely in the better-known Celestial Master.
38:10 / 39:37-39:40
At the end and beginning of two shots, Zhao jams his fingers into the hot stones one more time.
40:41 / 42:05-42:10
Zhao and Yen go round in circles much earlier.
52:30 / 54:33-54:36
The shot of Zhao is clearly longer before you see the letter in close-up.
53:03 / 55:12
Actually just a typical framecut, but it's a striking moment: When Zhao throws the spear at an opponent who is jumping at him from above, the shot starts a little earlier. It is thus clearer to see how the guy is hit by the spear.
59:31 / 61:56-61:58
In the Celestial-Master, the shot only begins when the door is already completely open. In the Arrow version, it is still closed at the beginning.
101:11-101:23 / 105:40-105:55
The last shot (walking away through the alley) is much longer. As on previous VHS releases, a small jumpcut can be noticed. Here the end credit begins to fade in and there is a soft transition to the last shot of the sun.
In the Celestial master, the fade-in was used way earlier. Additionally some slow motion was applied to hide this. The end credit shown here differs from Arrow's original version and it appears only very briefly.
Arrow Video 3 sec longer
After the end credit, there are no more references to Celestial, as in the beginning of the film.
+ 12 sec