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School on Fire

original title: Hok hau fung wan


  • Hongkong Laserdisc / DVD
  • US-VHS (Tai Seng)
Release: Jan 11, 2020 - Author: Muck47 - Translator: Muck47 - external link: IMDB
Comparison between the censored Hongkong laserdisc of Golden Cinema City and the uncensored version on the US VHS of Tai Seng

47 Deviations, thereof
* 34 cuts
* 11 plain audio censorships
* 1 re-cut
* 1 scenes with alternative material

Difference: 167.8 sec (= 2:48 min)

A few small additional jumpcuts under 0.5 sec were not listed in the cut report.

Before he directed several films with Van Damme, director Ringo Lam was responsible in Asia for City on Fire with Chow Yun-Fat, for which it is known that Quentin Tarantino based his debut Reservoir Dogs on. Lam directed two other films with similar "...on Fire" titles, which deal with social grievances in their respective milieus. Prison on Fire, which also features Yun-Fat, shows clashes in prison, while the film School on Fire focuses on triad crimes in schools.

School on Fire has already been massively censored in Hong Kong at an early stage. This did not only concern the violence, but especially various scenes with obscene dialogues, gambling, drugs, corruption or other criminal activities. All home cinema releases in Hongkong had such cuts (and even several newly recorded dialogues only on the soundtrack). The following report was done with the laserdisc.

Strangely enough, the US-VHS from the label Tai Seng again came up with a much longer version, which seems to contain Lam's original vision before it suffered from the HK censorship. But beware: There is another edition of the Tai Seng VHS in circulation, which is longer than the regular version, but still e.g. has some cuts in the final.

It should also be noted that the more widespread HK-DVD by Joy Sales was also available for comparison and that this is largely identical to the laserdisc. Several jumpcuts of the LD are not to be found here any more, also a handful of short scenes with conceivable censorship background are present. A few cuts deviate slightly fore a few frames and there is one additional cut on this DVD. Overall, however, the censorship was clearly applied at the same places, so these small peculiarities of the HK-DVD will be dealt with as sidenotes in this comparison for the sake of simplicity.

On 27/12/2019 a Blu-ray was released. It contains a version that is way longer than the old Hongkong laserdisc/DVD but sadly isn't uncensored either. The differences are noted in a separate comparison.

Timecodes follow the scheme
Hongkong laser disc in NTSC / US-VHS in NTSC
Thanks to Mr. Odessa of the forum we could add some explanations on audio censorship as he provided more accurate translations.

Audio censorship
01:27-01:41 / 01:27-01:41

First scene at school: A boy excitedly talks about his sexual experiences. The footage is also available on the HK-LD, but you can no longer hear his words and the corresponding subtitles have been removed - because of the latter one could (in contrast to later tone censorships) still illustrate the HK-LD for comparison, but it was limited to the uncensored footage of the VHS.

Images for orientation

03:46 / 03:46-03:54

On the HK-LD a wicked arm gesture is missing at the end of the shot. Afterwards you see the teacher smoking in front of the door.

Note: This passage is included on the HK-DVD by Joy Sales.

8.5 sec

04:30 / 04:38-05:01

Another scene with the same teacher (Sir Chan) which contains references to gambling. When he comes in paper planes are thrown at him, but he asks for cooperation. After all he wants to win something tonight. One of the students tells him about a lucrative horse race. Chan waves him off, however.

23.4 sec

Note: Directly afterwards the other teacher refers to the condom drawing on the blackboard again (this was the scene right before the cut) and says angrily: "No one admit? All of you copy this sentence 1000 times."
The HK-LD contains this as well as the US-VHS but it is missing on the HK-DVD by Joy Sales.

06:14 / 06:45-06:51

Lam takes out another knife and runs after Brother Scar.
A more suitable translation of his threat would be "You motherfuckers think I'm a joke?"

6.5 sec

06:27 / 07:05-07:14

When Lam kicks he hits a woman instead of Brother Scar, who immediately rolls down the stairs. Her daughter whimpers and Lam continues to attack.

9.6 sec

Audio censorship
10:18-10:21 / 11:06-11:09

A sentence at the table was newly recorded here. The subtitles between LD and US-VHS are unfortunately identical, mentioning "chop him". On DVD there is talk of "just kill him" but apparently the actual reason for this change was that he said "kill the motherfucker" in the original version.

Bilder zur Einordnung

10:33 / 11:21-11:23

The table can be seen earlier, before the tea is handed over.

Note: This passage is included on the HK DVD.

2.1 sec

Audio censorship

The dialogue also deviates slightly immediately afterwards. Again the same subtitles on LD/VHS. As a more accurate translation Smart Guy says something about the new underworld not bothering with worthless traditions in the original version.

Audio censorship
11:05-11:07 / 11:55-11:57

When the guy comes to the table and points to the approaching police, the sentence was newly recorded. It's a more offensive slang word in the original version, similar to "pigs".

Audio censorship
12:00-12:03 / 12:50-12:53

Another different sentence as Brother Smart mentions "Red Pocket". Once again the Cantonese equivalent of the word "motherfucker" was the reason for overdubbing here.

A few seconds later the word "red pocket" is mentioned again.

Audio censorship
22:25-22:27 / 23:15-23:17

When George and Wan clash, the sentence of the former was re-recorded. Probably a different insult. In the original version he says "Fuck you!"

Audio censorship
22:36-22:38 / 23:26-23:28

Same thing shortly afterwards, when George explains himself to the director. As this guy is on Smart Guy's payroll, he threatens to "go over his head" in the original version (referring to the higher authorities). This was weakened a bit by just saying "report him" now.

25:04 / 25:54-26:12

Mr. Wan goes to Brother Smart and asks what is going on. Smart says that his brother had told him about the quarrels and Wan even beat him today.
Wan doesn't answer, but tells Chu that she should leave. This obviously irritates one of Smart's companions, as he gives Wan a rough push and reminds him that Big Brother is talking to him right now.

18.1 sec

25:54 / 27:02-27:07

Smart threatens Wan that he's only a teacher.

Note: This passage is included on the HK DVD.

4.5 sec

25:57 / 27:10-27:11

And the shot is also longer, Smart slaps Wan lightly on the cheek.

Note: This passage is included on the HK DVD.

1.2 sec

26:09 / 27:23-27:26

Smart flicks Wan's cigarette in his face before he drives away.

3.2 sec

26:32 / 27:49-28:05

More scenes from the card game. You can see here how they process drugs and meanwhile there is talk of a recent police control. One of them had to swallow all the packages, which gave him diarrhoea.

15.9 sec

26:50 / 28:23-28:27

Smart makes another nasty comment about the lightly dressed couple.

4.2 sec

27:07 / 28:44-28:45

Minor jumpcut before Chu is pushed over to Smart.

0.5 sec

Audio censorship
36:08-36:10 / 37:46-37:48

Lung responds differently to the girl's request for a dance. Sadly, both version are subtitled with "Bullshit!" but in the original it's actually once again "Motherfucker!"

43:41 / 45:19-45:28

The conversation in the hallway is a little longer. Chu is suggested to keep her triad friend Little Scar happy ("candy him").

8.7 sec

45:09 / 46:56-46:58

Smart talks a little longer. The subtitles don't offer any additional words to what is seen in the Hongkong version.

Note: With the HK DVD, the cut is the same, but slightly shifted or at the end of the shot instead of at the beginning.

2.5 sec

45:30 / 47:19-47:20

Minor jumpcut before Siu-chun comes to her boyfriend.

Note: This passage is included on the HK DVD.

0.9 sec

45:47 / 47:37-47:38

Again a few frames are lost as they snarl at each other.
According to the subtitles, the following dialogue is about their prostitution income, maybe there were also some questionable words that were hacked off with those missing frames.

Note: This passage is included on the HK-DVD.

0.7 sec

45:56 / 47:47-47:49

A kick in the genital area in close-up.

Note: This passage is included on the HK DVD.

1.8 sec

49:19 / 51:12-51:15

After Mrs. Kwok was informed about her daughter's pill-taking, the middle part of the shot was removed. The mother gets upset here that the daughter used cusswords in public.

Note: The middle part of the HK-DVD was removed in the same way, but only 1.5 sec instead of the LD which is cut here for...

3 sec

Audio censorship
61:35-61:37 / 63:31-63:33

During the police inspection in the bar, one of the sentences was overdubbed here. It's probably about triad slang, respectively the "viewer" mentioned in the subtitles means a member.

Audio censorship
61:55-61:57 / 63:51-63:53

Redubbing again shortly afterwards, again whilst talking about a "viewer".

65:34 / 67:30

Jumpcut: Smart looks over to the side a little earlier.

Note: This passage is included on the HK DVD.

0.6 sec

Audio censorship
71:15-71:20 / 73:11-73:16

Again a plain audio censorship, but this time interestingly enough also with alternative subtitles when George and Wan clash. Funnily enough the sentence sounds even more harmless according to the translation on the US-VHS. A YouTube clip about the censorship in this movie (deleted by now) explained that a more fitting translation for George's comment would be "What's your fucking problem?", maybe this was the issue.


72:14 / 74:10-74:15

Another pan shot through the classroom, where you see the students beating each other.

4.6 sec

73:46 / 75:47-75:48

Jumpcut: After Man-Hung and Wan leave the restaurant, a setting starts insignificantly earlier.

Note: This passage is included on the HK DVD.

0.5 sec

78:53 / 80:55-80:56

Jumpcut in the middle of the shot, some of Man-Hung's shouts have been removed. Subtitles are missing here completely, but the YouTube clip just mentioned also gives a presumably accurate translation, which explains a censorship cut at this point: "I don't mind going to jail for burning you!

Note: The DVD is basically just as censored, but less bumpy, since only the end of the shot has been removed.

1.4 sec

80:04 / 82:07-82:08

The shot starts earlier, so there are more stabs in Man-Hung's stomach.

1.3 sec

82:06 / 84:10-84:11

Jumpcut, the ambulance can be seen insignificantly earlier.

Note: This passage is included on the HK DVD.

0.8 sec

89:07 / 91:12-91:13

Before the stabbing, there's another insult. In the HK version, this was simply cut out by a rough jumpcut - even though the English subtitles, which are burned into the picture and are faded in a bit longer, still reveal what was said here in the HK-LD.

Note: On the DVD, the rest of the shot is missing too. So it also seems less bumpy.

0.9 sec

89:17 / 91:23-91:24

Probably just another jumpcut: The man on the ground can be seen a little earlier.

Note: This passage is included on the HK DVD.

0.6 sec

91:04 / 93:11-93:16

More brawling on the ground, although rough violence is not really apparent here.

5.3 sec

93:07 / 95:19-95:21

More stabbing on the stairs.

2 sec

93:08 / 95:22-95:25

The next shot of this also starts much earlier.

3 sec

94:09 / 96:26-96:29

Smart and co run back inside with their machetes. The policemen intervene and put two henchmen out of action.

3.6 sec

94:13-94:14 / 96:33-96:36

The HK version now reinserts the short end of previous shot, showing the arrest of the two henchmen (not illustrated again). On the US VHS you instead see Smart and co running through the room longer. The bloodstained back thanks to punctures may have been the reason for cutting this moment.

US-VHS 1.6 sec longer

97:37 / 99:59-100:00

Smart tears down Chu's top a little longer and also yells "motherfucker" in this moment.

1.3 sec

97:41 / 100:04-100:23

Smart tears open the panties, wipes off some blood and throws them over to Scar. He talks about raping Chu and opens his bow tie while Scar whimpers. Once again, "motherfucker" can be heard during this scene.

18.6 sec

98:25-98:33 / 101:07-101:21

In the regular version the image freezes for ~ 2 sec at the last frame of the falling smart. After that you see a first long shot of the injured people being carried away.

The US-VHS, on the other hand, shows the effect in further shots: Smart lands on the grid and dies. His blood runs down to the sign of the school.

US-VHS 6.5 sec longer

101:01-101:23 / 103:48

The Hongkong laserdisc has a reference to Golden Princess at the very end.
Not included in cut duration/amount.

+ 22.1 sec