Comparison between the Mandarin version on Side B of the Hong Kong DVD by Universe and the Hong Kong version (due to better picture quality from the French DVD, also included on the upscale Blu-ray from Hong Kong with the same content, and in poorer quality on Side A of the Universe DVD).
A few additional master errors with a duration of less than 0.5 sec each were not listed in the report.
Righting Wrongs (a.k.a. Above the Law) is a small gem of '80s action cinema from Hong Kong. Cynthia Rothrock and Yuen Biao show their skills impressively here and the whole thing is basically mandatory viewing for the genre fan. Unfortunately, there are a few different versions floating around here as well. Similar to Millionaires' Express, you have to break it down a bit more.
There are three main versions, each with exclusive scenes as well as cuts, and no version that contains ALL of the material. The version, originally made in English for export, was then further cut in some countries after the fact. In short summary:
1. Hong Kong version - 93 min PAL / 97 min NTSC
2. Mandarin version - 94 min PAL [would be equivalent to 98 min in NTSC].
3. Export version - 87 min PAL [would correspond to 90 min in NTSC].
3a. British VHS - 87 min PAL
3b. German version - 85 min PAL
3c. French version - 73 min PAL
The differences between Mandarin and Hong Kong versions
As summarized above, the most notable difference is the alternate ending. The Hong Kong version probably corresponds to director Corey Yuen's original version. Supposedly, however, the audience didn't like the fact that the characters of both Yuen Biao and Cynthia Rothrock die here at the end. Both were changed through subsequent filming and minor re-cuts. On top of that, Biao is sentenced for his vigilante justice in a court of law after his rescue, so that one had a legally exemplary resolution, which is especially desired in some Asian countries.
Along with that, however, there were definitely some violence cuts made throughout the film. Since the Mandarin version was the template for the export releases, several death scenes are less drastic here as well. Even in its edited form, the film is still quite brutal, but it's a shame, of course, that they thus had a clearly pre-censored version as a basis. It can also be seen that shots were often simply shortened a bit instead of being removed completely. Here and there, the film seems a bit more briskly edited in the Mandarin/export form.
Otherwise, it's interesting to note that 10 minutes of additional footage can be found in the Mandarin version. All in all, these are largely useful scenes that better explain small plot holes or unclear connections of the Hong Kong version. Most of it has also made it into the export version, where other scenes have been removed that are largely included in both the Hong Kong and Mandarin versions. Only in two places does material remain exclusive to the Mandarin version. Conversely, the removed plot scenes, which are exclusive to the Hong Kong version, are actually less exciting.
So which version should you prefer? The question is not so easy to answer. Due to the harder action, we tend to recommend the Hong Kong version, which is also more widely distributed and available in better quality.The additional material of the Mandarin as well as the export version is definitely worth seeing. For future releases it would be great to be able to choose between both versions. Apart from the finale, which differs greatly in content, it would theoretically also be quite conceivable to create a hybrid cut as with Millionaire's Express - but that is of course pure dreams of the future for now.
Runtimes are ordered as follows: Mandarin version on Universe DVD in PAL speed / Hong Kong version on French DVD in PAL speed
Only the Hong Kong version has various logos at the beginning. The French distributor is also included on this DVD from France at the start. Since with Side A of the Universe DVD with the Hong Kong version also all logos were omitted, this also explains the somewhat shorter runtime of ~ 92 minutes there.
Not included in cut duration/quantity.
Note: The export version has English credits on a black background (58 sec) for the introduction instead. These are missing from the Universe DVD. It starts, completely without any logos, right with the first exterior shot - and this again also completely without location inserts. These are in English for the export version, and in Chinese for the Hong Kong version.
01:15 / 02:37-02:38
The gun on the side of the instrument is seen a moment earlier.
There was also a bit of tightening in the shots shortly after.
01:36 / 02:59-03:00
Another shot of Chan right before the guy in the car shoots the professor.
01:38 / 03:02-03:03
The professor is shot at longer.
01:40 / 03:05-03:06
After the next close-up of Chan, there is another shot of the professor, where you can see a bloody hit to the knee.
02:02 / 03:28
Before the car bounces down the meadow, a few frames were tightened again.
03:13 / 04:40
After the chase, Chan gets out of his car and points his gun at the car. In the Mandarin and export versions, there is a sudden cut, making it look like the car explodes by itself. In the Hong Kong version, however, Chan shoots at the gas tank, causing the car to explode.
Note: In minute 3 / 4, identical credits come in Chinese. These inserts are, of course, only missing from the export version (as well as the UK and German releases based on it), since that's where the extra credits were for the introduction.
Mandarin and export versions longer.
04:19-05:07 / 05:46
After an initial shot of the family at the table, dialogue is missing in the Hong Kong version. The wife is upset that her husband always has to play the star witness. Because of this missing dialogue, the Hong Kong version doesn't quite make it clear why the entire family is murdered.
Daughter 1: "But I want to see Mickey Mouse! Dad? Why can't we watch Mickey Mouse?"
Father : "That's not possible now! You can see we want to watch the soccer game."
Wife : "You'd better play with your father, who knows how long you'll have him..."
Father : "Would you please stop this nonsense!"
Wife : "I'm worried! Why do you have to stick your nose into police business? You are a supervisor, not a policeman! Why do you have to play witness all the time? That's not your job and you don't get paid for it. What if you get caught? Do you think the cops will take care of us then?"
Father : "Of course they will! Now cut it out, this thing is about heroin. These guys belong in jail."
Daughter : "Why are you ranting, Daddy?"
Father : "I'm just trying to explain something. Think about our children for once! What kind of world are they supposed to grow up in?"
Lastly, a shot of the killer coming into the building.
Note: Comes with the export version of 05:17-06:06 on the African DVD and has been illustrated for the better quality of it..
+ 48.6 sec
05:11 / 05:49-05:50
The killer steps behind the red door to open it a moment earlier.
05:13 / 05:52-05:53
The same shot is a little longer: he looks down at the children threateningly for longer.
05:15 / 05:55-05:56
The next shot in the hallway also a little earlier.
Following this, a few irrelevant frames are lost again.
05:22 / 06:04-06:05
A shot in the outside aisle much earlier.
During the following assassination, again irrelevant frames (several times <0.5 sec) are lost.
08:17-08:18 or 08:24 / 09:01 or 09:07-09:10
After the verdict is announced, gang boss Johnny (James Tien) contentedly high-fives his colleague Bill. This comes in the HK version only a few seconds later. Only there follows another shot of the lawyer looking resigned.
Hong Kong version 1.6 sec longer
09:26 / 10:12-10:17
While Chan and the judge are in the office, the gangsters are seen walking past the window outside. Missing from the Mandarin and export version is how they walk to the car. Before that, an additional shot of the judge indicating a gun with his hand.
Mandarin and export version longer.
09:51-10:14 / 10:42
After Chan leaves the office, the Hong Kong version is missing Chan putting a cassette in his tape recorder in the car and driving down the highway. Besides that, a short flashback is missing - how Chan and his mentor talk at the beginning of the film.
Note: Comes with the export version of 10:12-10:35 on the African DVD and has been illustrated for the better quality of it..
+ 23.1 sec
Mandarin and export version longer.
11:11-11:24 / 11:39
The child comes back with the ice cream and there is again a lack of dialogue that would have somewhat filled the logic gap in the Hong Kong version:
Child : "Here!"
Father : "Thank you!"
Chan : "Thank you! (To father) : These criminal drug dealers must be eliminated, also for the sake of their children."
Child : "Were you talking about me?"
Father : "Fine, I'll do it."
Note: Comes with the export version of 11:31-11:44 on the African DVD and has been illustrated for the better quality of it..
+ 12.7 sec
Mandarin and export version longer.
11:46-12:52 / 12:02
Another serious cut. Completely missing from the Hong Kong version is Chan marking one of the two gangsters with a red pen in his penthouse and then changing for a night action.
Note: Comes with the export version of 12:07-13:13 on the African DVD, and has been illustrated for the better quality of it..
+ 65.6 sec (= 1:06 min)
14:52 / 14:02-14:03
A shot of Chan in the car insignificantly earlier.
14:59 / 14:10-14:15
Another shot of Chan and Bill walking to the door.
15:29 / 14:44-14:47
Chan sneaks around the room a little longer.