Comparison between the cut US DVD by Columbia TriStar and the uncut British Blu-ray by 88 Films.
A few additional master errors with a duration of less than 0.5 sec each were not listed in the report.
Shaolin Wooden Men, which was shot in 1976 before his breakthrough (and also before his eye surgery), is definitely one of the more interesting early works of Jackie Chan. A new 2K restoration by 88 Films is available for the first time in the UK on Blu-ray since November 09, 2020. The Blu-rays available so far worldwide and e.g. also in Germany were SD upscales. As with Shaolin Kung Fu, we now look back on early DVD releases. While there were a few alternative shots to discover, it can be said that with Shaolin Wooden Men this is not the case.
We have already compared the Hong Kong DVD by Winners Video, which is slightly cut by less than a minute. In the following report, we will take a look at the US DVD by Columbia TriStar, which lacks in particular the long intro sequence. However, the approximately two minutes directly following it, in which Jackie and his life in the monastery are briefly introduced, are also lost. On top of that, the picture quality was of course anything but exciting, even though it was "only" zoomed from 2.35:1 to 16:9 instead of full screen. Either way, with the new 2K restoration, this is basically just a historical document.
Runtimes are ordered as follows: US DVD in NTSC / British Blu-ray
The Fortune Star logo is available on all Blu-rays and was not included here in the runtime difference.
00:00-00:09 / 00:36-10:45
The US DVD starts only with a frozen view of a wooden man with the English title.
In the original version, we start with several short shots of Chinese letters and in between we see meditating monks. Each of the five monks has one of the Chinese letters hanging under his seat. Jackie goes into fighting pose and accompanied by a gong, the first monk attacks him. He can hardly do anything against Jackie and is beaten up by all means; in the end, the monk gets a strong blow on the head. The second monk uses the well-known snake technique, but Jackie is clearly superior.
The next monk first blocks Jackie's kick and Jackie does a few back flips. Now the monk's character is visible and a gong sounds. However, this one also has no chance, Jackie dodges or blocks his punches several times. He also gets a blow on the head and you can see Jackie posing again. After the well-known procedure (with a gong underneath), the fourth monk also tries his luck and although this fight is more artistic than the previous ones, Jackie clearly has the upper hand. The fight ends with Jackie ramming his elbow into the chest of the man lying on the ground and stopping just in front of his eyes with his fingers. The attacking fifth monk is more technically skilled in the beginning and attacks again even after a few heavy kicks, but eventually loses.
Jackie poses for a while in front of the five defeated monks, then he enters the chamber that is now open to him. Here follows the opening credits before shots of more wooden men. Afterwards, he starts to fight against them, but has no chance at all. With wounds on his face he crawls out through a small hole on the floor.
We continue in a small dormitory and it becomes clear that Jackie only dreamed of the whole confrontation. We learn that he is mute and the other students make fun of him for being like a dog. One of the students says that they should go to the training now. This is followed by several shots of the goings-on in the monastery. Finally, the drunkard grumbles at two students and takes a sip with pleasure.
Blu-ray in total 600.6 sec (= 10:01 min)
07:37 / 18:13-18:14
When Jackie is shown fetching water, there is a jumpcut right at the first frames.
The scene in minute 12/21 actually takes place at night. On the Blu-ray, the color filter is missing - but on the US DVD, you usually don't see anything.
53:44 / 64:24-64:27
Jackie takes another step forward and the follow-up shot of the trio much earlier.
Also in minute 55 / 66, we see largely simply only see a black image on the US DVD with Kam Kong's escape. Shown here is a later part of the scene, where at least outlines in the dark can be guessed.
By the way, here is a screenshot of a scene that is not so artificially darkened. The US DVD is missing some picture information at the top and bottom. In addition, the end fade-in appears on Blu-ray during the last shot, while it follows on a red background on the US DVD. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray also has a Fortune Star note.