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DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES




The New One-Armed Swordsman

original title: Xin du bi dao

Comparison:

  • Final Cut (T.V.P.)
  • 35mm version (T.V.P.)
Release: Mar 15, 2023 - Author: Muck47 - Translator: Muck47 - external link: IMDB

Comparison between the final cut and the German 35mm version, both included on the 2023 Blu-ray reissue of T.V.P. (The Vengeance Pack).


- 25 documented missing bits
- Duration: 21.4 sec

Also 6 missing bits on the 35mm version with a duration of 11 sec

Several other master defects in the 35mm and "framecuts" in the Celestial version with a duration of less than 0.5 sec were not listed in the cut report.

Running times: Final Cut TVP 99:09 min / 35mm TVP 102:11 min


THE NEW ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN and the problem with framecuts

The phenomenon of "framecuts" is well known among Eastern fans and by now we have quite a few reports in the archive that reveal in more detail which (more or less) relevant parts have fallen been lost this way, especially in Celestial restorations of the Shaw films. The New One-Armed Swordsman is certainly one of the best known examples, for which we could not deliver several reports so far, because apart from obscure foreign VHS no uncut alternative without framecuts was known. That almost changes with the German Blu-ray re-release of T.V.P. (The Vengeance Pack), available since March 10, 2023. But first things first.

The first DVD and Blu-ray editions of T.V.P. had one less than 2 sec long moment towards the end inserted from another source. Otherwise, the film was 4 minutes too short thanks to framecuts, because the Celestial master was used. As with many other Shaws, this title was restored in Asia by Celestial and rigorously trimmed in almost every shot to cover up damage. This film has often been cited as a prime example of this sorry practice, because both entire shots and small bits of violence in the fight scenes were lost in this way. The fact that T.V.P. obviously also had another image source available at the time, and that they still only selectively inserted just a mini-moment, has been discussed critically accordingly.

This is where the 2023 Blu-ray reissue comes in, which for the first time includes a quasi-uncut 35mm scan and a "final cut" created from the Celestial master and selected inserts from the 35mm version. As the first of several comparisons, we've compared these two versions included on Disc 1 of the Mediabook in more detail.


Two new versions of T.V.P. and Shaw releases internationally.

The 35mm version is by far the longest version in which you get to see the film. Especially around reel changes this version also isn't complete either, but these bits are basically negligible. However, this version has unfortunately not been restored extensively, as was the case in the UK/USA by Arrow Video in the two boxes Shawscope Vol. 1 and 2 released in 2021 and 2022 for a total of 16 films. We briefly recall at this point that Arrow's Shawscope sets included for the first time uncut and indeed clearly superior quality re-scans of Shaw classics such as The Boxer from Shantung and The Invincible Shaolin.

In contrast, the 35mm version of The New One-Armed Swordsman suffers from the usual flaws that come with such a raw 35mm scan: In addition to small jump cuts, countless dropouts and damage to the image are especially noticeable. Furthermore, the picture is comparatively colorless in contrast to the bright and colorful Celestial master. This look of a worn out theatrical print has, conversely, a certain grindhouse charm, of course. We've uploaded a few uncompressed screenshots here.

The means for (an unquestionably more cost-intensive) remastering process as with the Arrow boxes and/or simply access to less worn-out original material were in any case probably not available. Therefore the label went a different way. In addition to the 35mm version, which  thankfully is also selectable on the disc, the main feature is the so-called "Final Cut", which is proudly presented as a self-creation according to the logo of T.V.P. which was added at the beginning.

Here, the Celestial master was used as a basis and (minus the logos) 18 seconds of additional material were added. We will deal with these differences in a separate report. Unfortunately T.V.P. solely focused on the moments mentioned in e.g. the OFDb - even though the listing clearly classified it as exemplary for "over 100 spots". Only these 18 sec were at least reasonably restored in the final cut or cleaned of the aforementioned dirt and processed in the color grading.


The still incomplete final cut of T.V.P.

With this comparison we can say for the time being: In the end the final cut is the best way to watch the film so far, but it's still a bummer in the end. If you take the pompously formulated approach of a "final" hybrid cut with a new edition, a lot more would have been possible.

With framecut differences of often a total of 3-5 minutes in the Celestial versions, it is always a subjective choice, even in our reports, which small moments are really worth mentioning and should be listed as "real" missing bits. A restriction to a duration of at least 0.5 sec (apart from striking moments during action scenes) or complete shots has proven to be sensible here, although every moment documented in this way can of course be individually classified as irrelevant by the viewer.

Thus, we make no claim to completeness in this particular type of comparison, but according to this scheme, at least 20 sec of additional material can be discovered in the 35mm. At this point it should be emphasized right away that on the other hand the few moments actually added for the final cut are several times even less than 0.5 sec long and most of them are not related to scenes of violence. Since such short passages were taken into account, it doesn't really make sense that, conversely, significantly longer moments with a duration of even more than one second were ignored. But as said, T.V.P. has probably simply followed what was already document in the OFDb instead of really checking the versions themselves in detail for differences.

The present release was announced by the label way back in July 2018 with the promise of a "completely uncut source". Quite a few Facebook posts have been deleted in the meantime, but are of course documented in dedicated film forums. In any case, T.V.P. has been eagerly advertising their worldwide uncut premiere for over 4 years. As with Black Mask (editing errors in both the extended cut and the T.V.P. cut), this leaves at least a bad taste in what is in itself a good approach to such a complex case in terms of cuts.

However, each fan may of course decide separately if that's actually an issue. There is no better alternative for now anyway. Positively can be attested besides still that plentifully bonus material was collected. The final cut comes with new audio(k)commentaries and on a second Blu-ray, in addition to the original Celestial version (without the one spot inserted by TVP on the old DVD/BD), there are also some more featurettes as well as, for example, all three Super 8 versions of the film.


Running time information is arranged according to the scheme
Final Cut Blu-ray in 23.976fps / 35mm version Blu-ray in 24fps

The Final Cut starts with Celestial and TVP logos. Not included in cut duration/quantity.

+ 14.3 sec




00:40-00:50 / 00:26

After the identical intro from Scotia Film, the 35mm is missing the first half of the Shawscope logo. Not included in cut duration/quantity.

Note: The Shaw logo used in the final cut is also, however, strangely enough a version that is significantly inferior in quality to the Celestial master.

+ 9.6 sec




The following first shots of the film were taken from the 35mm master for the final cut, but cleaned of quite a bit of damage and color adjusted a bit.

T.V.P. Final CutT.V.P. 35mm



At this point, we'll get ahead of ourselves with three more comparative images from the film to explain why the Celestial master otherwise served as the basis for the final cut. The unrestored 35mm version is comparatively colorless and massively inferior, especially in dark scenes. The aspect ratio is also somewhat smaller, which is rather strange for a 35mm source. The last comparison image shows a scene with another inserted bit in the Final Cut.

T.V.P. Final CutT.V.P. 35mm




Back to the opening credits, which still have a few differences:

01:14 / 00:50-00:51

During a close-up of Lei Li (David Chiang), the final cut then switches to the Celestial image source. The framecuts are immediately noticeable here, because the very first frames of the single position fall under the table.

0.7 sec



Even the 35mm has a few jump cuts right after that though, so thanks to Celestial's image source, they are not objectionable in the final cut.

T.V.P. Final CutT.V.P. 35mm




01:33 / 01:10

Odd: After Li Ching was mentioned, the frozen shot in the 35mm continues for another 6 frames and he falls to the ground. In the final cut (resp. the Celestial master), the image is simply frozen for a correspondingly longer time.

No runtime difference

T.V.P. Final CutT.V.P. 35mm




01:42 / 01:19

In the 35mm you can see the two opponents coming in from a little further back.

0.5 sec




01:49 / 01:26-01:27

The final cut (resp. the celestial master) again misses out on how the frozen shot briefly continues after the credit and the rider falls to the ground. The following long shot also starts a bit earlier. The celestial master shows the frozen moment a little longer, more or less to cover it up.

35mm version 0.4 sec longer

T.V.P. Final CutT.V.P. 35mm




02:04 / 01:42

For the sake of completeness, we'll also mention here: At this point, however, there was also a short moment in Celestial where the scene continues to run for a few frames after the frozen shot. In the further course of the opening credits this is still the case several times, thus also with the Celestial master. BUT: Here the following shot starts a few frames earlier.

0.4 sec




In the further course, as promised in the intro, only passages with a duration of 0.5 sec or longer are listed in the report.


02:38 / 02:16-02:17

The camera first zooms back from a close-up of Lei Li.

0.8 sec




03:06 / 02:45-02:47

After the final director's credit, a shot of an injured man being lifted begins much earlier.

Note: The following off-camera comment can be heard slightly delayed for over a minute because of this cut.

1.4 sec




07:55 / 07:44-07:45

Two shots from the bridge are insignificantly longer.

0.7 sec




09:36 / 09:28-09:29

One shot starts a little earlier.

1 sec




Missing in the 35mm version
20:10-20:12 / 20:23

Probably due to the first reel change on the 35mm, an outdoor shot here is a bit longer on the Celestial version.

+ 1.3 sec




24:26 / 24:46-24:47

Pai Yu (Li Ching) calls for Lei Li for a moment longer.

1 sec




34:58 / 35:46-35:48

Lei Li stretches out his arm at the beginning of the shot.

1.6 sec




35:16 / 36:07-36:09

Lei Li's arm lying on the step can be seen for a longer time.

2.4 sec




49:28 / 50:50

Lei Li turns a moment earlier in the direction of Feng Chun (Ti Lung).

0.7 sec



Also worth a small mention on the side: 4 sec later the 35mm scan has a small jumpcut when Feng Chun stands up. This movement can be seen cleanly without jumpcut in the Celestial master.




54:04 / 55:38-55:39

When Lei Li cuts off his arm in retrospect, the shot starts a little earlier.

1 sec




Re-cut
55:52-55:53 bzw. 55:59 / 57:27 bzw. 57:33-57:34

When the two men are seen in close-up walking away to the side, the Celestial master pulls up a brief shot from above of two attackers jumping onto the roof. It comes in the 35mm version a few seconds later, after Pa Yu is seen in the alley. This is a bit odd in that the progression seems more coherent in Celestial: After all, right before that the two of them start to jump in a sideways shot. The old German VHS also runs like the Celestial master here.

As is basically the case with most changes between the settings, the Celestial version is also a few frames shorter in total here.

35mm version 0.7 sec longer
Image for orientation




Missing in the 35mm version
57:20-57:21 / 59:01

Here, the 35mm version has a jump cut that makes the scene look choppy.

+ 1.1 sec




Missing in the 35mm version
57:53-57:54 / 59:33

In the middle of the fight scene, there is again a small jump in the 35mm.

+ 0.8 sec




Missing in the 35mm version
58:18-58:24 / 59:57

Missing bit around a reel change: Feng stays back longer after the fighter behind runs away. The camera focuses on him again, pans slightly to the side, and Feng turns around. The follow-up shot of Pa Yu also starts a bit earlier, while the 35mm doesn't kick in until it's already running.

+ 6.6 sec




66:02 / 67:51-67:52

Lung (Ku Feng) first turns over to Chen (Chen Sing) at the beginning of the shot.

0.6 sec




68:21 / 70:13-70:15

The riders turn away to the side for a moment longer.

1.4 sec




Missing in the 35mm version
77:50-77:52 / 80:12

Last reel change: As you can clearly see in the first comparison image, the 35mm was already badly damaged immediately before. At the end of the shot, Chen turns towards the camera.

+ 1.9 sec

T.V.P. Final CutT.V.P. 35mm




88:02 / 90:38-90:39

A shot on the bridge starts a little earlier.

0.5 sec




88:28 / 91:06

Lei Li comes jumping up from further down on the left.

0.5 sec




89:09 / 91:50-91:51

When Chen is reported, there is another small (insignificant) missing bit.

0.7 sec




89:32 / 92:18-92:19

The fighter falls to the ground longer behind Lei Li. The following shot of him also starts a little earlier (the Celestial Master doesn't kick in until his next opponent attacks, thus obscuring him).

0.9 sec




89:52 / 92:40

A shot on the bridge is a little longer.

0.9 sec



90:42 / 93:31-93:32

Lei Li is pulled up by the ropes from a little further down.

0.5 sec




92:53 / 95:48-95:49

Lung takes a few more steps forward.

1.2 sec




95:03 / 98:06-98:08

As the two opponents run toward each other on the bridge, the long shot begins a bit earlier.

1.3 sec




The end fade-in appears a little later on the 35mm, but also above the last shot.

T.V.P. Final CutT.V.P. 35mm



Finally, the final cut (resp. the Celestial master) again has the Celestial logo and a 2004 copyright notice.