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Club, The

original title: Miu Teng

Comparison:

  • BBFC 18
  • Hongkong VCD
Release: Mar 27, 2021 - Author: Sun Wukong - Translator: Mike Lowrey - external link: IMDB

In the Hong Kong film pantheon, Kirk Wong's debut work The Club is considered an indispensable link between the oldschool martial arts bangers of the seventies and the John Woo-influenced heroic bloodshed gangster epics of the eighties and early nineties. The raw, neon-lit and almost documentary-style images tell the story of the triad henchman Ah Sai - played by Michael Chan Wai-Man. He has to compete with all kinds of hostile gangsters who are in a bitter power struggle for the nightclub run by Sai's boss. At the same time, Sai is allowed to sleep with his maid - a Japanese escort girl, played by Pinku Eiga starlet Erina Miyai (Zoom In: Rape Apartments) - and a loudmouthed pimp gets his car taken apart and avenges the murder of his boss, after he has been cut to pieces by two assassins with outboard motors (!).

Instead of hyper-stylized shooting orgies like the gun-fu blood operas of the coming years, the battles in The Club are fought exclusively with fists, knives, swords, axes, hammers, fans and even outboard motors. Among the actors are numerous legendary kung fu stars from Shaw Brothers' days, including Norman Tsui Siu-Keung, "Foot Doctor" Wilson Tong or Philip Ko (star of the breathtaking Shaw cult film The Boxer's Omen), who died too young in 2017. The real star is of course Michael Chan Wai-Man, who in the Cinema Of Vengeance interview described The Club wholeheartedly as "the best gangster movie ever made in Hong Kong". The man must know, because it's no secret that Chan himself is a member of the triads. Even today, Chan still likes to tell about his gangster life in the then so wicked district Tsim Sha Tsui, where The Club was filmed, in interviews. For director Kirk Wong - who immediately afterwards directed the cult cyberpunk hit Flash Future Kung Fu - The Club became a career launching pad, which even led him to Hollywood.

Even though the tough triad-smasher is considered a milestone and pioneer work for Hong Kong cinema, the current situation is a real tragedy. The last official home video release was about 25 years ago. The film never made it onto DVD - let alone Blu-ray. What's even worse: Each of the versions we have at hand has different flaws, none of them can be described as really uncut. Towards the end of the movie, all available versions contain curious cuts on archive pictures of police operations during a violent scene (Sai stabs an enemy gangster boss). Whether this is intentional or censorship, we can't say. Also the legal situation around the used songs seems to be problematic: As it is not unusual for Hong Kong productions from that time, The Club cheerfully used soundtracks from other movies and contemporary rock songs. Most of them already had to be removed on the English Ocean Shores VHS, so it's questionable if the original sound could be released today without any problems and without a lawyer's letter from RIAA and Co. Whether this film will ever be released again - let alone uncensored, with original soundtrack and in acceptable quality - is up in the air.

For this report, the cut Hong Kong VCD by Vascon Limited / Film City Distribution Ltd. and the also cut British VHS by Eastern Heroes were used. Furthermore, these two versions were compared to the English language VHS by Ocean Shores and the HK laserdisc by Ocean Shores. Since each of these versions contains scenes that are not included in any of the other versions mentioned, this material is marked RED in the report.

This Hong Kong VCD by Vascon Limited / Film City Distribution Ltd. is interesting for fans of the film for several reasons. On the one hand, there is once again some exclusive material to admire (including an "alternate ending" with additional text overlays), and on the other hand, unlike all other versions of The Club that we know of, they seem to have used a different master. All the other versions we've seen so far (the UK VHS, the English-language Ocean Shores tape, and the Hong Kong laserdisc) have the same look: blurry, bluish, and with contrast levels that are - let us just say it off the top of our heads - terrible. The VCD beats the competition by far in terms of detail and contrast, despite the lousy 384x288 resolution typical for the medium. The following picture comparison between VCD and the Eastern Heroes cassette speaks volumes:

VCD VHS

For fun's sake, here's the same scene on the English Ocean Shores cassette (any help here is really too late!) and on the Ocean Shores laserdisc:

Ocean Shores VHS Ocean Shores Laserdisc

Also the subtitles, although identical in content to those of the Eastern Heroes VHS appear in a different font.

VCD VHS

The VCD makes the biggest mistake in terms of picture quality in dark scenes. During the duel in Sai's room, you can't see anything because of the darkness.

VCD VHS

 

The Eastern Heroes VHS is missing 53 seconds compared to the Hong Kong VCD.
There are 30.9 seconds missing on the Hong Kong VCD compared to the Eastern Heroes VHS, of which 19.8 seconds are company logos. Furthermore, there are various discrepancies in the credits and sound mix, which will be discussed in more detail in the report.

An urgent request:
We are still looking for comparative material! In addition to the Eastern Heroes VHS discussed here, Eastern Heroes has released a cassette marked "Full Uncut Version" in their Gods Gamblers & Gangsters Collection. Here, it would be interesting to compare whether the tape actually contains a different version or if it is just the same cassette with a new cover design. Also, the subtitled VHS released by Ocean Shores in Hong Kong is not available to us yet.
If you are in possession of one of these versions, please contact us in the comments or via e-mail! Thanks a lot!

0:00 EH Exclusive!
Exclusive footage: Eastern Heroes
Verdull company logo
19.8 sec



1:10
Two different credits: On the Eastern Heroes cassette, Dennis Chiu Da-Cheng is credited as presenter; on the VCD, Ringo Wong Lai-Chuen is credited as presenter.
No time difference.
BBFC 18VCD



1:13
Ringo Wong Lai-Chuen now gets another executive producer credit in both versions. The writing is in orange on the VHS, and it's in white on the VCD.
No time difference.
BBFC 18VCD



3:55
The movie title has been replaced with an incredibly ugly new digital title overlay
No time difference
BBFC 18VCD



46:30
Exclusive footage: Eastern Heroes.
Jenny looks at herself in the mirror
3.8 sec



47:11
Exclusive footage: Eastern Heroes.
Sai is shown in the morgue for a longer time during the disc change at the end of a shot.
4.3 sec



49:35
Here, footage was probably lost during the reel change: two cars parked in front of the club. There are also a few frames missing from the beginning of the following shot.
15.2 sec



50:50
Exclusive footage: VCD
Sound effects:
On the EH, an elevator noise can be heard here, but on the VCD, a bell (here, the Foley effect from the murder scene just before was used - if you listen closely, you can even hear the jackhammers in the background)
No time difference

59:32
Exclusive footage: VCD.
Uncle Wah's ship is shown.
5.7 sec



1:15:35
Exclusive footage: Eastern Heroes.
After the Kanto soundtrack happily cobbled together the latest hits from Van Halen to Fleetwood Mac to Tangerine Dream, the laserdisc had to erase a campy Kantopop song from the soundtrack, of all things, and replace it with legally innocuous karaoke drivel. The Eastern Heroes tape is the only version we know of that contains the original song.
No time difference.

1:16:03-1:16:32
Michiko takes off the clothes. From the bra on, however, it's over on the VCD, while the Ocean Shores cassette and especially the laserdisc have SIGNIFICANTLY more to offer.
19.4 sec



1:16:34
A goon is finished off by Sai, blood slapping against the window pane. Fittingly, there is a VCD-exclusive sound change: on the English-language Ocean Shores tape, there is almost complete silence during this shot, you only hear a slight breeze (logical, you can practically see what is happening from outside through a shop window). On the VCD, on the other hand, the battle sounds are looped.
4.4 sec



1:21:23
Exclusive footage: VCD.
While the VHS shows a frantic sequence of cuts from various newspaper headlines on the subject of triad violence, the VCD instead shows two archival images of a police operation.
No time difference.
BBFC 18VCD



1:21:36
This archive recording is missing from the VCD.
1.1 sec



1:21:23
Exclusive footage: VCD.
Instead of the archival footage, three text panels appear at this point to enlighten the viewer in Chinese about the fate of the two protagonists, Ah Sai and Ah Fei. Crime does not pay!
There is also a change in the soundtrack: the same song continues to play, but at a different point.
6.3 sec



1:21:23
Different credits insertions
No time difference
BBFC 18VCD



1:21:55
The "The End" fade-in runs a bit longer on the VCD, while Eastern Heroes fades to black early on....
VCD: 8.2 sec.
VHS: 4.4 sec
VCD runs 3.8 sec longer