Comparison between the cut UK Blu-ray by 88 Films (identical to the HD version by Celestial, which was also used on e.g. Netflix) and the uncut German DVD by KTL
Hero was a last sign of life from the famous Shaw Brothers production company in 1997. Experienced director Corey Yuen (The Transporter, Righting Wrongs) staged a quasi-remake of the Shaw classic The Boxer from Shantung. Yuen Biao, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Yuen Wah impressively show their skills in some fast-paced fight scenes. Unfortunately, in between the film rather has the flair of a TV production and with the great 70s classic you have of course a difficult benchmark to reach. Genre fans in particular should definitely give Hero a chance, though.
The film has been available on Blu-ray in the UK from 88 Films since May 16, 2022. The harder alternative beheading scene, which can be seen exclusively in Taiwan, has fortunately been included in the bonus material in the best possible quality. Previous releases on DVD or other media were absolutely terrible in terms of quality, and with the new HD master the main film now looks better by far than ever before. Unfortunately, in typical Shaw fashion, this was also accompanied by a Celestial restoration riddled with "framecuts". In the same quasi-cut form, the film could previously be discovered in 2018 on Netflix.
With a hefty 5.5 missing minutes in just 90 minutes of film, this is annoyingly even one of the worst examples affected by this practice. Hardly a shot goes by without up to 0.5 sec or occasionally even more being lost at a stretch. If you look closely, the master is really completely chopped up, everything runs a little quicker than it actually should. But admittedly, you don't really notice this most of the time if you don't know the film by heart. In a few places, though, shots were lost completely, which is the main reason for this report. Interested fans should still clearly get the new Blu-ray because of the outstanding quality and other bonus material.
The Blu-ray still has the Celestial logo and a Shaw logo first - though not the familiar Shawscope one, as the film is in 1.85:1.
+ 27 sec
The title card differs. In general, the credits in the HD master were unfortunately digitally recreated with additional effects. There is also a green color tin, while the stills in the old version were B&W.
Considering the new HD restoration, the old DVD is virtually unwatchable. It's unbelievable how some people completely disappeared in the darkened picture. On top of that, there were often signs of wear in the middle of the picture.
As an example, here is the first and last comparison picture from the Taiwan laserdisc, which was also used for the alternative scene in the bonus material of the Blu-ray. The picture here is a bit brighter than the German DVD, but still heavily darkened. The new HD restoration is really by far the best way to see the film, despite the minor cuts.
16:29 / 16:18-16:19
This is mentioned as an example, but basically there are really countless such moments within the range of 0.5-1 sec during the transition between two shots: Here, Ma turns his head to the side at the end of the shot.
33:36 bzw. 33:45-34:13 / 33:46-34:13
Tam See still moves to the side and more dialog follows. Since something was probably damaged in the middle of the shot, the entire dialog was at least not completely removed, but shifted a bit. In the HD master, it only plays out 10 seconds later after the cut.
Uncut 0.8 sec longer
34:13 / 34:22-34:29
At the point of this re-cut, Tam See actually still advices his man to go ahead because he wants to talk to him. The two walk away.
35:49 / 36:10-36:12
Tam See swings up the ladder in another shot.
36:06 / 36:31-36:32
Another short shot from tightening the chains.
60:00 bzw. 60:02-60:03 / 60:35-60:36
As Ma picks himself up, the Celestial master was split in two and the end of this shot was reinserted after the short reaction shot of Miss Yam on the bridge. So once again a few damaged frames in the middle of the shot were replaced this way.
Uncut 0.5 sec longer
75:02-75:03 / 75:50-75:51
Before Ma gets up from the table and starts walking, the HD master briefly interrupts the shot. The cut to the outside, which is shown again shortly after, comes here so a first time. Again, this covered up a few damaged frames in the middle.
No runtime difference
78:13 / 79:07-79:08
One of the several shots of cheering people is missing.
81:47 / 82:56
On a positive note: Since the first 2 frames before the explosion are missing, the HD viewers are spared obvious dummmys.
The end credits also differ somewhat. On the German DVD, the song continues on black screen for just under two minutes, which explains the longer running time with credits. The Blu-ray has Celestial references again instead.
Finally, here are two screenshots of the Taiwan-exclusive alternate scene (= bloodier shot of the decapitation) from the bonus material of 88 Films' Blu-ray.
Slipcase & reverse cover of the UK Blu-ray by 88 Films: