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Test DVD Optimum : A Better Tomorrow Ultimate Edition
DVD Test 1/1 - Page 1
Author(s) : Arnaud Lanuque
Date : 16/6/2006
Type(s) : DVD Review
 Intext Links  
People :
David Chiang Da Wei
Chow Yun Fat
Joseph Koo Ka Fai
Bey Logan
Tsui Hark
John Woo
Yueh Hua
Movies :
A Better Tomorrow
The Election
Shaolin Soccer
Lexic :
Heroic Bloodshed
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Page 2 : Comparative test: MIA Vs Optimum

Absolute must-see of the year 1986 in Hong Kong , founder of a brand new genre (Heroic Bloodshed) and first consecration of the skills of John Woo or Chow Yun Fat, A Better Tomorrow did not steal its reputation of being a masterpiece and cult movie from Hong Kong cinema. There have been numerous DVD editions of the movie throughout the world but none ever completely paid tribute to the artistic perfection of the movie. Is Optimum going to deliver the ultimate edition for that jewel?


- Distributor: Optimum
- Metal box
- Region: Region 2 ( UK )
- Languages: Cantonese Stereo and English dub
- Subtitles: English
- Chapters: yes
- 2 DVDs: Movie and bonuses
- Release date for the DVD: 06/26/2006


- Format of the DVD: 1.85:1 Anamorphic

- Picture quality: The movie is presented on a beautiful copy, cleaned from its dirt. It is not perfect though. The first hour and half is strangely grainy and the general radiance is too low. Despite those problems, this edition has no problems burying it MIA rival (see comparison). It is less obvious when compared with the more recent version from IVL. The latter presents a slightly better picture quality thanks to a better using of the colours and less grain. On the other hand, it seems that IVL has a problem with inopportune and recurrent stop frames that intervene all along the movie, and that are not present in this English edition. Everyone will make its choice according to its criteria.


- Sound : Stereo

- Languages: Original version in Cantonese with English subtitles.

- Sound quality:A Better Tomorrow had a complicated story with its soundtrack. It found itself regularly altered by its video releases because of rubbish 5.1 remixes or inopportune modifications made by international distributors. The stereo proposed by Optimum let think that this new edition would at last pay tribute to the original soundtrack of the movie. But new alterations took place, mainly in the music. You just have to prick your hear on the famous scene of the “flowerpots” where instead of the Taiwanese pop song, we have a new re-orchestration of the Joseph Koo's theme. At the beginning too, the music themes by Joseph Koo are eaten by an instrumental pompous music leaning to some “James Horner music from the 80s”, completely off the subject. This kind of intrusion reappears regularly all along the movie, and is very annoying to anyone being accustomed to the original compositions. Why such changes? We don't know, but that is a very bad point for Optimum. For the rest, dialogs and sound effects are clear and balanced, except for some punctual distortions.

- Quality of the subtitles: Very good, clear and faithful to the dialogues and the characters.


Trailer : It is the English original trailer. Too bad that the Cantonese version was not included. Some trailers of Shaolin Soccer, Election and Azumi are proposed as well.

Commentary track by Bey Logan: As usual, Bey Logan delivers great quality comments, dealing with numerous aspects of the movie, from its origin as a remake to the influences of its director, or about the career of every member of the casting. A digest of information, rich and detailed, with the usual passion that characterises the ‘evangelist' of Hong Kong cinema.


Crossings : It is the most interesting bonus of this edition; a documentary produced by US TV, full of speakers detailing John Woo's career from HK to Hollywood .

It is mainly the first part that is fascinating: we can see John Woo coming back to Hong Kong and talking about his youth with a lot of emotion. We also have interesting archive images shot by Woo as he was a teenager or photographs from his Shaw Brothers period. Amongst direct speakers, there are Yueh Hua, David Chiang, Sek Kei or even Tsui Hark.

The second part, about Woo's USA career, is a bit too promotional to convince, but this doesn't keep us to stay on a good impression thanks to the quality of the first part, that deals with a subject too often forgotten by the exegetes of Woo.


Interview with John Woo: This interview, which lasts a bit more than 10 minutes, is from 1993 and has already been presented by the competing English distributor, Hong Kong Legend. Woo talks of his influences and more specifically of his work on A Better Tomorrow. Unfortunately, the English skills of Woo then still clumsy, coupled to the too broad questions make a not really fascinating result. Only the neophytes of John Woo's work will have stuff to learn, the others will only hear once more the thoughts about John Woo and his work.

Interview with Chow Yun Fat: It is once more an interview that was presented on a Hong Kong legend DVD. Also shot in 1993, it lasts about 20 minutes and doesn't present optimal listening conditions (an annoying machinery sound can be heard in the background). This problem put apart, the interview is interesting, Chow talks openly about his fear of weapons or about his special relationship with John Woo. The actor appears here as a highly sympathetic man, far from the inaccessible star image.

This edition of A Better Tomorrow is unfortunately not the so expected reference, mainly because of its altered soundtrack. But, due to the absence of a truly perfect edition at the time, it is a reasonable option for whoever wishes to own this Hong Kong cinema gem in his DVD collection.

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