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DVD review: Opium and the Kung Fu Master (Funimation)
DVD Review Page 1
Author(s) : Sylvia Rorem
Date : 26/6/2010
Type(s) : DVD Review
 Intext Links  
People :
Chen Kuan Tai
Robert Mak Tak Law
Ti Lung
Tong Gaai
Yuen Bun
Yuen Wah
Movies :
Opium And The Kung Fu Master
Companies :
Shaw Brothers
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Opium and the Kung Fu Master, re-released on DVD by US-based Funimation in April 2010, is a rather elegant, fully entertaining Shaw Brothers kung fu drama. This 1984 film, starring Ti Lung, Robert Mak Tak Law and Chen Kwan Tai, is nicely balanced with a combination of exciting action, better-than-average story, a stellar cast and high production values. One of the last big kung fu films made before the demise of the Shaw Brothers in the 1980’s, this kung fu pian is a cut above many and a satisfying piece of entertainment.

The Movie

The plot is loosely based on the legend of Tie Qiao San, one of the Ten Tigers of Canton, whose opium addiction compromised his mastery of Hong Fist (Hung Gar). In the film, Tie (Ti Lung) is the righteous, heroic leader of a successful kung fu school. Having rid the town of crime, he enjoys respect and adoration from his pupils and the townsfolk. When an opium dealer (Chen Kuan Tai) comes to town, Tie and his primary pupil Gua Si (Robert Mak Tak Law) become entangled with an insidious drug business that threatens to undermine the stability of the entire town. After Tie himself becomes addicted to opium he soon faces multiple challenges. He must deal with the suffering he brings upon his loved ones and try to overcome his awful addiction to become the man he once was. He must then avenge his tragic loss and rid the town forever of its opium scourge. Heavy duty material for a Shaw kung fu flick.

However, the emotional storyline is far from gut-wrenching. The fairly complex conflicts and horrible events unfold at a quick, intellectual pace while the matter-of-fact dialogue and action reflect Chinese cinema’s typically pragmatic acceptance of corruption and cruelty. Ti Lung’s performance as a hypocritical addict is more kinetic than verbal, and Robert Mak Tak Law, as his abandoned and desperate protégé, handles his tragic role with little frill.



No less than six action directors (including film director Tong Gaai, Yuen Bun and Yuen Wah) contribute their considerable talents to this film. The action is lean and carefully attuned to the emotional storyline. It is never gratuitous and the pacing is excellent. It is by turns comedic, heroic, stunt-oriented, swashbuckling, or tense, and director Tong delivers the right emotional content at the right time. Elegant pole fighting, rooftop leaps, broadswords in a burning building, acrobatics in a rice granary and the requisite full-scale restaurant melee host a good variety of Shaw action extras, weapons, and fight scenarios. A mature Ti Lung handles his action scenes with grace and aplomb. Chen Kwan Tai is given extended opportunities to display his talent with the Double Headed Spears and young Robert Mak Tak Law succeeds in his action scenes with seasoned screenfighter Lee Hoi Sang.

The production values for Opium and the Kung Fu Master are standard higher-end Shaw Studio style. The photography is not remarkable but captures well both action and intimate moments, and the sets and costumes are typical stylin’ Qing dynasty fare. The many interior sets include lavish artistic detail, and the street scenes are filled with quality extras.

The bottom line: all essential components of this film are carefully attended to and exceptionally well-balanced. Opium and the Kung Fu Master is not simply a light piece of chop socky entertainment. While it is not a life-changing film, it is a solid, quality kung fu drama that can stand up to repeated viewings. Shaw Studio, kung fu genre and Ti Lung fans will probably want to add this film to their collection.

dvd specifications

Distributor: Funimation.com/Hong Kong Connection
Region: 1
Languages: Mandarin Mono, English Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English
Format: 2:35.1
Run Time: 90 minutes

1 DVD with no bonus features other than a handful of mixed-bag trailers.

Release Date: April 2010
Price: $19.98

DVD Review

The Funimation DVD is the Celestial Pictures 2.35.1 widescreen transfer. Some graininess is occasionally evident but the restoration ensures good picture quality and sharpness of color. The sound nicely balances music, dialogue and effects, and the English subtitles (the second English option does not work) are readable and error-free. The English dubbing is not too awkward but the very loose translation occasionally loses the meaning of the original Chinese dialogue. If you can, watch it in Chinese with subtitles. The ubiquitous preliminary Funimation promotional reel cannot be skipped but can be fast-forwarded on select players. The chapter selection pictures are numerous and small but the main menu is simple and easily navigable.


Although it lacks bonus material and other language subtitles, this Funimation DVD is a decent buy for English speaking audiences in the United States.

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