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Once Upon A Time In China (1991)

Story: Once Upon A Time In China is set in the early 19th Century and is based on the exploits of the legendary Wong Fei Hung (1847-1924). This story is told in a time when China is being exploited and it's population being sold into slavery to help colonize the New World among other things. The movie opens with a ceremony that Wong Fei Hung is attending, their ceremony is almost ruined when a ship in the same harbor with American troops decides to interfere and open fire. Wong Fei Hung continues the ceremony against the odds before him. This is an early realization of the foreign troops overtaking China. The rest of the film is the struggle of China against the foreign powers that is trying to overtake it. Wong Fei Hung will not rest while his people are being exploited and used.

Outline: Jet Li plays Wong Fei Hung he runs a local martial arts school, Po Chi Lam. His Aunt Yee (Aunt 13) was schooled overseas and has returned to China much like a foreigner for the first time. She is completely 'Westernized' in both her cloths and her attitudes. She has come back to stay at Po Chi Lam and Wong Fei Hung is now taken the role of protecting her. The Po Chi Lam school is seen as a dangerous enemy by the local and foreign governments that are all around. While all the people who would like to see Po Chi Lam disappear Wong Fei Hung must stay within the local law who not only has kung fu, but guns. The foreigners to not let up in there quest to take back Chinese slaves to the states and eventually Aunt Yee is captured. The final fight scene in which Wong Fei Hung goes to save Aunt Yee just has to be seen. If you have never seen this movie you are in for a treat.

Misc: You do not have to be Chinese to understand and appreciate this story, It has universal qualities. Although the enemy is America/Europe/France (AKA: The Western world) you will not have a chance to see this movie as an attack on the Western world, after all it is only a fight for freedom which we all aspire to. It is not a story of the good guys vs. the bad guys, it is a story of freedom and honor. Every Country in the world could easily be switched in and out of the roles in this movie and it will still apply.

Quality: I can recommend this movie entirely, this is truly a 10 out of 10 stars! Once Upon A Time In China is an exciting Kung Fu Adventure based on the life of the most famous Kung Fu Legend, Wong Fei Hung. Jet Li in Once Upon A Time in China plays Wong Fei Hung, Jackie Chan plays him in Drunken Master. This is my second favorite Jet Li movie, the first is Fist Of Legend. If you have not seen Once Upon A Time In China or Fist of Legend and you have liked other Jet Li movies I suggest you find them!


Once Upon A Time In China
Mega Star
  • Format: DVD
  • Length: 128 minutes
  • Rated: CAT II
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Audio Options: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Launguage: Cantonese, Mandarin
  • Subtitles: Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), English, Japanese, Bahasia Malaysia, Korean
  • Additional Features: Classic Wong Fei Hung Footage, About Wong Fei Hung, Trailers, Synopsis.
  • Catalog ID: MS/DVD/028/98
  • Region Code: 0 (ALL)

This is my favorite release of Once Upon A Time In China. This is the official Hong Kong release by Mega Star. It has the original Cantonese audio track which is full and strong. While not 16x9 Enhanced the video is very clear an natural looking. The English subtitles are also well done with very little broken English.

This release also comes with a very excellent look at some traditional Wong Fei Hung footage and trailers for the first 3 Once Upon A Time In China movies. Also included is a booklet that is English in the front, Written by Bey Logan about Wong Fei Hung, and in Chinese in the back.


Once Upon A Time In China
  • Format: DVD
  • Length: 128 minutes
  • Rated: CAT II
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Audio Options: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Launguage: Mandarin
  • Subtitles: Chinese, English
  • Additional Features: none
  • Catalog ID: ISRC CN-F18-98-0118-0/V.J9
  • Region Code: 0 (ALL)

This release of Once Upon A Time In China should probably be avoided unless you know the following.

  1. Audio is a Mandarin dubbed version only (no original Cantonese audio track)
  2. Video is dark and muddy
  3. Menus are in Chinese only

I aquired this copy on ebay, and while it is apparently a legit copy from WA it has MUCH to be desired. If you look at the back of this release the artwork used apparently came from screen shots of another release's menus. Also there is even the preist from the White Lotus Clan who does NOT appear in Once Upon A Time In China, only the sequal! If you would only ever watch this in Mandarin anyway, and you can get it cheap go ahead and get it, but you have been warned.


Once Upon A Time In China
Columbia Tristar
  • Format: DVD
  • Length: 134 minutes
  • Rated: R (For Violence)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Audio Options: Dolby Digital
  • Launguage: Cantonese, Mandarin Dub, English Dub
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Additional Features: Audio Commentary by Ric Meyers, Trailers, Talent Files
  • Region Code: 1

This is the official US release from Columbia Tristar. While it is, "Digitally Mastered Anamorphic Widescreen," it has MUCH to be desired. The image quality is very poor and there is tons of Edge Enhancement. The movie is great but I would have expected more from Columbia Tristar.


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© Ethan Killian 1998-2008 | Last Updated: 01/01/1970
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