(aka Gauyat Sandiu Haplui, Saviour of Souls, Terrible Angel)
1.37:1 & 1.60:1
Written by: Kar-wai Wong
Directed by: David Lai, Corey Yuen
Starring: Anita Mui, Andy Lau, Gloria Yip, Aaron Kwok, Kenny Bee, Carina Lau, Corey Yuen, Josephine Siao
Saviour of the Soul is this totally cool, utterly wacky film that crosses over into a number of genres. It's something like a mystical martial arts romantic action drama with a dash of comedy thrown in. The film opens with a powerful gray-haired assassin, Fox (Aaron Kwok), doing away with many police officers in order to save his friend and Master. Fox's friend (who I think is portrayed by co-director Corey Yuen). tells a tale of woe about how he failed in his mission to kill the Princess Ching, because he was stopped and forever blinded by assassin May-Chun (Anita Mui). He give Fox his life, and implores him to find and kill May-Chun. Introduced next is May-Chun, her two assassin friends, Chin (Andy Lau) and Koo (Kenny Bee?), and May's really strange sister (Josephine Chao) who speaks with a male voice and is an inventor. Both Chin and Koo are interested in marrying May (she's really only interested in Chin), but Koo is taken out of the running when Fox shows up, wounding May and killing Koo. In order to protect Chin, May professes her love for Koo and disappears, leaving Chin behind. Of course, Chin is eventually reunited with May, but it isn't easy, and Fox shows up to make everyone's life a living hell. Other side plots involve Chin with Koo's 16-year-old sister, Hwa-Shang (portrayed by the incredibly cute Gloria Yip), as well as with the mysterious Pet Lady (Carina Lau). Simply put, Saviour of the Soul is a terrific ride. The actors are outstanding in their portrayals, and the stunning cinematography (not to mention the settings themselves) is unlike anything you'll see in an American film. Of course, many of you are probably here to see the action sequences, and the martial arts routines definitely don't disappoint. There are lots of "flying across the room" sequences, some cool swordplay, and some mystical touches thanks to Fox's "Terrible Angel" routine (in which he can pass through a person's body and eventually take control of them). One really fun sequence involves Chin trapping Fox inside a mirror -- the mirror is hopping and flying around the room attacking everyone and trying to break itself, and all the while you see Fox's body squashed up flat inside it. What else can I say...this is a fun film!
Saviour of the Soul is a Hong Kong DVD import released by Universe Laser & Video Co., Ltd. Hong Kong cinema fans around the world will be happy to know that most of the import DVDs I've seen thus far contain no regional coding, and thus will play just fine in any player worldwide (a few titles are encoded only for Regions 1-5). Additionally, Saviour of the Soul is the first disc I've seen in which the "time remaining" feature actually works (obviously, unlike any of the U.S. releases, this has been properly encoded onto the disc).
The disc starts out with a somewhat bad-looking FBI warning in both English and Chinese, and then the Universe Laser & Video logo comes on. Afterwards, there is a short animated bit touting that the disc is "Presented in Dolby Surround" (which it most definitely is...), followed by the film itself. The print quality is incredibly good, but by "incredibly good" you have to realize that we're speaking in Hong Kong terms here. "A top-quality print" means two different things depending upon your location. In the United States, this means an absolutely perfect print in every respect...it's sharp, has accurate colors and contrasts, and the print is exceptionally clean and glossy looking. In Hong Kong, it means the print may be sharp, it probably has good colors, it's probably not that glossy, and it will definitely have some amount of scratches, speckles and splices. That's the way the home video industry is run over there...rarely will a brand new, pristine print be used for a transfer, since the distributors don't want to spend the extra expense. Anyway, Saviour of the Soul features a fairly sharp and very colorful image throughout, but there are often some thin, vertical scratches appearing and some random dirt. In a few instances, some thin vertical parts of the film image get a little fuzzy for a few moments (window frames are a good example). This seems to be a problem with either the print itself or Universe's initial transfer of the film it is not a DVD-related artifact (we've heard this problem appears in their laserdisc transfer as well). By the way, the image is letterboxed with an approximate 1.60:1 aspect ratio, but there are a few scenes at the beginning of the film that appear full-frame (I haven't the slightest idea why). The disc is not enhanced for 16:9 widescreen televisions. Additionally, the disc is only encoded with a single chapter marker, which makes it a pain to find your favorite scene(s).
Saviour of the Soul features two Dolby Digital 2-channel surround soundtracks: a Cantonese dubbed mix (channel 1), and the original Mandarin version (track 2). The Cantonese dubbing is only a so-so mix. Although the dialogue is fine, sound effects and the music track are occasionally muted or missing, and the levels are weird. The original Mandarin soundtrack is vastly superior everything now sounds clear and distinct, and the surround stereo is definitely improved. Also, the dialogue now generally matches the lip movements of the actors. The two soundtracks can be only be switched through the "audio" button on your remote. In case you're interested, a tag appears after the end credits reading "This Sound Track has been remixed in Dolby Surround by Media Sound."
For those of you who only understand the English language, have no fear Chinese and English subtitles appear hard-encoded onto the print itself (i.e., you can't shut them off this is a standard feature of most Hong Kong prints). Some of the Chinese subtitles shimmer a little bit due to the amount of detail each individual letter contains, but the English is definitely readable. Sometimes the English is misspelled, and the syntax is often pretty weird, but it's easy to figure.
The disc does not contain any interactive menu functions.
Saviour of the Soul
comes packaged inside a yellow 7.5" x 5" cardboard box which contains
a standard "jewel box" that holds the actual DVD (similar to the
way compact discs were initially packaged). The jewel box fits extremely
snugly within the outer packaging, and it will take some effort on your
part to actually get it out of the packaging without tearing it (I'm certainly
never going to attempt to place it back into the packaging). Instead of
a booklet, the jewel box has a single full-color insert cover sheet featuring
Chinese text and photos (the reverse side is blank). The insert also has
a smaller, round holographic "Universe Laser & Video" sticker
on it, presumably to make sure that the consumer knows this DVD is a legitimate
"Universe" product (bootlegging runs rampant in Hong Kong). The
outer packaging replicates the front and back cover art & text for the
DVD, with some extra text about the film itself (presumably in Chinese).
Although the movie is contained on one DVD, the holder-part of the jewel
box is actually made to hold two DVDs (it flips up). Saviour of the Soul is contained on only one
side of the DVD, and the other side is imprinted with a full black &
white photo from the film plus some text. As we mentioned earlier, the disc
is not regional encoded and it will play in any player worldwide (hooray!).
Review by Jeff Krispow
Original Review: 08/22/97
Last Updated: 08/22/97