Blu-ray Release: Jackie Chan: Emergence of a Superstar

Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: Nov. 7, 2023
Price: Blu-ray $62.49
Studio: Criterion

Originally tapped as a potential successor to Bruce Lee, Hong Kong martial-arts phenom Jackie Chan soon established his own unique screen persona, blending goofball slapstick and bone-crunching kung fu into intricate feats of supercharged athleticism.

Tracing his rise from breakout star to full-fledged auteur, the six unabashedly silly, unstoppably entertaining early-career highlights found in Jackie Chan: Emergence of a Superstar find Chan refining the lovably mischievous image that would make him a global icon, while also assuming greater creative control over his projects—first as his own martial-arts choreographer, and later as a writer-director who set a thrilling new standard for daredevil action comedy.

Like a live-action comic book, this antic farce lets Jackie Chan, choreographing his own fight sequences, cut loose with a wild parody of the martial-arts genre. He plays a bumbling wannabe kung-fu master who, when he assumes the identity of a dead hero, finds himself embroiled in a series of absurd misadventures and the search for a pair of mystical artifacts. Cartoon sound effects and send-ups of everything from Popeye to Jesus Christ Superstar are part of the lighthearted fun—not to mention Chan fighting a bald adversary with his own wig!

Jackie Chan’s kung-fu clowning gets a supernatural twist in this off-the-wall action fantasy. He stars as a cheeky student at a Shaolin temple who must fight to protect his order, with help from some unexpected mentors: five pink-haired, silver-leotard-sporting extraterrestrial spirits who train him in arcane, animal-style martial arts with an otherworldly flair. The ghostly high jinks (realized with eye-poppingly outlandish special effects) give way to a last half hour that’s near-nonstop action, with Chan single-handedly taking on eighteen stick-wielding monks in a blistering battle royal.

The Fearless Hyena (1979)

An auteur emerges as Jackie Chan—working for the first time as director, in addition to serving as cowriter, lead actor, and martial-arts choreographer—takes full charge of his on-screen image. Perfecting the archetypal Chan character, he stars here as a rapscallion student of his martial-arts-master grandfather (Hong Kong cinema legend James Tien) who uses his kung-fu prowess to fight challengers for money—until a personal tragedy forces him to get serious. Experimenting with various lenses and camera setups, Chan maximizes the action’s visual impact, while unleashing some of his most innovative fight choreography in a stunning, whirlwind display of “emotional kung fu.”

By the early 1980s, Jackie Chan’s popularity made him box-office gold. Thus when, midway through filming the sequel to his hit The Fearless Hyena, Chan walked off the production to defect to rival studio Golden Harvest, producer Lo Wei opted to complete the film with the help of stunt doubles and recycled footage. The result—the tale of two lazy cousins (Chan and Austin Wai Tin-chi) who join forces to avenge the deaths of their fathers—may not be pure Chan, but there are plenty of loony pleasures (including our hero fighting an adversary with his feet!) to be had.

Jackie Chan’s second directorial effort was also a film of important firsts: his first for upstart studio Golden Harvest and his first with cowriter Edward Tang, who would become a key collaborator. The star-filmmaker shows his increasing confidence with this endlessly inventive tale of a martial-arts student (Chan) who goes in search of his exiled brother, only to become entangled in a case of mistaken identity—with much amusement provided by Chan’s interplay with his real-life former schoolmate Yuen Biao. The epic finale, in which Chan goes from human punching bag to raging bull, is a bruising highlight of his career.

Longtime friends Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao—who had worked together since childhood as part of a Beijing opera troupe—join forces for this rollicking blend of action thrills and lunatic humor, which sees Chan’s undercover agent recruiting his band of outlaw buddies to travel to Japan in order to help him catch a rogue cop who has stolen millions in jewels. Though not the main star, Chan lights up the screen in the film’s most exhilarating set pieces: a kinetic amusement-park-set opening and a surreal haunted-house finale, both stylishly and creatively staged by director-star Hung.

Here’s a list of features found in this four-disc, six-film special edition:

  • 2K digital restorations of Spiritual Kung Fu,The Fearless Hyena,Fearless Hyena II, The Young Master, and My Lucky Stars and high-definition digital restoration of Half a Loaf of Kung Fu, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
  • Alternate stereo and 5.1 surround Cantonese soundtracks
  • New audio commentaries for The Fearless Hyenaand The Young Masterfeaturing Hong Kong cinema expert and producer Frank Djeng (Enter the Clones of Bruce)
  • Interview with author Grady Hendrix (These Fists Break Bricks) about actor-director Jackie Chan
  • Archival interviews with Chan, actor-director Sammo Hung, actors Michiko Nishiwaki and Hwang In-shik, and more
  • The Young Master promo reel from the 1980 Cannes Film Festival and deleted scenes from the film
  • Interview from 2005 with Hong Kong cinema critic Paul Fonoroff about producer-director Lo Wei
  • NG shots from The Young Master and My Lucky Stars 
  • Trailers
  • New English subtitle translations
  • An essay by critic Alex Pappademas
Buy or Rent Jackie Chan: Emergence of a Superstar

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.