Monday 12 June 2017

On Blu-ray - Asian film expert John Snadden reports on SAIGON (Christopher Crowe, USA) and KILLER CONSTABLE (Chih-Hung Kwei, Hong Kong)

A few weeks ago I received a Blu-ray copy of the 1988 Vietnam pic SAIGON (aka OFF-LIMITS). It's a Norwegian dual format disc that is sparse on extras but a nice looking copy and well worth the purchase price for this hard-to-get DVD title.
Back in the late 90s, I reviewed a video of SAIGON in an issue of John Harrison's excellent fanzine, REEL WILD CINEMA. My thoughts on this pic have hardly changed so I've decided to revisit the original piece.

SAIGON (1988) Director: Christopher Crowe
, Script: Christopher Crowe and Jack Thibeau

For my money, this relatively obscure Vietnam flick has always cast a shadow over such bloated epics as CASUALTIES OF WAR and PLATOON.
SAIGON opens in 1968, with a pair of racist military policemen, McGriff (Willem Dafoe) and Perkins (Gregory Hines), routinely investigating the murder of a Vietnamese prostitute. Their self-interest is suddenly tweaked when their star witness is blown to pieces whilst in police custody.

From a severe case of "drippy dick" to the killing fields of Khe Sanh, McGriff and Perkins slowly piece together a truly sickening jigsaw image of a serial killer on the loose. The number one suspect looms large as a manic American general (played with much gusto by Scott Glenn) who likes his women bound and beaten.

Director Crowe and his Australian lensman, David Gribble, paint the South Vietnamese capital as a city-sized outhouse, run by and for the American army. In one scene a helicopter gunship menaces a crowded Saigon street. This powerful passage of film says more about Uncle Sam's foreign policy in the 1960s than a truckload of Oliver Stone movies.

On a lighter note, SAIGON offers up a "shared" soundtrack: the HK crime flick THE BIG HEAT has the identical music score. Both pictures were released in 1988, so it's anyone's guess as to who "borrowed" from whom.

Last night I re-watched the Shaw Brothers pic KILLER CONSTABLE (1980) which I haven't seen for years, and I'd nearly forgotten just how good this violent martial arts drama had been. I'm seriously thinking about a Blu-ray upgrade of this title as there is now a UK BR which offers a much better image and extras including an audio commentary.

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