Monday, August 11, 2008

BCI Eclipse a DVD label to watch

DVD label BCI Eclipse has liberated 25 Asian martial-arts and action titles from the vaults of Miramax. The films were acquired by Miramax during the spate of buying and burying by the Weinstein brothers.

Among them are the loopily titled action comedy Wheels on Meals starring Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao. They've also got Corey Yuen's Yes, Madam with Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock. And they have the Korean crime comedy-drama My Wife Is a Gangster. Kung Fu Cinema has more details.

Owned by the Navarre Corporation, BCI Eclipse sprang from the company's Brentwood label, which was notorious for its poor-quality releases of public-domain and unlicensed films. These were filler for the discount bins of warehouse chain stores. I have one such package on my shelf, The 10 Faces of Sonny Chiba, featuring 10 of Chiba San's exploitation films (Street Fighter, Return of Street Fighter, Sister Street Fighter, etc.) on five discs. I bought them before I knew any better, picking them up at Farm & Fleet in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, along with a couple of packages of Lee Van Cleef Spaghetti westerns. They are all pretty awful. But for five bucks for 10 movies, I didn't really expect pristine quality. And they are still fun -- the perfect stuff for a Midwestern farm family to be kicking back and watching on a Friday night.

The Brentwood label is no more and BCI is trying to gain a better reputation, even if their catalog is still a bit on the seamy side.

Among the Thai titles already released by BCI Eclipse are Mono Film's The Tiger Blade (Amazon link) and Vengeance (Amazon link), including Blu-ray discs -- the first Thai films to be released on high-definition DVD. Neither film is really that great, but both are major guilty pleasures.

Another Thai title in the BCI Eclipse stable is Spirited Killer, a much-unheralded pre-Ong-Bak effort by Panna Rittikrai and Tony Jaa. I would guess the film is from the early 2000s or the late 1990s. Update via comments from Rikker: Also called Pluk Man Khuen Ma Kha 4 (ปลุกมันขึ้นมาฆ่า, or "Awaken it to Kill 4"), Spirited Killer was originally released in 1994. The DVD was released in 2006.

According to a comment by Cliff from BCI on Kung Fu Cinema, the company acquired the negative of Spirited Killer for the transfer to DVD. "That is all there was," Cliff says. "So, it’s either release it as is, don't release it or spend 40K restoring it. The later would not make financial sense."

In springing some of the Weinsteins' old acquisitions from the now-Disney-run Miramax, BCI Eclipse is following the lead of Magnolia Pictures, which released and restored Wisit Sasanatieng's Tears of the Black Tiger. The Weinsteins bought Tears, then changed the ending and still didn't like it enough to release it. Tears and countless other Asian titles were bought and then vaulted as part of the Weinsteins' convoluted scheme to improve the look of Miramax's bottom line so they could get bonuses from Disney. Tears of the Black Tiger was finally given a DVD release in the U.S. last year, seven years after it had been released in Thailand.

I wonder what else is languishing in the Miramax vaults?

Anyhow, I welcome BCI Eclipse's move, even if they do seem to only be concentrating on genre pictures, in much the same way the new Palisades Tartan label looks to be continuing the "Asia Extreme" label, with plans to beef up their Asia Extreme catalog by up to 2,000 titles (see also Palisades' clarification on that).

(Via Twitch, Kaiju Shakedown)


  1. Spirited Killer is from 1994, according to IMDb.

    Its Thai title is ปลุกมันขึ้นมาฆ่า Pluk Man Khuen Ma Kha 4 "Awaken it to Kill 4". Three minutes of Google research reveals that part one of this series was released in 1987, part two in 1989, and part three in 1990. All three were directed by ประพนธ์ เพชรอินทร์ Praphan Phet-in (that's my English spelling--I can't find him in IMDb), who in the same period directed the เกิดมาลุย "Born to Fight" series (with three installments in 1986, 1987 and 1990).

    Panna Rittikrai starred in both of those series, then directed a "Born to Fight" remake in 2004.

    VCDs are available around the web.. not really my thing, though.

  2. Thanks for that, Rikker. I shall amend the post accordingly.

  3. It's nice to see any company step up and make more films available here in the North American market.

    There's a lot of talent, energy, and drive in asian cinema that's still under appreciated by the mainstream audience here. If they get their first taste of such films as "tasty junk food", who knows? Maybe it'll inspire some to seek out more meaningful offerings on their own.

    At least we can live in hope....

  4. I've amended this post to reflect that Palisades Tartan has clarified its statement about expanding their catalog to 2,000 titles - they meant their entire catalog, not just Asia Extreme titles.


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