The Millionaires’ Express (1986) – Film Review
Director: Sammo Hung
Cast: Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Cynthia Rothrock
By @Roger Crow
Ah those Carry On movies, a staple part of British culture for decades. Carry On Cowboy was one of the most enjoyable of the saga, and there are elements of that in this action comedy adventure from Sammo Hung.
Given the fact this was made in 1986, the Blu-ray version looks incredible, especially those exterior shots set against snowy landscapes. Every flake of snow on a face reminds you how good HD movies can be these days.
Having watched assorted Hung movies is recent months, it’s a reminder of what a versatile talent he is. Okay, for many in the west he will only be known for US cop saga Martial Law, but he wears many hats, and not just a Stetson.
“Stunts are something else”
Here Hung plays a loveable rogue who teams up with an incorruptible Sheriff to save their home town from certain destruction.
Aside from slapstick comedy, there’s also a touch of romance and a hint of propaganda. Work hard, be a good citizen. That sort of thing.
Few experts do a better job of shedding an informed light on Asian cinema than Frank Djeng, and again he does a great job with his commentary.
It opens in the frozen wastes of Russia, though it was actually filmed in Canada, which is rare for a Hong Kong production.
Sammo could have saved a fortune with studio shots rather than trekking to North America, but his attention to detail paid dividends.
And although occasional scenes were set in China, Thailand doubled for some of the fine exteriors, while interiors were shot in Golden Harvest’s Hong Kong studios.
Though it might be Hung’s tribute to American Westerns, it also owes a debt to some of the best Spaghetti Westerns, as well as silent movie legends like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.
As with most Sammo Hung movies, the stunts are something else, such as the moment a large woman jumps from a burning building and lands on what looks like very hard ground.
And then there’s the minute an actor jumps off a three-storey building, lands on his feet and carries on acting. No double and no editing to hide the feat. Incredible. Even if a hole had been dug under the actor and covered in padding and dust, it’s still one of those scenes that’s worth watching a few times.
The period setting has given this offbeat curio a gloriously long shelf life. The stunts, wire work and action scenes have to be seen to be believed, and while the script could have done with more work, the money is definitely up there on screen. There’s a close combat scene in the third act which is a sight to behold. When Sammo kicks Cynthia Rothrock over a chair, again it’s worth hitting the rewind button a few times. The shot where Cynthia’s stunt double is dropped to the ground is guaranteed to leave you wincing.
Even if martial arts comedies aren’t your thing, this is well worth a look to see a team of stunt experts at the top of their game. Though it might have gone over the heads of many a Hong Kong cinemagoer, for us in Blighty it’s a real gem that is almost as enjoyable as watching Sid James do his thing as the Rumpo Kid.
• Four versions of the film across two Blu-ray discs, all presented from brand new 2K restorations
• Limited Edition O-Card slipcase featuring new artwork by Darren Wheeling
• Limited Edition reversible poster featuring new and original artwork
• Limited Edition Bonus Disc featuring the English language version of the film originally prepared for the international theatrical release; and a new cut of the film prepared exclusively for this release that combines footage from the original theatrical and extended cuts of the film to present a hypothetical “complete” version
• Limited Edition booklet featuring new writing and rare archival imagery
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray of the Original Hong Kong Theatrical Cut from a brand new 2K restoration
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray of the Extended Version (sometimes erroneously labelled the International Cut) of the film from a brand new 2K restoration
• Cantonese audio (original mono presentation)
• Alternate English dub track
• Rare alternate Cantonese soundtrack
• Optional English dubbed audio | Optional English Subtitles (newly translated for this release)
• Brand new feature length audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival) [Hong Kong Theatrical Version]
• Brand new select scene commentary by actress and martial arts movie icon, Cynthia Rothrock [Hong Kong Theatrical Version]
• Brand new audio commentary by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema [Extended Version]
• Brand new interview with Cynthia Rothrock | Archival interview with Sammo Hung
• Archival interview with Cynthia Rothrock | Archival interview with Yuen Biao
• Archival interview with Yukari Oshima
• Alternate English opening & closing credits
DISC TWO (Limited Edition):
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray of the English Language Version from a brand new 2K restoration
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray of the Hybrid Cut, newly created exclusively for this release from a brand new 2K restoration
• Original English dubbed audio track [English Language Version]
• Original Cantonese mono audio [Hybrid Cut]
• Optional English subtitles
The Millionaires' Express is released on Blu-ray by Eureka, £27.99