Ruff’d Up

Introspection seeps into The Magnificent Ruffians’ script, with a plot concerning kung fu’s dwindling relevance in a world with guns and cannons. Facing competition from rival Golden Harvest, this Shaw Brothers film wonders aloud what happens in this genre falls out of favor. The movie’s heroes, left penniless and jobless without protection gigs, fight to keep martial arts in the spotlight as well as feed themselves.

The villain then is a manipulative rich heir to a kung fu fortune, expanding his business empire and luring the poor into his operation. It’s slow to develop – too slow – but it’s held together by the personalities behind this production. The known “Five Venoms” in Shaw’s roster display a satisfying and entertaining camaraderie on screen together; their fighting skills are never in doubt. Magnificent Ruffians saves itself though, a smattering of fights breaking up the dialog until a glorious finale that’s only lost in the cracks due to the genre’s sheer volume.

Desperate people are easy to seduce with wealth, the message clear by Magnificent Ruffians’ close

Watching the crew struggle to survive adds weight to the climax, the true underdogs seeking to upset the cruel, wealthy owner of numerous local ventures. While predictable, there’s a rousing quality to these fights developed by the slower acts prior. Watching them overcome the controlling financial grip feels righteous because enemy Ying Fei’s (Feng Lu) crude pandering treats the poor like children of a rich father. There’s nothing meaningful to Lu’s favors, just a selfish gesture to benefit himself. Desperate people are easy to seduce with wealth, the message clear by Magnificent Ruffians’ close.

Oddly, Shaw Brothers’ own unwillingness to change or deviate from formula, even as the audiences dwindled, also follows the hero’s path. They maintained their kung fu still held worth, trying to get by minus any innovation. There’s still pity for the film’s characters as they reminisce about their past success, and their solution sustains their value a little longer. For Shaw though, they wouldn’t make it through another decade as-is, merged and sold until unrecognizable, even if the name still exists.

Video

Aside from the slightest smear evident in the grain structure (more an encoding concern than mastering), Magnificent Ruffians looks splendid in HD. Arrow delivers a bright image, high on contrast and stable if not perfect black levels. Depth is achieved and sustained.

A high resolution scan produces crisp imagery, wholly film-like. Steaminess in the source cinematography hardly dilutes texture or detail. Close-ups drive facial definition onto the screen while wide shots display the sets at their greatest fidelity.

Vivid color nails the flesh tones, then continues to keep the saturation high. Reds show excellent vibrancy, and blues look equally hearty. The entire palette reaches equal density.

Audio

Mandarin and English come in DTS-HD. In Magnificent Ruffians’ original language, dialog comes through clearly for an older import. The slight strain in the treble is typical. Music balances well enough, and even produces a little bass on occasion.

Extras

Just one major extra this time. Rivers and Lakes is a visual essay from author Johnathan Clements exploring the myth in these kung fu films, and it runs 22-minutes. Trailers and stills are included too.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Magnificient Ruffians
  • Video
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Movie

A fun twist on formula sees The Magnificent Ruffians fighting against inequality as progress takes away kung fu’s relevance.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 35 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: