Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Bionic Boy + Cleopatra Wong DVDs (Starlite Video)

I re-watched Bobby A. Suarez's Filipino movie DYNAMITE JOHNSON: Bionic Boy part 2 on DVD last night. The film is out from from Starlite Video (aka Global Video) in South Africa which also put out the first BIONIC BOY film and the related THEY CALL HER CLEOPATRA WONG.

All three films are quite enjoyable and all are unfortunately quite difficult to get hold of. CLEOPATRA WONG plus yet another Suarez film, ONE-ARMED EXECUTIONER, are going to get a reg. 1 release (probably) at the end of the year so that's pretty good. Brilliant actually. But it still leaves the two BIONIC BOY films hanging somewhere in the void, unfortunately.

Anyway, what I really wanted to address is some complete nonsense which is mentioned in regards to all three films on the German film data base OFDb, where it says:

Hier diente wohl ein VHS als Vorlage, dementsprechend dürftig sind Bild und Ton.

What they're basically saying is that all three DVDs were sourced from video tapes and that the picture and sound is crap! Well, it appears that whoever wrote the comments (someone calling himself "Zeiram") obviously couldn't distinguish between a less than perfect transfer from film print to DVD, and a worn video tape!! And that's exactly what this is; The three DVDs are so not sourced from VHS but from real film elements! I have no idea of whether they're from 35mm or from 16mm but all three films are presented in the fullscreen format which could indicate they're from 16mm (but don't run with that as solid proof as I really have no idea!!).

The reason the picture is less than perfect in parts (only in parts! Most of the films look fine!!) is that these DVDs weren't released by some big-ass company who had enough money for proper transfers and restoration. Starlite Video is actually just one guy who's sitting on a bunch of rare film prints which he inherited years ago from a family member who owned an old cinema.

In my opinion the prints are alright. No, they're not perfect and if you need everything to be HD then I'd advise you stay clear of these DVDs. But if you're into worldweird films and excitement found outside of Blockbuster then I would suggest you pick up these releases when you find them. Or rather... "would have picked them up" as they're actually out of print and are already rare. According to the guy behind Starlite/Global they only sold around 300 copies each so there won't be a any reprints and the handful of other Filipino films he has in his possession and which were planned for release won't be released now. Boo-hoo. One of them was even COSA NOSTRA ASIA which has never been released anywhere to the home cinema market in English! :o(


  1. It's not that expensive to do basic restoration on movies (or do them correct ratio). We do it and we're not rich kids. This guy is just a cheapskate. I wonder if these were licensed from Bobby?

  2. Pete, about a year ago I mentioned the South African releases over on Cinehound and said they were bootlegs. This caused the guy behind the company to get rather upset with me as he claimed he had bought the rights for S.A.

    However, in 2008 I had some email correspondence with Bobby Suarez and the very first time he wrote to me was actually caused by his having found out I had written a forum post on Dvdmaniacs where I had mentioned (what I believed to be) legal releases of his films had been released in South Africa. In his first email to me he wrote:

    "I am taking this liberty of writing to you just to let you know that Global Video do not own any of my produced or produced and directed movies per their advertisement. Yes, they did contacted me and negotiated for several of my movies for South Africa, but after I sent them the contract and asked them to remit the deposit which is but an S.O.P., they did not reply anymore any of my letters and the reason why I canceled my contract or Agreement with them.

    The true owner of the Home-Video-DVD rights of three of my movies ("The Bionic Boy", "They Call Her Cleopatra Wong" and "Dynamite Johnson") for South Africa is - RONDERBOSCH VIDEO owned buy Mr. A. Solomon, who purposely came to see me personally here in Manila a year and a half ago and signed contract with me.

    This is all I know. One more thing: you call the S.A. label guy a cheapskate but maybe the whole problem is that he isn't into this because of a love for the movies but to make money. Do you know the (rather small) kung fu film board FLK? Well, at some stage I was inquiring about a lost film called "Big Boss part 2" (starring Lo Lieh) and the owner of the forum, Pete jr., mentioned he had actually been to S.A. to visit the guy in order to buy some films and explained the S.A. guy had inherited all the film prints and that they were just laying around. One of the films was actually this almost lost Lo Lieh film.

    Here's what Pete jr. from FLK wrote:
    "I must warn he is not a very nice person at all.....I would be careful dealing with this guy.....He actually admits he hates most kung fu and he will participate in discussions about kung fu in a weird manner....When we visited him his wife told us he inherited most of his reels from her father, his father in law....apparently his father-in-law once owned one of the largest cinema's in South Africa...most of these reels are just thrown aside in a garage and got damaged from what we saw when we were there in 2004."

    The thread is here:

    The latest info is unfortunately that he's sold the "Big Boss" print to a cinema in Zambia.

  3. Well shit, now I kind of feel bad for buying a copy of this. I didn't know, and I got it cheap on eBay. I just really want to see this film a lot.

  4. Don't feel bad about it. As far as I can gather these DVDs were actually legit South African releases. The copyrights have probably run out by now but when they came out they were legit. If you check you'll see there's actually a German release (that contains the Bionic Boy films) and it reportedly looks all right... but it's a 100% boot. Check my fairly recent update on that.

    Thanks for your comment, mate.