CERT: 15 | PLATFORM: BLU-RAY | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
If you’re a Jackie Chan fan, you may have felt aggrieved that the classic Operation Condor has so far only been available on a barren DVD featuring an English dub of the movie. Well, the fine folks at 88 Films have remedied this by releasing a great Blu-ray package that features a 2K restoration of the original version and an extended cut. They clearly have their finger on the pulse.
Operation Condor (AKA Armour of God II) was the most expensive Hong Kong film ever made at the time of its release in 1991. Chan, who also directs, plays Condor (being Hong Kong, this is a semi-sequel to Armour of God – the characters are different but the themes are the same), a treasure hunter who is hired by the brilliantly-named Duke Scapio to find some lost Nazi gold in the African desert. He is given the key to the vault, which every dirty rotten scoundrel is after, including a group of deadly mercenaries led by a World War II veteran. Condor is joined by three beautiful women - a German girl named Elsa (Eva Cobo) whose grandfather buried the gold in the first place, desert expert Ada (Carol Cheng) and mysterious nomad Momoko (Shoko Ikeda).
The film is an entertainment showcase, featuring gadgets galore like Condor using a Zorb ball to escape some natives in a great opening sequence. We get a fantastic car chase, as Jackie on a motorbike is pursued through the tight streets of Spain, as well as parkour, bawdy comedy and, of course, martial arts. What Jackie and his stunt team do so well here is perform short pieces of exquisitely choreographed action, where disarming a gunman looks beautiful. The audience has to wait until the end for an extended fight sequence, with Jackie facing off against multiple mercenaries in an underground bunker. At this point in time, no-one could create an action sequence like Chan.
Not everything in the movie holds up for a modern audience, however. It's great that Condor is accompanied by three women - its not a coincidence that they are from the three areas of the world that the film was trying to appeal to - but the film treats them in a very chauvinistic way. Ada and Elsa both have their towels pulled off them to distract gunmen, the action coincidentally taking place when they are scantily dressed. The film is also set in a strange alternate universe where everyone in Spain and North Africa speak Cantonese.
The extended cut doesn’t offer any new scenes. Rather than giving us a bit more context to existing ones, it ultimately improves the film with enhanced picture and sound; Operation Condor has never looked or sounded so good. The disc includes a trailer and an interview with Canadian stuntman Bruce Fontaine, which gives a good insight into the processes on set. The highlight of the package is a booklet with great art work by “Kung Fu” Bob O’Brien that gives some good background and facts about the Armour of God franchise. It also features an interview with lead villain Vincent Lyn (this was originally meant for the disc, but Bob turned it into a telephone interview due to the coronavirus). Don’t be put off reading it though, as it's an incredibly detailed and insightful account of working in the Hong Kong film industry with all its magic and madness. A disc made by fans, for fans. Lovely stuff.