Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Longest Nite Dvd Comparison



The Longest nite from 1998 is a classic Hong Kong noir action thriller made by Johnnie To, Wai Ka Fai and credited director Patrick Yau. As a noir styled film, by its very nature The Longest nite was never going to be easy to transfer to home video formats, the combination of a low budget and how dark the film is, was always going to cause problems with the video formats of the time. Added to this issues with Hong Kong film preservation, which have long caused problems with older films being re-released on dvd and a complete lack of any release in the US or UK, results in few options for fans of this great film.



The Longest nite was released on vcd, laserdisc and dvd by Universe, I have not seen the laserdisc but the vcd is practically unwatchable. The dvd is now long out of print and can regularly be seen on ebay advertised at vastly inflated prices due to it being rare, as far as I know its the only English friendly dvd released to date. The disc has a non anamorphic transfer of the 2.35:1 feature, it is soft, lacking detail and the compression is very poor. The only upsides to the disc are the English subs, they aren't great, but just about get the job done, the disc also has some fun extras, unfortunately not subtitled, including footage of Johnnie To shaving Lau Ching Wan's head for the film.



If you have read my previous dvd comparisons for The Mission and The Blade you will know where this is headed. The French dvd company HK Video released The Longest nite on region 2 dvd in 2005. The dvd has an excellent anamorphic transfer, detail is much improved as is compression and the transfer is framed slightly differently, with slightly more picture information on top and both sides and slightly less at the bottom compared to the Universe dvd and is probably as good as the film is going to look as a blu ray release looks unlikely. As is usually the case with French releases, no english subtitles are available. The French disc comes packaged in a fold out digipac, with a 56 page colour booklet together in an outer slipcase. A French dub or original Cantonese mono with French subtitles are the audio options. The only extra is an interview with Johnnie To in Cantonese with French subs.

Booklet
Digipac

The French disc proved to be more difficult to add subtitles to than the previous dvds I have subbed as the subs available to download were not in sync with the pal video, which meant having to re-sync them, the result is not perfect but is still a significant improvement over the Universe disc.

Below are screen captures from the two dvds, while every effort has been made to capture as close to the same frame as possible, using the equipment I have it is not possible to guarantee it is exactly the smae frame. The screen grabs are presented exactly as captured and have not been processed in any way, click on the capture to see it full size. HK Universe dvd first, followed by the HK Video French dvd.

















While it is a shame that the only quality release of The Longest nite is compromised by a lack of English subtitles, at least it has a good dvd available, whereas others such as Too many ways to be number one, Expect the unexpected and A hero never dies don't have any sort of quality release available anywhere. Milkyway image need to do something similar to what Wong Kar Wai did with his films and start a remastering program to restore these films to how they should look and make them readily available once again.

6 comments:

Glenn, kenixfan said...

Wow, the new one looks so much better.

I stumbled across this flick in a used record shop here in D.C. a few years ago for about $4. I had heard the title and had seen a bunch of To titles already so I grabbed it.

The case was messed up and, since it was an old Universe release, the inserts won't fit into anything other than one of those big Universe cases.

So I cut the insert to fit into another case.

And then I learned how rare the title was.

Thanks for comparing the DVDs. That's always a valuable service, especially for a film like this.

Kingwho? said...

I enjoy your comparisons as well. Really fun posts. I, of course, prefer the darker Universe originals. I really don't dig when people get too technical (not you, for the record) and talk about specs. Most times, as long as I can see the movie w/ subtitles, however crappy they may be, I'm OK.

I combat the tech/spec geeks with a paraphrase from Takeshi Kaneshiro in Chungking Express, "People like you are hung up on freshness!" =P

It is a shame that HK films have had poor preservation. I heard WKW speak about that and it was one of the reasons he did a redux version of Ashes of Time.

Also, do the French hate English speaking/reading people so much that they don't provide English subs! hahaha

A hero never dies said...

Thanks guys for your comments, I don't like to get too "hung up on freshness" by going into too much jargon, I prefer to let the screencaps speak for themselves. I am trying harder not to pay so much attention to picture quality, but its difficult with widescreen hd displays, these days as you can never get the picture to fit the screen properly!

Lets face it though many HK films are never going to get better releases, so its a case of having to put up with what is out there, if you want to watch the movies, which is what its all about. That doesn't mean that when better versions are released, that I won't be all over them!

Eric Rice said...

Greetings. Due to good fortune I stumbled on your site while searching for some website info about Too Many Ways to Be No. 1 - I am a longtime fan of Tony Leung, Lau Ching Wan and this film in particular. I actually own the HK and Universe releases of LN and you may want to c=double-check the disc for the HK release. Although English is not listed as one of the supported languages, there is (at least on the edition I received) an English subtitle track that is not on the menu but is on the disc (using your remote). On a side note, I would love to see an English subtitled print of Beyond Hypothermia other than the Mei Ah. There is a European release and a US First Look release (both wonderful prints) both of which have some dubs but no English subtitles... oh well... Best Regards, Eric

A hero never dies said...

Eric, thanks for the info, I think your copy may be a bootleg edition, as mine does not have an English option. I once saw it in ebay with the same cover advertised with English subs from a bootleg seller, I was outbid though and haven't seen it since!

Do those releases of Beyond hypothermia have the original Cantonese sound as well as the dubs?

Choi said...

It's nice to know the compare~
Did you ever heard The Longest Nite had a different ending?
Just curious and want to share with you~

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