Day of the Panther / Strike of the Panther [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (15th July 2019).
The Film

"Day of the Panther" (1988)

Two new members complete their training at the Temple of the Panther and become members of the secret martial arts group known as the Panthers. Jason Blade (played by Edward John Stazak) and Linda Anderson (played by Linda Megier) who were trained by Linda's father William (played by John Stanton) put their skills to use as undercover specialists of the Hong Kong Special Branch. But while Linda is on a drug deal case between a Hong Kong seller and Australian buyer, she is killed by strong henchman Baxter (played by Jim Richards) who is working for corrupt businessleader and drug importer Damien Zukor (played by Michael Carman). In order to avenge the death of his partner and his mentor's daughter, Blade goes undercover to infiltrate Zukor's lair and bring it completely down.

"Strike of the Panther" (1988)

Following the events of the first film, Jason Blade is doing highly dangerous jobs such as rescue operations for the Australian police, using his physical and mental skills. In the meantime, the murderous henchmen Baxter who was put in prison escapes with a vendetta against Blade, whose actions led to his arrest. In order to get to Blade's heart, he again goes after the ones he loves. His mentor William is brutally attacked, and William's niece and Blade's love interest Gemma (played by Paris Jefferson) being kidnapped. It is again up to Blade to get to Baxter through his minions, and somehow rescue Gemma before it is too late.

"Day of the Panther" and "Strike of the Panther" were both made back to back by Virgo Productions, TVM Studios and the Mandemar Group for direct to video sales on a worldwide scale, capitalizing on a quick fix of martial arts action. The films were centered around Edward John Stazak who was not an actor but a skilled martial artist, and the productions were made to launch his genre film career. Peter West was the director, co-writer, and stunt coordinator of the productions but four days into the shoot, it was decided that a more experienced director was needed. Experienced action director Brian Trenchard-Smith was brought in to take over not one but two productions as a sudden replacement. Both productions were fairly restructured not only with the scheduling, but with Trenchard-Smith making changes in the dialogue script, and even recasting actors in order to rescue both films.

The two films combined having a fairly low $1 million budget didn't help much in terms of show. The empty warehouses, the temple that was probably the same warehouse set but darkened, the empty gym - much of the locations seem recycled and none feature large areas or large crowds. The time seems to have been spent on the fight choreography which there are quite a lot of fights in the short runtimes for each. Stazak is fairly good and the minions he fights do a fair job of making him look skilled, which many are comical in how the men get beat up, though some are a bit on the serious side, such as Linda's death in the first film. In addition, some of the fight scenes go far too long that the story and plot loses its pace, though martial arts fans would probably rather have more fights than more dialogue. In comparison to the Hong Kong films of the period, the fight seems are a little on the slower side. No lightning fast kicks of Jet Li or the insane stuntwork of Jackie Chan are copied, though the charm and effort are both there in both "Day of the Panther" and "Strike of the Panther". The films were kept in mind for a teenage market, so there is a bit of language, a little bit of sex, and a great number of fights, though none too gratuitous or bloody.

Overall both films may have been rescued by a veteran director from being terrible forgotten pieces of cinema, but there was only so much that Trenchard-Smith could have done. The plot of both films are filled with questionable details and little sense in logic. Was there a reason to make Gemma a niece rather than William's daughter? Where is the supposed martial arts tournament? Why does William basically do nothing all day? Oh wait, he is narrating and somehow visualizing all the happenings in his mind somehow through concentration. Was there a reason that the opening twelve minutes of the second film to be a complete recap of the first? There are many things that don't make perfect sense, but even Trenchard-Smith admitted that most people that are interested in the works are not looking for coherence in the storytelling. As for why Gemma dances the way she does in a strange seizure-like manner in both films is a mystery (there were stunt coordinators but apparently no dance coordinators) and there are probably more scenes with Jason Blade without a shirt than with which should go over well some viewers looking for skin.

"Day of the Panther" and "Strike of the Panther" were shot in 1987 and released in various countries from the following year in 1988 mostly direct to video, although some countries such as Japan did give it a theatrical release. While a third movie in the series was planned as well as a TV series, the ideas were scrapped and never came to fruition. Stazak made one more film entitled "Black Neon" but his acting and martial arts career had to be put on hold after a medical setback, and instead continued his love from childhood of the accordion, becoming a professional accordion player.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents both film in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. Both films were shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm. The 35mm interpositives were the sources for the 4K restorations. While it might seem overboard for 4K for 16mm shot productions, there are positive in bringing out the detail in the image. Colors are bright and bold, detail is fairly strong, and skin tones are fairly good. But 4K doesn't necessarily mean perfect, as there are quite a few imperfections. Scratches and dust is fairly visible not going through a thorough cleanup, and reel change markers are also visible at times. There are some scenes with a bit of color fluctuation as well. But in comparison to most people who saw the film before on videotape, basic cable, or DVD, the image should be a well rounded revelation.

Both films share a single disc and being a dual layered disc, there is plenty of breathing space for both films.

"Day of the Panther" runs 89:48.
"Strike of the Panther" runs (90:27).

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
Both films feature lossless mono audio. The restored audio tracks sound fair with well balanced with the dialogue, music and effects with none drowning out the other. Punches and kicks sound as they should (fairly fake) while dialogue is clear and without faults. There are no issues of hisses or pops in the track.

There are no subtitles for either film.

Extras

"Day of the Panther" trailer (1:35)
"Strike of the Panther" trailer (1:46)

The vintage trailers for both films are presented here. Both trailers are embedded below.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles





Sadly these are the only extras. It would have been great to hear some interviews from Trenchard-Smith or Stazak on the production but none are here.

Packaging

The packaging states region B only, but is actually a region ALL disc.
The inlay is reversible with the opposite side having identical artwork just without the "M" rating logo.

Overall

"Day of the Panther" and "Strike of the Panther" are by no means direct to video masterpieces but are B-movie martial arts fun for the runtimes. Good video and audio for the features, but sadly only trailers are the on disc extras.

The Film: C Video: B Audio: A Extras: D- Overall: C

 


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