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Kung Fu - Season 1 announced: Specs, Art, Extras

Posted by David Lambert
12/09/2003
 
    He is a man of peace in a violent land. He is Kwai Chang Caine, schooled in the spirit-mind-body ways of the Shaolin priesthood by the blind, avuncular Master Po and the stern yet loving master Kan. Caine speaks softly but hits hard. He lives humbly yet knows great contentment. He is the Old West's most unusual hero. But hero is not a word Caine would use. He would simply say, "I am a man."

So sayeth Warner Brothers, who announces Kung Fu - The Complete 1st Season on DVD. Starring David Carradine, the first season also has guest appearances by the likes of Jodie Foster, Robert Urich, John Saxon, Pat Hingle, Rosalind Chao, Merlin Olsen, Larry Bishop, Richard Hatch, Denver Pyle, Victor French, and family members John and Robert Carradine. This release includes all 15 episodes of season one, plus the breakthrough 90-minute pilot episode. That will bring the running time to 840 minutes. The street date is March 16, and the list price is $39.98.

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Additionally, this 3-disc set will include two new original documentaries: "From Grasshopper to Caine: Creating Kung Fu," and "The Tao of Kwai Chang Caine: Production and Beyond." The sound is in English Mono, with subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

There's another, um, aspect to the specs that are very likely to bother some of the fans. When we first reported about this upcoming release, way back in June, we passed on that this would be done as a 16x9 Widescreen release, and that strips of the picture along the top and bottom would have to be eliminated in order to make the picture fit. We were hoping that when the specs actually were announced, that we would find out that this was mistaken, and that the entire picture of each frame would be on these DVDs - without cropping or compression to squeeze it in. Unfortunately, that's not the case, since Warner's announcement plainly states that this is "Digitally remastered...in never-before-seen 16:9 widescreen format."

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Aspect ratios are a tricky business, and one that's come more and more into public awareness in the DVD era. In short, you need to know that the vast majority of items that were lensed for TV viewing prior to the mid-90's are shot in a square, as are almost all films shot prior to the mid-50's. In order to fit those items into a rectangle, like a 16x9 widescreen set, and still take up the entire screen without stretching or zooming, then the picture must have the top and bottom strips shaved off, losing valuable picture. There are very few instances of this situation yet, though. It appears that Kung Fu - The 1st Season will be among those examples.

A more common example of aspect ratio adjustment is when a motion picture - such as Star Wars, for example - is filmed with intention to be shown on a rectangular cinema screen, but then has strips of the picture eliminated on the left and the right sides to make the show fit on a "standard" square television. This process is commonly known as pan-and-scan, and you can read more about that loss of picture (and its remedies) at The Widescreen Advocate website. This is a different form of cropping than will be seen with Kung Fu, but related...it's just on the sides, where Kung Fu's will be on the upper and lower sections.

We won't delve too much more deeply into the great Aspect Ratio debate here; we just wanted to bring it up for those who get concerned about these things. Yet we wanted to explain enough of it for anyone who just doesn't understand why this matters to others. Newer filming techniques, such as "Super35" as an example, allow directors to attempt to compose their shots for both aspect ratios (full frame and widescreen) at the same time. Unfortunately, even the idea of composing for multiple aspect ratios can cause its own controversy in the process.

In the end, we're sure that the vast majority of you are simply glad that Kung Fu is coming out on DVD. You can pre-order this right away at Amazon.com if you want to, but be aware that they mistakenly show the release date as 2/17. That's actually the studio's "order due date" that Amazon typed in by accident...the last day retailers can place orders for this product in time to arrive by street date. Look for this release on March 16th.

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http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/shownews/Kung-Fu/2637
 
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