Do titles like THE LADY HERMIT, INVINCIBLE SHAOLIN, and TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS get your heart beating? Sick and tired of buying dodgy VCDS and DVDS from sellers in Singapore on eBay? Looks like there is another way to satisfy your vintage kung fu habit…
I’ve been playing around a new video on-demand web service Jaman.com since the end of December, which is offering downloads of some of the Shaw Brothers films restored by Celestial. Please to report that quality is good and it is all legit. No more pixel jamming bootlegs!
I haven’t tried other video on demand sites out there, but I am not a big consumer of mainstream fare. If I plan to see PIRATES OF THE CARIBEAN, it will be in the cinema on the big screen, but with older titles you are hard pressed to find venues to that play them. And dream on if you want to see a 1967 Shaw film on the big screen, with the exception of the Heroic Grace touring series. As for bit torrents, I don’t have the time or patience to use them for feature films, especially if it might look like crap in the end.
Jaman seems to be focusing on world cinema that falls between the cracks of the distribution system. This makes sense, especially if you live where you don’t have access to specialty DVD rental stores or only have Blockbuster. Aside from over forty Shaw Brothers titles, they have Bollywood films, Spanish language films (including the horror thriller OCULTO) and North American films. I stumbled across SOFT FOR DIGGING, the slow burn but effective indie ghost story by J.T. Petty who directed S&MAN which was screened at last years Toronto International Film Festival in the Midnight Madness selection.
The picture and quality of the films are pretty decent and it certainly beats VCD. With my DVD purchasing habits, I find myself hard pressed to buy import dvds, especially if I am only going to watch it once. With Jaman I have been able to catch up on a number of Shaw Brothers classics, plus I’ve taken my Mac laptop and plugged the video output into my TV and watching them bigger than my computer screen offers.
Currently the project is in a test beta version and for the most part it is invite only. Once signed up, you download an application from Jaman onto your computer which acts as both a web browser for the site and an player to view the films.
Next, browse and pick a film. Films are divided up into world regions, so if looking for the Shaw Brothers titles, direct yourself over to “Asia”. When you pull up a page for a particular film, you get plot and details plus a trailer embedded in the page that starts playing when the page is fully loaded.
Right now since Jaman is in a trial period, the rentals are free. In the future the price will be around $1.99 and if you want to keep the file on your drive to watch any time it costs $4.99.
Once you pick a film the app downloads the file in a bit torrent type method to your computer and you have a license to access it for 7 days. After the seven days are up, you can’t open the file, but can always renew the license.
So far I have watched: THE SILVER FOX, THE CRIMSON CHARM (with a young Sammo Hung in the background of fights), THE THUNDERING SWORD, TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS. They also have Chang Cheh’s INVINCIBLE SHAOLIN and THE DUEL (aka DUEL OF THE IRON FISTS), and the wild and wacky double bill of RETURN OF THE BASTARD SWORDSMAN, and SHAOLIN PRINCE.
Another gem is one that is not out on VCD/DVD yet, the creepy and sleazy BLACK MAGIC 2 (aka REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES) with Lo Lieh as a wizard who casts love spells and drives nails into the heads of corpses to revive them.
The site is aimed to be a social community encouraging user reviews and ratings of films and discussion groups. Interesting idea to unite film fans from various areas. Right now the main traffic is on the Bollywood films, but there is a Hong Kong Kung Fu group that hopefully will see some action shortly.
If you want to check out the site, I have a limited number of invites that I can send out. Send me an invite to firstname.lastname@example.org and I can fire off an invite for you to try it out. Keep in mind that I am going to be traveling from Feb 7 to 14, so I might not be able to answer right away.
For more info, here is a link to a piece about the sale of the Shaw Brothers titles to Jaman from Celestial that was posted over on KungFuCinema.com.