The Vengeance Trilogy Box Set

Starring: Song K, Shin H, Bae D, Choi Min-Sik, Yoo Ji-Tae, Gang Hye-Jung, Yeong-ae Lee, Min-sik Choi and Shi-hoo Kim
Tartan Asia Extreme
RRP: 49.99
TVD 3691
Certificate: 18
Available 23 October 2006

Park Chan-Wook is a South Korean director of uncompromising power and vision. Often his films make uncomfortable viewing though they are never less than intriguingly entertaining, he has quite justifiably been called the South Korean Quentin Tarrantino and its easy to run out of superlatives when trying to convey just how good the direction, stories and acting are. These are great films which should find a place in everybody's collection.

The three films in this box set contain his trilogy on the themes of vengeance, love and the personal costs of revenge. Sympathy For Mr Vengeance, Old Boy and Lady Vengeance have all been previously been reviewed in their special edition releases, so another would be more than a little redundant. Instead we'll look at the box set as a whole as, to be honest, if you already own these films (and if not, why not?) it's going to be the extras which will whet your appetite.

All three films have very good clean anamorphic prints with an audio choice of stereo, 5.1 or DTS with English subtitles.

Disc one contains Sympathy For Mr Vengeance with a directors commentary. Park's commentaries are always worth listening to. His explanations tend to be the sort that illuminate the film and film making process rather than being of the "aren't we all great?" variety.

Disc two and we're into the reason for buying the box set. If you are new to Park's films then I can highly recommend that you start with Jonathan Ross's documentary, which runs about sixteen minutes, covering the director's work. As you would expect from Ross, the arbiter of all things cool, the film is both entertaining and informative. With many clips from his movies, Park explains many of the reasons behind his narrative choices.

Process of Mr Vengeance is a visit to a sign language school. If you haven't seen the film, the reason behind this is that the main protagonist and his girlfriend are both deaf, which, in the film leads to an almost surreal love scene when they both express themselves through sign language. In this thirty-two minute film, we are also shown the process that the crew went through in bringing the story to the screen, including some very gory special effects. You also get to see the actors rehearsing their scenes and a little insight into Park's directing style.

My Boksu Story, running at seventeen minutes, is an interview with Kang-Ho Song (who played the role of Dong-Jin, the one who would become Mr Vengeance in the film) as well as the other major actors who all discuss why they got involved in the film in the first place. It even includes a piece about the little girl whose murder sparks off the whole thing.

To round off the disc you get a twenty-one minute film with the crew talking about their experience of the film; storyboards; and the original trailer.

Disc three holds the, mad as a March hare, film Old Boy, this film comes with three commentaries, one from the director Park, another with Park and the cinematographer and the last with Park and the cast. If you haven't gone nuts watching the film four times to get all that in then you can re-whet you appetite with the original trailer.

Disc four is where you'll find the new extras for Old Boy, which consists of a single feature length documentary called The Autobiography of Old Boy, which is longer than the film itself and covers everything, and I mean everything, you could ever wish to know about making the film. It has loads of rehearsal footage. Personally I felt as exhausted after watching this as the actors appeared to be, making it. Still, it remains a fascinating fly on the wall look at the process of bringing a film to fruition.

Disc five and we are into the last film of the trilogy, Lady Vengeance, which comes supplied with a commentary by Park and the lead actress; a commentary by the Director of Photography and the Art Director; a commentary by Richard Pena; and an introduction by Park himself, which just about covers this beautiful work in its totality. If you had bought the previous version then you're in for a real treat as the version in the box set is the one that gradually fades to black and white, the personal choice of Park and unavailable outside this set.

The last disc contains the extras. The Making Of is a ten minute short which gives you more of a flavour of the film, rather than any in depth look at the process. The Style of Lady Vengeance contains featurettes covering aspects of visualisation, production design, art, costume and makeup. You get alternative scenes with commentary; a look at the characters; and a short film about the film's premier in Venice; and five TV and trailer shots to round it off.

The original releases garnered a healthy eight to nine marks, but with the inclusion of the new extras Tartan have pushed this set into the "must have" category.

Charles Packer

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