Hong Kong Cinema

Fight Back to School

  • Made: 1991
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: Region 0 PAL
  • Release Date: ???
  • Company: EVS Entertainment
  • Length: 97 minutes
  • Picture: Cropped Widescreen
  • Language: English / Thai subtitles, DD5.1 Cantonese, Thai
  • Extras: Trailers / Scene Selection
  • Classification: NR


Gordon Chan


Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Ng Man-Tat, Cheung Man, Roy Cheung Yiu-Yeung, Wong Chi-Yeung, Gabriel "Turtle" Wong Yat-San, Paul Chun Pui, , Yuen King-Tan, Barry Wong Ping-Yiu

Stephen Chow (Fight Back to School) is on the verge of becoming the next big Asian movie star. This is a strange concept since he has been the biggest star in Hong Kong for the past fifteen years, being the only person to out-gross Jackie Chan in the 1990's.The rise to Western fandom has been well documented for the likes of Jackie Chan, Sammo, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fat, Zhang Ziyi etc, but for some reason Mr Chow has yet to make the same impact. Shaolin Soccer eventually managed to get reasonable exposure in the West in 2004 but he is still far from being a household name.

Stephen Chow's last two releases (Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle) broke all-time box office records in Hong Kong, but we now turn our attention to Chow's first mega hits. Fight Back to School was released in 1991, three years after his debut feature 'Final Justice'. This was second out of four consecutive years where Chow topped the annual box office (in order - All for the Winner, Fight Back to School, Justice My Foot! and Flirting Scholar). In 1991, it out-performed Jackie Chan's Operation Condor, John Woo's Once a Thief and Jet Li's Once Upon a Time in China! It was nominated for best actor / director / screenplay and supporting actor at the 16 th Annual HK Film Awards, but unfortunately did not go on to win any of the categories.

The familiar cast include Ng Man-Tat (who worked regularly with Chow), the gorgeous Cheung Man (Fist of Fury 1991, Sword Stained with Royal Blood) and perpetual bad guy Roy Cheung. The film was produced by the ubiquitous writer / director / actor / producer Wong Jing and directed by the remarkably inconsistent Gordon Chan (Fist of Legend, Thunderbolt, The Medallion). Gordon Chan returned to direct the sequel, and Wong Jing completed the third instalment later in 1992.


There is no point labouring the point here. Lightly based on Hollywood 's Hiding Out (1987), 'Star Chow' is an undercover cop who gets sent to school to retrieve his boss's pistol. During his frustrating time at Edinburgh College he manages to fall for one of the teachers, Miss Ho (Cheung Man). However, triad involvement is not far away, with Teddy Big (Roy Cheung) attempting to traffic machine guns around Hong Kong . Fortunately, Chow has the help of fellow officer, Tat (Ng Man-Tat) who is an undercover janitor, plus his newly befriended class mate Turtle (Gabriel Wong).


Once of the reasons for other Hong Kong stars being snapped up quicker than Stephen Chow is that comedy never travels as well as action. Chow's style of "Mo-Lei-To" comedy (Makes No Sense) is no great departure from the slapstick antics of Jim Carey, Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller (Adam Sandler's Billy Madison was based on a similar premise of the adult sent back to school). The joke count is exceptionally high, with a consistent barrage of visual gags and pranks. The school provides great opportunities for hilarious sequences, including cheating at multiple choice tests, science experiments, and flying chalk erasers.

There is also a light splattering of fighting and gun action. One of the scenes is directly lifted from Police Story, with thugs assaulting Chow late at night around some parked cars. The opening sequence is also a light-hearted pastiche of Jackie Chan in Heart of Dragon with the Special Police training sequence. The end section involves Chow and Tat leading the triads towards the school (which is erm.. always the best place to seek refuge from armed gunmen!). It is fast, fun and inventive - needs to be seen to be believed.


As Stephen Chow remains relatively unknown in the West, few distributors have the ambition / bravery to successfully market and distribute his films over here. To see many of Stephen's best films you will need to seek out Asian versions. This Region 0 PAL disc is from Thailand. The presentation is a crackly and cropped widescreen print with DD5.1 audio tracks in Thai and Cantonese and embedded English / Thai subs (hard to read - see pics). It merely contains trailers and scene selection by way of extras.


Many believe this is Stephen Chow's magnum opus. Chow will always endear and entertain, but in few films has he managed to keep up such a breathtaking pace. The jokes are fresh, original and brilliantly executed. It is easy to forget that Chow is superb at on-screen action, but he looks superb during the final section of Fight Back to School. The disc is the bare film, and definitely worth picking up at a budget price until Western distributors start to cash in on Stephen Chow's rising star.