Unboxing Criterion’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA Blu-ray Collection

The “Once Upon a Time in China: The Complete Films” box set is new on Blu-ray this week from Criterion.

This is a huge win for fans of Jet Li and martial arts cinema, as these wonderful films haven’t had a great track record for US releases, thanks to complicated mix of right-holders. The first three films starring Jet Li received official DVD releases from Sony, though in very poor quality by modern standards. So frequently was the series internationally marketed as simply a trilogy that many fans didn’t even realize there were further films to the franchise, two of which feature Vincent Zhao in the lead role before Li returned for the sixth and final entry.

The series received plenty of bootleg and knockoff DVD releases, conflating other Jet Li and Wong Fei Hung films under an assortment of alternate titles. Not to mention that both Li and Zhao have played the Wong Fei Hung role in other unaffiliated films, and Tsui Hark produced a TV series, which all made it difficult to know which films or even how many were actually part of the series proper.

Your guess is as good as mine.

As with other long-running franchises with complicated ownership like Zatoichi and Godzilla, Criterion has managed the feat of wrangling the home video rights pull these six films together in a single box set. Let’s take a look at the physical aspect of this historic edition.

Outer Packaging

The unit is tucked into a slipbox. The packaging components are built with cardstock rather than more rigid materials and kind of flimsy on their own, but as an assembled unit it’s pretty sturdy and unlikely to be easily crushed.

Here’s a closer look at some of the relevant back cover information about the content and bonus features.

It’s worth noting that while the packaging and Criterion’s own ad copy highlight Films I-V, the Jet Li followup Once Upon a Time in China and America IS also included on its own disc and even has some bonus material.

Inner Packaging & Content

Inside the slipbox is an inner housing which holds the six Blu-ray discs. The booklet also sits in this area.


Staple-bound booklet features notes and credits on the films, essays by Maggie Lee and Grady Hendrix, and information about the image and sound restorations. 44 pages, not including the covers.

A/V Out.

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All package photography for this release was taken by the reviewer.

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