Road Rash Reviews

The Last Emperor (1987) 4K UHD Review*****

Cert 15 | 382 mins | 2023

5 star 4K treatment of an epic tale.

The Last Emperor is a 1987 epic biographical drama, co-written by Mark Peploe (The Passenger, Afraid of the Dark) and Bernado Bertolucci (Last Tango in Paris, The Sheltering Sky). It is adapted from the 1964 autobiography of Puyi, the final Emperor of China.

It is presented here in all it’s glory following a 4K restoration courtesy of Arrow Video.

“Men, you know, are not allowed in the Forbidden City after dark. Even little men like you. The only man who can live here is the Emperor.”

The Last Emperor tells us of the life of Puyi, from a toddler right through to his imprisonment for collaboration and beyond.

In 1908, the 3 year old Puyi (Richard Vuu) is summoned to the Forbidden City by the Dowager Empress who hands over the reigns to him. Bewildered by all the pomp and noise, the child begins his life of imprisonment in the Forbidden City.

Surrounded by eunochs who bow before him and see to his every wish, he is raised to believe that he is the country’s divine ruler. His only real friend is his wet nurse Ar Mo (Jade Go – Big Trouble in Little China), but even she is eventually made to leave. The very same day, he is told by his brother that he is no longer Emperor, China has become a republic.

He is appointed a tutor, Mr Johnston (Peter O’Toole – Lawrence of Arabia, Troy) who gives him a Western education and leads him to look at the world through fresh eyes (quite literally) as well as heightening his desire to leave the Forbidden City. He is advised by Johnston to marry and so he does, taking Wan Jung (Joan Chen – Judge Dredd) to be his wife and Wen Hsiu (Vivian Wu – The Pillow Book) to be his secondary consort.

When he is finally forced to leave, a series of ill-fated decisions lead to him being imprisoned and interrogated (Rick Young – The Transporter, Seven Years in Tibet) and it is this interrogation which provides us with the story.

“You will begin by writing the story of your lives and by confessing your sins. Your salvation will lie entirely in the attitude you take. I advise you to be frank and sincere, otherwise things can still go very badly for you.”

The Last Emperor is a magnificent piece of filmmaking, which swept the boards at the 60th Academy Awards, winning nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Bernardo Bertolucci became the first Western filmmaker to be allowed access to the Forbidden City.

This superb example of cinematography has been brought to life all over again with this great restoration, which makes the decadent surroundings and grand costumes stand out all the more.

Although it is a long film at 2 3/4 hours, it keeps you riveted to the very end and is a fascinating (if not completely accurate) portrayal of a fascinating life and the culture which created it.

With lots of special features too, this box set is well worth adding to your collection.

“It is true your Majesty. Many heads have been chopped off. It does stop them thinking.”

The Last Emperor is available to buy now on Limited Edition 4K UHD and Blu-ray.


– New 4K restoration of the original theatrical version

– Original and extended versions of the film presented in their original aspect ratio of 2.39:1

– Original uncompressed stereo 2.0 audio, plus 5.1 audio option for theatrical version

– Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options

– Eight double-sided postcard sized lobby card reproduction artcards

– Fold-out double-sided poster featuring two artwork options

– Illustrated collectors book featuring new writing by film critics Kat Ellinger and Philip Kemp, plus select archival material


– 4K (2160p) Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)

– Original uncompressed stereo 2.0 and 5.1 audio options

– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

– First to Last: The Road to the Forbidden City, a new visual essay by film critic David Cairns exploring Bernardo Bertolucci’s career prior to The Last Emperor

– Open the Door, a new visual essay by film critics David Cairns & Fiona Watson in which they follow Bertolucci into the Forbidden City to explore in-depth The Last Emperor and the truth on which it is based

– Archive interview with director Bernardo Bertolucci

– Archive interview with star John Lone

– Archive interview with star Joan Chen

– Postcard from China, video footage shot by Bernardo Bertolucci while location scouting in China

– Theatrical trailer

– Image gallery


– High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation

– Original uncompressed stereo 2.0 audio

– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

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DirectorBernardo Bertolucci
GenreBiography, drama, history
StarringJohn Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole, Ric Young