Brothers Five DVD Review
Written by ZigZag
DVD released by Well Go USA
Written and directed by Wei Lo
1970, Region 1, 102 minutes, Unrated
DVD released on July 15th, 2008
Cheng Pei-Pei as Heroine Yen Hsing-kung
Chin Han as Kao Hao (1st Brother)
Chang Yi as Kao Chih (2nd Brother)
Kao Yuen as Kao Yung (3rd Brother)
Yueh Hua as Kao Wei (4th Brother)
Lo Lieh as Kao Hsia (5th Brother)
Tien Feng as Lung Chen-feng
The beloved patriarch of the Kao family has been murdered and his surviving sons are relocated across China for their own safety. The evil Lung Chen has assumed control of the Kao family martial arts school, Flying Dragon Villa, and terrorizes the local villages for many years until the sons of Kao return.
Heroine Yen Hsing is on a quest to unite the brothers so they may invoke a secret martial arts style known as "the five tigers with one heart" (that sounds more impressive than it is). Each brother is introduced with a solo fight that allows for individual skills to be showcased, and while each is impressive, none of them are strong enough to defeat Lung Chen alone. The brothers unite and ultimately face Lung Chen and his crew in a final battle. Cheng Pei-Pei rests on the sidelines for the first two thirds of the film before getting to show her fantastic fighting style, but it is well worth the wait.
Brothers Five is a satisfying film that knows what the audience is watching for. Directed by Wei Lo (Fist of Fury, Dragon Fist), the plot is fairly straightforward, while the motivations are a bit muddled. The swordplay however, choreographed by Simon Hsu, is plentiful and beautifully staged. The film stops repeatedly in order to squeeze in one more battle. This can be a bit exhausting, but each fight is gorgeous and surpasses the previous sequence.
Cinematography by Cho Hua Wu, is breathtaking as he allows the action to play out in a series of uninterrupted master shots before moving in for close up coverage. Contemporary action films (foreign and domestic) are guilty of getting in too close to the action and leaving the audience confused as to what exactly is happening. Here the action is clear even when an entire crowd of people are involved in a fight.
Shaw Brothers studios, the oldest film studio in China, essentially made kung fu cinema. Without a doubt, martial arts would have made it to the silver screen, but it is through the Shaw family that the world was introduced to countless talents on both sides of the camera. The studio flourished for several decades and introduced the world to such budding Chinese filmmakers as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and John Woo. It is not too far a stretch to compare the Shaw system to what Roger Corman contributed to domestic audiences by constantly giving opportunities to new talent.
This film falls squarely in the heart of the genre of Shaw Brothers classic kung fu cinema. A simple revenge picture that allows for glorious fight sequences was the norm at he studio throughout the 1970s. The structure of Brothers Five has been switched around a bit in that the conflict has already begun before the picture starts. The studio made countless variations on the morality tale, and managed to keep the formula fresh. This is neither a lost classic nor a high water mark for Shaw Brothers, it is however nice to see the film preserved and made available to a wider audience.
Video and Audio:
The film is presented in a very strong anamorphic 2:35 widescreen picture. Colors are rich and blacks are strong. The film has never looked this good before, and Well Go USA should be complimented for such a fine job.
Mandarin 5.1 is the only audio option on the DVD, which is unfortunate, as the original mono audio would have been nice for purists. The overly processed forced surround comes off sounding hollow and tinny, but is serviceable. The English subtitles seem sharp and concise in translation.
The film's original trailer is presented without restoration, that reminds the viewer just how fantastic this DVD looks.
Want to comment on this review? You can leave one below or head over to the Horrortalk Review Forum.