The Heroic Ones DVD Review
Written by ZigZag
DVD released by Well Go USA
Written and directed by Chang Cheh
1970, Region 1, 120 minutes, Unrated
DVD released on September 16th, 2008
David Chiang as Li Tsun Hsiao
Ti Lung as Shih Ching Szu
Ku Feng as Li Ke-Yung
Chin Han as Li Szu Yuan
Nan Kung Hsun as Li Tsun Hsin
Chen Hsing as Minister Chu Wen
Li Lilly as Tsui Yen
The Heroic Ones is an epic tale of loyalty and betrayal, perfectly combining Shakespearean drama with spectacular sword fights. Set at the end of the Tang Dynasty, the film begins with Ambassador Chu Wen (Chen Hsing) requesting barbarian chieftain Li Ke-Yung (Ku Feng) recapture his capital city, which is being terrorized by a rebel leader (Bolo Yeung). Ke-Yung accepts with the assistance of his 13 fighting sons. Chief among this band of heroes are Li Shih-szu (Ti Lung) and Li Tsun-Hsiao (David Chiang) the most able and smartest of the bunch as well as their father's favorites. The youngest son captures the enemy general while his brother, Li Tsun-hsin (James Nam), leads an army straight into the thick of things by attempting to overthrow the rebel's castle fortress.
Two of the brothers are jealous of the attention and favoritism their father shows the others, and form an alliance with the Ambassador Chu Wen, who was humiliated by the brothers after the capture of the barbarian chieftain. This results in an attempt on their father's life that sets in motion a chain of events forcing the brothers into large-scale sword fights against hundreds of enemy soldiers. The film concludes with an epic battle, pitting brother against brother in a surprising turn of events.
The film is relentless in the number of fight scenes, (the highlight coming from Ti Lung in a stunning 15 minute sequence). Many of these include the use of long weapons, and the choreography features participants fighting on multiple levels (i.e. atop walls, bridges and staircases).
Director Cheh Chang (The One-Armed Swordsman, Five Deadly Venoms) has delivered a multi-layered and intelligent film that puts the plot before the action without skimping on either facet of the production. Casual audiences will enjoy the non-stop action, while history buffs will appreciate the attention to detail in the sets and the costumes. Chang creates a brilliant and bloody film that also reveals the impressive style of Shaw Brothers while the studio was in its prime. David Chiang and Ti Lung returned to work with Chang on several pictures forming what became known as an "Iron Triangle".
One of the most influential studios operating at the time, Shaw Brothers essentially made kung fu cinema. The studio flourished for several decades and produced countless films that represent the talent within the company. The Heroic Ones is a strong entry in the Shaw Brothers catalog and is highly entertaining. Finally available in a fully uncut version, this rousing historical action epic is definitely worth checking out.
Video and Audio:
The film is presented in a very solid anamorphic 2:35 widescreen picture. Colors are rich and blacks are strong. This film has never looked this good before, and Well Go should be complimented for such a fine job.
Mandarin 5.1 and English 5.1 audio options are offered on the disc, but 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 concise in translation, but offer a different translation from the English dub track.
The film's original trailer is presented without restoration. There are no additional special features on the disc.