16 August 2014 | Filmfandave
Hellfighters of the East
A 1972 Shaw Brothers production by the studio's prolific director Chang Cheh. If you are familiar with Shaw Brothers films, the cast boast the superstars of the era: Ti Lung, David Chiang, Wang Chung and Chen Kuan-tai. To the uninitiated, you have to suspend your disbelief to enjoy a Shaw Brothers film, especially of this genre.
The story, which takes place after the end of the Korean War in 1953, tells about a wounded innocent bystander - a Chinese soldier, an expert in hand-to-hand combat (Ti Lung) who is framed for the brutal murder of an American G.I.. Not wanting to be falsely sentenced and possibly hanged, he escapes from the hospital with the help of his three friends who have just retired from the same war: a kungfu instructor (David Chiang) who is also a patron of a brothel run by an American gangster and his Japanese second-in-command Lei Tai (Yasuaki Kurata), an explosives expert (Wang Chung) and a weapon expert (Chen Kuan-tai).
Hiding out in a prostitute's house whose brothel the kungfu instructor often frequents, the four plan to find a way to help their accused friend. However, the matter becomes complicated as Lei Tai and his men of the brothel, who are the real murderers of the G.I., and the South Korean Military Police, assigned to arrest the four soldiers dead or alive, are hot on their trail. Knowing that the two opposite sides of the law are closing in, the four cornered fugitives are forced to settle their predicament in a ruthless final confrontation.
FOUR RIDERS is not in the same league as Chang Cheh's superb "Seven-Samurai-like" 1975 kungfu film THE SAVAGE FIVE which boasts the same four superstars. Firstly, this is largely due to the inaccuracy of the production design. The story that takes place in 1953 is not portrayed as is. Instead, audience see the South Korea of 1972 when the film was shot. Most probably, this happened due to cost constraint. Another reason is the unrealistic foley (sound effects) that is used during the fights: the often heard "yap" and "whack" sounds in badly dubbed kungfu movies of the 70's. Then there are the technical inaccuracies: the weapon used by one of the main characters, in this case a rifle that can shoot multiple times without reloading or the law-of-physics defying act of flailing a barbell as a killing weapon as though it was weightless!
Despite these inaccuracies, FOUR RIDERS manages to entertain and is worth watching for fans of the four actors, especially those who like to see desperate heroes fighting against all odds!