22 September 2001 | BrianDanaCamp
Exciting costume adventure with three top kung fu stars
DYNASTY OF BLOOD (aka BLOOD BROTHERS, 1973) is one of a group of near-epic historical adventures produced by Shaw Bros., directed by Chang Cheh, and starring David Chiang and Ti Lung. (The others include THE HEROIC ONES, THE NEW ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN, DEADLY DUO, and SEVEN BLOWS OF THE DRAGON.) The star pair is joined here by then-rising kung fu star Chen Kuan Tai (BOXER FROM SHANTUNG) and the three portray bandits who join the army to suppress a rebel movement in old China. One of the trio, Ti Lung, rises to the rank of general and gradually turns against his buddies, particularly after he begins an affair with the wife (Li Ching) of one of them. The action culminates in a tragic series of deaths and a drawn-out downbeat ending. The film is two hours long and would have benefited, perhaps, from a little cutting.
Shot at outdoor locations and large fortress sets, the film offers plenty of swordplay and battle action as well as a handful of kung fu bouts, all staged by action director Lau Kar Leung. It's colorful, exciting, beautifully shot, and features the three leads in more multi-faceted roles than they were normally given. The interplay of three friends involved in a violent business and the gradual onset of betrayal foreshadows similar themes found some 15 years later in the Hong Kong films of John Woo (who was assistant director on this film), most notably A BETTER TOMORROW and BULLET IN THE HEAD.
ADDENDUM (6/18/08): Since I did the above review, a Region 3 DVD of the film, in Mandarin with English subtitles, has come out from Celestial Pictures as part of their line of restored and remastered Shaw Bros. releases. The widescreen picture is beautiful, but the "restoration" does have a problem. The remixed soundtrack includes extraneous added sound effects, including constant bird chirping, enough to nearly ruin the climactic action sequences. When it comes out on R1, that problem should be eliminated.
Also of note is a 2007 remake of BLOOD BROTHERS, called THE WARLORDS, a China/Hong Kong co-production directed by Peter Chan and starring Jet Li, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro in the roles played by Ti Lung, Chen Kuan Tai and David Chiang, respectively. It's not a martial arts film, but is instead a big-budget epic war drama with battle scenes featuring hundreds of extras. The love triangle is there but is downplayed in favor of the moral conflicts between the brothers that arise over the conduct of war. The actors are all superb, with Jet Li proving what a great dramatic actor he is. It's a very different kind of film from BLOOD BROTHERS and is highly recommended.