21 April 2001 | BrianDanaCamp
Middling Chinese swordplay adventure from King Hu
THE VALIANT ONES (1974) is a mid-career work from celebrated Chinese director King Hu who worked in Hong Kong and Taiwan and specialized in costume adventures with martial arts themes. It's a historical swordplay adventure about Chinese officials trying to find a way to thwart Japanese pirates plundering the coast of China. It's all rather slow going until the final full-scale battle in the woods between the Chinese soldiers and the pirates and the final duels on the beach between the heroes and the head pirate.
It's nicely photographed on Taiwan locations, but the script is contrived, the characters restrained, and most of the fighting, until the end battle, not terribly well staged. There is some attempt to incorporate the newer kung fu styles then gaining ascendancy at Shaw Bros. in Hong Kong, but the lead actor here, Pai Ying, is not quite the fighter the part required. Further down the cast list are some important names who would become prominent in kung fu films a few years later. Samo Hung plays the lead Japanese pirate. Yuen Biao appears as one of the pirates and has a brief bout with the hero. Simon Yuen, patriarch of the famous Yuen clan and the title character in Jackie Chan's original DRUNKEN MASTER (1978), appears as a bald monk. Rounding out the cast is the beautiful and formidable Hsu Feng, one of director Hu's favorite actresses. The film is in Mandarin with English subtitles that are frequently hard to decipher in this full-frame VHS transfer which cuts off the subtitles on the sides.