9 January 2020 | ckormos1
Another classic from Shaw Brothers
This movie is highlights from an epic novel that has also been done as other movies and serials. There is so much to the novel that mere bits of the novel were also made into movies. I won't even attempt to track the specifics here. I'll just stick to this movie.
It opens with a lady playing the lute. David Chiang joins in and pretends to play the flute. The lady is the emperor's side piece. She gets the emperor to sign a pardon. David is one of the famous 108. They are criminals and rebels but they actually support the emperor and rebel against corrupt government officials. Unofficially, the emperor supports this activity since he has their loyalty. Many of the 108 have extensive backstories but this movie doesn't have the time to get into details.
The outdoors set is glorious. This is Shaw Brothers studios at Clearwater Bay at its high point. The big bridge is there, this time without side rails. There is the seven story pagoda, the big wall, the town, the hill from the wall to town, the area called Tiger clan headquarters, and a new wall waterside. This area was used many times in many movies and parts are seen for the last time. The waterside is new and prominently featured here.
The greatest action directors in the history of these movies continued being great in this movie. The fight choreography displayed little realism but instead show-off moments where the heroes faced overwhelming opponents and fought on for revenge and glory. The most noteworthy fights include David Chiang wrestles Bolo and chokes him out. Chen Kuan-Tai, covered in Sharpie tattoos, fights using a log, then a bench, and dies a good death. Fan Mei-Sheng has a long and good fight also. I rate it as my favorite. Ti Lung finally gets his fight near the end and loses an arm. Would it be a spoiler to mention a good alternate title would be "All Men are Dead Brothers"?
I rate it above average and consider it mandatory viewing for fans of martial arts movies of the golden age from 1967 to 1984.