12 February 2019 | BrianDanaCamp
ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS - Spectacular sequel to THE WATER MARGIN
ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS (1973), co-directed by Chang Cheh and Wu Ma, is a follow-up to Chang's all-star spectacle from the year before, THE WATER MARGIN (aka SEVEN BLOWS OF THE DRAGON), based on the classic Chinese text of that title (also available in an English translation under the title, "Outlaws of the Marsh"). These are just two of many Shaw Bros. productions that have been adapted from different chapters of this sprawling epic tale. This one begins after the 108 Bandits of Liangshan Mountain have freed nobleman Lu Jun Yi (Tetsuro Tanba) from captivity, as seen in the previous film, and installed him as their second-in-command. They are now called upon to suppress a rebel prince named Fang La (Zhu Mu), who is seeking to overthrow the Emperor, and have been promised an imperial pardon should they succeed. Seven of the bandits, six men and one woman, are chosen to enter Fang La's stronghold at Hangchow and work undercover to learn his defenses and open the water gates at the appointed time so that the Liangshan boats can enter and attack the fortress. The enemy is alerted quite early to the presence of the spies and fights break out on a regular basis as Fang La's generals try to capture the bandits and thwart their efforts.
It's pretty much nonstop action from start to finish, with some of the most intricate fight scenes I've yet seen in a Shaw production. At one point, Shi Jin (Chen Kuan Tai) takes on dozens of enemy soldiers in a courtyard singlehanded. The reckless and short-tempered Black Whirlwind (Fan Mei-Sheng) was quite a lethal combatant in THE WATER MARGIN, but he's even more ferocious here, wielding his battle axes to bloody effect in one encounter after another as he cuts a swath through the onslaught of attacking soldiers, who are dwarfed by his massive presence. Also on hand are David Chiang, Wang Chung, Danny Lee, Wong Kwong Yue and the one female in the group, Yue Fung, as Sun the Witch. The rebel prince and his cadre of generals are quite a crafty and formidable group of foes, so the suspense level is high. The film makes ample use of the Shaw studio's massive backlot built for period epics. The music score is much better than the patchwork collection of random, sometimes dissonant, cues used in THE WATER MARGIN.
I had written a review of this film for IMDB back in 2001 after seeing a VHS copy of its shortened, English-dubbed version, SEVEN SOLDIERS OF KUNG FU. After re-watching the film on Celestial's R3 DVD this week for the first time in nearly ten years, I came here to check my original review, but it seemed to have disappeared from this site, so I wrote this one, especially since my original review was mixed and, I believe, somewhat unfair to the film considering the copy I had to view back then. Well, the original review is back on site now, complete with a positive addendum I added in 2010. So now I have two reviews of it here. In any case, I highly recommend the film.