It would be interesting to find out how the directorial chores were divided on this very enjoyable production. The style is consistent throughout most of the film except for some poorly shot opening scenes. Those who wince at the classic Chang Cheh red paint brutality will be relieved to know that it's limited to the very end of the film. The rest of the film is filled with good action and brisk plotting.
The film is filled with dozens of unique characters, all introduced with title cards even 90 minutes into the film. Readers of the famous book might be interested but most are useless to remember as they barely ever do anything. Fortunately the film has enough merit that you can easily watch without getting confused by the parade of introductions. The two Japanese leads are excellent as is the rest of the ensemble cast while David Chiang carries the majority of the film's personality.
There is a strong spaghetti western influence which is not a bad thing in this case. The music soundtrack seems to be entirely ripped off from other films. But the tracks stolen are mostly good, if unusual, choices.
The martial arts are frequently very good when Chiang's character is fighting. It's a version of Chinese wrestling that is not shown too often. Chuan Chen must have been the wrestling choreographer since his only other film credit is the sequel to this film. The weapon battles are early versions of the classic choreography of Liu Chia Liang and Tang Chia.
Many HK martial art dramas from this era are either too stagy or too brutal for my taste. This film strikes a good balance. Recommended.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?