|Index||5 reviews in total|
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.
THE BLOOD BROTHERS is not only one of the best movies Shaw brothers
ever produced, it's also one of the greatest martial arts films ever,
The story follows three men--Chang, Huang and Ma. The former two are good friends and partners in crime, who make a living stealing from travellers, but Ma is a refined man with great ambition and a desire for power and fame. Chang and Huang, despite having different goals to Ma, become his close friends and join forces with him to conquer a rebel outpost, receiving the surrender of a small army of warriors. All seems to be going well, until an affair starts between Ma and Huang's wife, but is cut short by his decision to join the army, where he can finally make a name for himself. Ma's success in battle leads him to fame and he requests the aid of his two good friends, Huang and Chang, in crushing rebels. But power proves more important to Ma than friendship...
The fight choreography is consistently outstanding, from the lighthearted opening fight scene to the stunning, emotionally charged finale. Weapons are put to good use, Chang's use of the three-section staff stands out in particular. Slow motion is also used well, especially in the last battle.
Production values seem surprisingly high, with thousands of extras, weapons and costumes on display. The sets are well made, although some outdoor scenes are obviously filmed inside a studio.
Despite some minor flaws, THE BLOOD BROTHERS stands out as a highly memorable martial arts epic, with a more involved plot than the usual kung fu movie. Chang Cheh was a talented director and the THE BLOOD BROTHERS is one of his classics.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Blood Brothers (1973) was a depressing film that was based upon a true
story. During the waning days of the Ching Dynasty, a soldier (David
Chiang) is accused of murdering a high ranking Provencial Governor (Ti
Lung). A trial is held and the soldier writes out an account of what
happened between the two men and what led to his murder. We find out
that Ma (Ti Lung) was fooling around with his best friend's wife. Even
though the three men were considered "blood brothers" and treated each
other as if they're blood relations. In a desperate attempt to get rid
of his friend and erase the shame and dishonor of having an affair with
a married woman (the three brothers refer to her as sister), he has him
Chiang knows that Ma had his best friend killed so he vows to honor his dead friend and tries to assassinate Govenor Ma. He only wounds him before the two have a bloody fight that leaves Ma dying from a nasty stomach wound. The judge doesn't believe a word he says and has him beaten and throttled. Sentenced has been passed. Not only will he be executed for murdering Govenor Ma but for the death of his friend as well. He's taken out by Ma's henchmen and in a scene that was later "used" in BRAVEHEART, Chiang was disemboweled with a knife and a hook whilst tied up. His "sister" watches from her room as he's slowly gutted to death. Ma's men are pleased as he finally get's his justice served. Directed by Chang Cheh.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Blood Brothers is one of the best Kung Fu movies of all time for
many reasons. First, it is one of the few Kung Fu movies that has a
plot that not only makes sense, but it is a bit more complex. Second,
all actors are amazing. Third, the story begins as a flashback,
something that is rare in Kung Fu movies. And this is well done.
The story follows two bandits, Chang Wen Hsiang (David Chiang) and Huang Chang (Chen Kuan-tai) who attempt to rob Ma Xinyi (Ti Lung). They fail to defeat Ma, and so they decide to join forces with Ma and become blood brothers.
At first they take over a hill under the control of bandits and then train the bandits, creating their small private army. However, the wife of Huang, Mi Lan (Ching Li) falls in love with Ma. Ma tries not to see Mi Lan because he does not want to betray his blood brothers, but the film shows that he is in love with her.
After a few years Ma recruits his blood brothers and his private army to the Qing army and they fight rebels. But Ma's love for Mi Lan will lead him to betray his blood brothers................
That is a synopsis of the plot. The story lets you know from the start that Chang killed Ma. So what keeps the plot interesting is how those close friends could kill each other.
The only criticism I can make is that while the film makes the love story between Ma and Mi Lan believable and while it also makes believable that Chang and Huang are friends, it spends little time developing the relationship between Chang and Huang and Ma. Ma never seems to be a real friend of the two bandits and the viewer cannot really believe that Chang and Huang believe so much on Ma. But this in no way means that the Blood Brothers is not a good movie.
Also most Kung Fu movies use the plot as an excuse to connect Kung Fu battles. This movie uses the Kung Fu scenes to connect the Plot instead. Even without Kung Fu scenes, the movie would still be awesome. But the Kung Fu battles are awesome and really good to see.
Now the rating:
Kung Fu battles: 3/5
So in total, this films ranks 8/10. It is an awesome film, one of the best Kung Fu movies, but the films fails in the blood brothers relationship part. Had it had more development between the three main characters, this might well had been ranked 9.
Chinese martial arts movies have a history of strong female martial artists as lead characters. Josephine Siao, Connie Chan, and Betty Lo Tieh took many lead roles in the 1960s going against male villains such as Sek Kin. Chang Cheh directed "One-Armed Swordsman" in 1967 and starting there, let me just say he had a different opinion about women in martial arts movies. I consider this movie his masterpiece. The life blood of a good movie is conflict. Conflict is to the fourth power in this movie. The male leads despite being blood brothers are always in conflict. Then there's that troublesome woman. I love when a movie starts by giving away the ending. David Chiang will be executed without doubt from scene one. Telling the story from his point of view is the best choice. He is the moderator, the peace keeper, he sees everything going on and he tries to stop it all from going to hell. Also unusual is the fact that there is no villain in this movie. In a way each lead character's fatal flaw is the villain. There is no overcoming of fatal flaws so in a sense all four villains win in this tragedy. I would love to see the movie expanded to one of those 80 episode dramas like Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber.
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