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The Yang family was the loyal strong-arm of the Imperial army. But a jealous General betrays the Eilte Spearman and their father to the opposing Mongol army. After an ambush of a battle, only two of the seven sons survive. One remains hidden by the family while the other lives on the run. The traitorous general must find them and silence them before either of them can testify to the Emperor of his treachery. Written by
Fu Sheng was originally supposed to be the one to go to Shaolin. Major script re-writes were required that now put Fifth Brother (Gordon Liu) in Fu Sheng's role. See more »
The film's story takes place during the Song Dynasty of China which lasted from year 960 to 1279. Yet when the 5th Yang insists on having his head shaved at the Temple, the monks are using a straight razor which was not invented until the 1700s. See more »
Since getting into the genre a few years ago I have seen many kung fu films of this era, and I have to say this is one of my favourites. I was lucky enough to find a wide screen, undubbed version.
This is a classic Shaw Bros. style film by famed director Lau Kar-Leung and starring Gordon Liu ("6th Brother"), whom Tarantino paid homage to by giving two roles in Kill Bill I & II.
The father of the Yang family and his seven sons go to battle to fight the Mongols who are threatening the Sung Dynasty. They are betrayed by a rival family and only two brothers, 6th (Liu) and 5th, survive. "6th" takes refuge at a General-turned-hunter's rural hideout (the General is a cameo by director Kar-Leung), before fleeing to a monastery where his brash personality conflicts with the monks there. At the monastery, he must improve his skills before seeking vengeance on those responsible for his family's betrayal.
The first fight scene (the battle) is a little cheesy with an obvious screened backdrop, a setting that doesn't really fit with the rest of the film. If the film was more ambitious this could have been a more impressive outdoor battle. But this is the film's only real drawback. The fights start out great and only get better. Highlights include 8th Sister's really breathtaking swordplay, and 6th Brother's duel with the Abbott which is both acrobatic and beautiful. This fight ends poetically, as during the fight both men had enscribed a yin-yang symbol on the floor of the monastery, symbolic of these two men's conflicting personalities: peaceful monk and warrior General.
The final scene is an all-out bloody melee which is really impressive, especially when 6th Brother takes on the horde with 8th Sister strapped to his back. Some of it is overacted (extreme reactions from bad guys as teeth are knocked out!) but used as a source of campy amusement, it only adds to the whole spectacle.
The plot is strong and very Shakespearean in scope (family loyal to the ruler is betrayed, family members must communicate in secret to avoid discovery while revenge is planned). The idea of the poles which use a twisty grappling-end to counter the Yang family's poles is unique. I love the fact that (like in many other films of the genre), the women's kung fu skills are as strong as the men's. This 20 years before the whole "girl power" thing in Western movies, music & TV.
If you're a fan of kung fu, see this film if you get a chance!
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