REVENGE, BURNINGS, TRADITIONAL DANCE NUMBERS, DRINKING AND DRUNKENNESS, LECHERY, ATTEMPTED RAPE, PLOTTING, MORE REVENGE, DYNASTIC INTRIGUE, PAGEANTRY, .......All the elements of a classic Shaw Bros. production (filmed in Shawscope!) are included in The Heroic Ones. This gem of the Classic Age of Kung Fu movies is directed by the great Chang Cheh who clearly is the forerunner of modern day filmmakers like Tsui Hark and his contemporaries. If you have seen any of Hark's films (Swordsman, Once Upon A Time in China), you should check out Cheh's The Heroic Ones.
This epic features David Chiang in the role of the 13th prince, a powerful young fighter, one of 13 brothers who all seem to be skilled martial artists. Chiang, at the time, was a rising young star at the Shaw Brothers studio. Western audiences saw him paired with the late, great Peter Cushing a few years later ih the Hammer - Shaw Bros. Co-production THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES (a.k.a. 7 Brothers against Dracula).
The 13th prince is the favored son of the King with 13 sons. He appears to be young, brash, strong, and the most charming of all the brothers. His lofty status with the King causes jealousy among his brothers which leads to a very gruesome family feud. Throughout this adventure there are a number of excellent fighting scenes. The last third of the film is filled with great swordfighting and super Kung Fu.
Director Chang Cheh has made over 100 films in his LONG and ILLUSTRIOUS career. His work for the Shaw Bros. represents the best films produced during the 1960's and early 1970'S at that most renowned motion picture studio. His use of lighting and costumes to establish character is outstanding here. His camera seems to be always moving into the action while the editing draws the viewer into the story at hand.
All the performers do well in their roles. Ti Lung performs well as the 11th prince as does Chin Han in his role as the eldest son. Han turns in a surprisingly poignant performance. The film also is the first known screen appearance of Bolo Yeung who went on to many memorable performances.
There are many good scenes in The Heroic Ones, but one of the very best is an extended scene in which Ti Lung must rescue his father from an assasination attempt and together they must fight their way out of the opponents stronghold.
This is a complete version of the film and it contains one of the bloodiest, most visceral murders that I can recall seeing in any Shaw Bros. film of that era. It took this viewer COMPLETELY by surprise, and I loved it. The screenplay, up to that point, gives no indication of this happening and when it does, it blows you away. There are some universal ideas and concepts in The Heroic Ones that are clearly expressed in this wonderful film without spoken words. Clearly, Chang Cheh should have a place of honor in the History of Global Cinema.Copyright © 1995 - J. Crawford