Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Heroic Ones (1970)

The English title is too common, not interesting. Perhaps it's more appropriate to name this '13 Generals' or '13 Guards'. I have seen the 1982 TVB series 'The Wild Bunch' but they are many differences. In this Shaw Brothers version, the only romance is between Li Chun-siao (the 13th general) and a young girl in Chang-an.

In the beginning of the movie, we were introduced to the 13 generals. They were adopted sons of King Jing, Li Ke-yong. This was in the end of Tang Dynasty when the emperor had lost control over his empire. When the warlord of Bianliang city Chu Wen visited King Jing in a siege in Hezhong, they were attacked by Wang Chao's army, led by Meng. Chu Wen made a bet that the 13th general, Li Chun-siao, wouldn't be able to capture Meng before noon. Li Chun-siao succeeded and won Chu Wen's jade belt.

The king and his 12 generals, minus Li Chun-siao
Grudging Chu Wen invited King Jing to come to Bianliang. The king sent the 4th general and 12th generals, who were jealous of the 13th general, to inspect the situation. Chu Wen bribed the 4th and 12th generals so that these two would say good things about him to the king. The king agreed to visit Chu Wen in Bian-liang, accompanied by Shi Jin-si, the 11th general. Chu Wen's troops attacked the king; Shi Jin-si died in the battle.

13 generals go to Chang-an to assassinate Wang Chao
The 4th and 12th generals stole the king's sword to falsify the command to lure the 13th general to their camp where they killed him. The angry king sent the other 9 generals to catch the 4th and 12th generals who were going to Chu Wen's territory to seek asylum. The 4th and 12th generals refused to go back because it meant death and they killed 4 more generals in their struggle.

David Chiang as the 13th general
Like The Water Margin, this movie involved a great number of cast. I was not keen at first, because too many characters usually would make a movie lost its focus. This movie, however, got interesting after the king attended Chu Wen's banquet and Chu Wen's people got Shi Jin-si drunk. The fights after that and Shi Jin-si's death scene were captivating. It was always sad to see a bright, talented young man died like that. Li Chun-siao's death scene was also horrifying, made your hair stand on end.

It needs 2 soldiers to carry Li Chun-siao's weapon
From the reaction of the 1st general, Li si-yuan, when the king commanded them to catch back the 4th and 12th generals; we could see how strong the bond among the brothers had been. In the final fight scene, he was reluctant to hurt his brothers.

Chin Han as the 1st general

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