The Anonymous Heroes
Mo ming ying hung
The characters Chiang and Ti essay here are extremely good natured (an early scene finds them engaging in a bit of playground-style roughhousing that causes considerably more damage to their already dilapidated abode) and rather naive about just what they are getting into. This might be slightly off-putting for those used to the inevitably downbeat "Chang Cheh finale" but the director and screenwriter Ngai Hong/Ni Kuang seem to have made a concerted effort here to keep the atmosphere a bit lighter than usual. So, instead of just having David Chiang play the charming rogue, he also lets Ti Lung have his own comic moments and has the actors smiling on numerous occasions. Aside from some very poor miniature work, this is a solid production with more exterior work than usual (the sequences involving an old steam engine were likely even photographed in either China or Thailand). As always with Chang, women are second string players to be kept mostly on the sidelines and Ching Li is given little to do, despite being a veteran of several previous martial arts pictures. Lau Kar-leung and Tang Chia/Tong Kai served as the action directors, and Yuen Woo-ping and Yuen Cheung-yan appear early on as a pair of drunken soldiers who get rolled by Meng. Chen Sing also has a small but memorable supporting part, and Fung Hark-on, Wong Ching, Hon Kwok-choi, Lau Kar-wing, and Ho Pak-kwong make "eyeblink" appearances.
Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.
Ti Lung. Image courtesy Intercontinental.
David Chiang and Ching Li. Image courtesy Intercontinental.
Hong Kong: OAT I
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]
The 4:3 letterbox image looks sharp,
colorful, and very nicely detailed; any speckles or scratches that were apparent
on the materials have been digitally removed. At the point of some shot changes
early on, the image buckles slightly, suggesting that the element's splices
are starting to separate. However, this is only a minor distraction, particularly
in light of the fine image quality. As with the other early releases in this
series, some of the subtitles appear twice in a row but this is not as annoying
as the 5.1 re-mix, which ineptly layers new music over top of the old and
adds restaurant foley FX to a scene set in a gambling den! The crickets during
evening exteriors have also been mixed ridiculously loud at times. The curving
at the extreme edges of the screen, however, is not Celestial's fault but
a common flaw created by the Cinemascope lenses Shaw Brothers used during
this period (the problem was not evident on the slightly curved movie screens
of old). A number of extras are on offer, including a solid audio commentary
by stuntman Jude Poyer and writer Miles Wood. The pair provide intensive backgrounds
on the performers and the studio, and persuasively assert that Chang entered
into the project with the full intention of making an Eastern western. They
discuss the film's strengths but are also honest about its limitations (like
the suspiciously modern white lines appearing on some of the roadways) and
also point a cue stolen from John Barry's score for THUNDERBALL. (Interestingly,
the opening title heard in the background of their talk is completely different
from the one on the main audio track!)
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© John Charles 2000 - 2003. All Rights Reserved.