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水滸傳 (1972)
The Water Margin

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 11/30/2008
Summary: big, epic.

The Water Margin is a really "big" production of the Shaw Bros. Studio. It tells the story of the legendary 103 Heroes doing acts of valor and chivalry while fighting evil and injustice. The Studio bosses used every one of their stars in the cast and they did not penny pinch in the costume department. Lavish set design and lighting stamp the trademark Studio "look" to the film.

Running about two hours, there are a lot of characters introduced throughout and the viewer is barraged with information, most of which has little to do with the actual plot. This epic is overseen by the Studios top director Chang Cheh who continues to draw inspiration from the American, and Italian, Western genre. In this production he borrows, quite liberally, some musical cues from Ted Post's Hang 'em High [1968] which starred Clint Eastwood in his first post-Leone western.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 03/09/2007

A big martial arts picture that is perhaps too big for its own good.

The script, based on a book by the same name, exclusively adapts chapters 64-68, with little exposition, and introduces characters for nearly the entire 120 minutes of its runtime. The Shaw Brothers literally unloaded their dormitory with a cast of thousands; however, aside from a couple of key players most of the actors -- even veterans of note -- find themselves downsized to glorified cameos.

Nevertheless, for a film based solely on a handful of occurances in the mist of an epic novel, with three different directors and four different action choreographers "The Water Margin" remains an otherwise even-keeled viewing experience that's paced by a catchy electric score.

Future auteurs John Woo and Godfrey Ho serve as assistant directors; Liu Chia Liang (Lau Kar-leung) contributes as one of four aforementioned action choreographers.

The follow-up "All Men are Brothers" reunites much of the cast and crew from the predecessor.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 08/13/2006
Summary: Not quite the classic it was intended to be.

THE WATER MARGIN apparently portrays chapters 64-68 of the novel (it says so in the intro reel). Not having the slightest clue what the Water Margin was all about, I was initially very worried. After all, the logical place to start a film adaptation is chapter one, right? To make matters worse, there are dozens of characters introduced right at the start with helpful little captions telling you their names and who they are playing. You can’t focus on this though, as the phase “I hope I don’t have to remember all this” goes through your mind time and time again. Luckily, it’s not quite as complicated as it first seems. The plot of the film centres not on the 108 (it’s a lucky number in Chinese, I’m told, and I don’t think it’s to be taken literally) Liang Shan bandits rebelling against the corrupt elements of the Sung Dynasty so much as a neutral figure who is drawn into the struggle with his protégé Yan Qing (David Chiang).

Although an epic production (the film is about twenty seconds short of two hours in length), I really don’t see why there were up to four directors involved in this project (and the sequel ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS). That said, it does have a feel quite unlike other Shaw productions of the era. A lot might have to do with the film’s score, which like THE NEW ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN is surprisingly contemporary, with electric guitars and full funky rock band accompaniment. There’s a distinctive “chikka chikka cha!” sound that permeates the score and gives the film a somewhat unique identity.

But is it any good? Well, I have to admit that it retained my attention through the whole running time and didn’t drag for a second, but I can’t help thinking that the first fifteen minutes are a bit pointless. And perhaps it requires some knowledge of the source material to fully appreciate, but for me the film ends without me knowing what the true motivation was for ANY of the characters.

The fight scenes are adequate, although not really as good as other productions from the time. As you would expect, the action really takes off in the last twenty minutes or so, when things come to a head plot-wise. The acting is also adequate, and David Chiang is pretty solid throughout. Fans of Ti Lung will be disappointed as usual, as he only has a brief appearance at the start until his fight at the finale. In fact, fans of EVERYONE but David Chiang will probably be disappointed that their favourite star doesn’t shine in this movie, but ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS does redress the balance somewhat…

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: PAUL MARTINEZ
Date: 11/17/2004
Summary: Unlike anything You're Used To

Water Margin is not like most Shaw productions you may have seen. From the score, the sets & the overall feel this film gives a fresh look into martial art movies.

Desribed as an "Epic" it really needs to be seen with its sequel "All Men Are Brothers" to achieve that feeling. The storyline was decent but it needed to be stretched out longer. At times it has an almost rushed feel to it. Many characters are introduced for seemingly no reason at all. It almost felt like watching a Little League baseball game where the coach gets everyone on the team into the game. There was a lot of fat on this film that could've used some trimming.

David Chiang is the focal character here and while he does possess some leading man characteristics he really never was as good an actor as Ti Lung who was grossly underused.

The fight sequences were disappointing to me considering all the action directors working on this film. David Chiang's wrestling abilities were just horriblbly awkward looking and really were not impressive at all.

One thing that suprised me was the score in this movie. Very 70's U.S. film sounding. Kind of what you think you would here in a Shaft movie or the like. It was different and I liked it.

While not really a great movie. It was very watchable for the pure fact that it's different that the usual Shaw stuff. Really should be seen in conjunction with its sequel.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 01/19/2004
Summary: 3.5/5

***1/2 THE WATER MARGIN: Very big budget epic that covers just a few chapters of the famous book. Spends the first 15 minutes introducing character after character, played by many of Shaws biggest stars, which had me worried the plot would be incomprehensible... thankfully, once introduced most of them disappear completely until the last 10 minutes Good story, great production values, decent action for the time. A winner.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 10/24/2003
Summary: Average Flick but Compelling Viewing

"The Water Margin" is too big and sprawling for any one man, so Shaw Brothers enlisted Chang Cheh, Wu Ma and Baau Hok Lai to direct. Having three directors also meant having four action directors to boot. "The Water Margin" is a case of too many cooks making the soup. The tale of the 108 heroes rebelling during the Sung Dynasty is too much to handle. In this film, it's so hard to keep track of who's who that characters are introduced with an on-screen credit as they are visually introduced. The main characters are played by David Chiang and, Japanese star, Tetsuro Tamba, as the disciple and master, respectively, are asked to join the 108 heroes to fight against the corrupt Sung officials.

The events move along briskly with people coming and going on and off screen. Many actors are featured in walk on cameos, but are only seen at the movie's onset and climax. Surprisingly, there really isn't that much action. Sure, a couple of fights along the way to the finale, but nothing that stands out, except for Chiang's play-school grappling and tumbling martial arts. The movie is not that arousing, but the viewing is somehow compelling from the beginning to the end.

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 10/07/2003
Summary: Feels like a epic, but it isn't!!

The movie itself goes for 2 hours, it felt like i was watching a part of some kung fu mini series.

The movie is almost storyless, with the basic plot if trying to recruit a famous fighter to fight for the "water margins" and that person gets in trouble for harbouring criminals. From their, attempted rescue attempts and a final fight at the end.

A all star cast, with David Chiang taking most of the screen time. Though i have read from another reviewer that he hated David Chiang, well i can see why. They guy looks bad when fighting, his wrestling movies look so fake and his super tumble technique looks like people are rolling on the ground.

Ti Lung, Yuah Hua and Chen Kuan Tai only play very minor roles.

The ending gets to me, because these so called heroes have a 5 on 5 duel yet other "water margin" characters can jump in whenever they want to interfere with the fighting. Honour goes one way it looks like

Overall, a watchable movie, i couldn't stop watching til the end


Reviewed by: kurama_tengu
Date: 06/03/2002
Summary: Very entertaining! A wonderful epic.

This was the first Chang Cheh film that I ever saw. Brought to the US as "7 Blows of the Dragon", this film is apparently one tale from the Chinese literary piece "The Water Margin". Basically, it's the band of bandits known as the Mountain Brothers vs. the evil government and Golden Spear, who has murdered one of their leaders. David Chiang plays Young Dragon and is the fighting lead. A young Ti Lung has a minor role here, and although he fights in the final series of battles, he is underused for such a grand film.

This film is very entertaining, and its fight scenes are typical of Chang Cheh and his future films. While David Chiang's fights are not that technical, he displays a charisma that helped him become one of Chang Cheh's favorites in films to come. [8/10]

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: battlemonkey
Date: 12/21/1999

Based on the famous novel, WATER MARGIN, this tells the story ofthe 108 Mountain Brothers, a band of noble renegades fighting against the Ch'ing government. This film tells the story of their efforts to rescue captives and kill anyone who gets in the way. David Chiang is great. Every time he does something slick, he gets a cool, "chooka-chooka choo" sound effect. The best thing about this film is the old trailer. In one part, the screen magnificently announces, "Featuring the 18 tumbles of Young Dragon!" and then cuts to a shot of David Chiang awkwardly rolling down a hill. Filmed largely on outdoor sets with tons of extras, this is a great period piece with plenty of action.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

The Tsung Dynasty was a period of disorder and oppression, so an honorable 108 gathered and became outlaws known as the Mountain Bandits to overthrow the opressor. The movie centers around revenge for killing the leader of the mountain men, Heavenly King, Chow Kai- who in his dying moment says "pull his heart out to avenge me." Golden Spear kills Heavenly King and he is hard to defeat, so the Mountain Men enlist the help of Golden Spear's old classmate, Master Liu, the "respected Jade Dragon." Unfortunatlely for Jade Dragon, his wife and his steward are having an affair behind his back and the steward sets Jade Dragon up to be arrested (there is a nude sex scene between the two which I found surprising for an older kung fu flick). Master Liu gets bailed out by his student, Young Dragon (David Chiang) and then the action really goes into high gear. The final scenes are great with a five on five showdown and a bloody final battle. I highly recommend this one. Great quote from the movie: "Men don't duel with women. In that case, watch out for your manhood."


[Reviewed by Adam Scott Pritzker]