The Heroic Ones (1970)
Director - Chang Cheh
DVD Released by : Celestial Pictures
Player reviewed with : Cyberhome 500
Receiver reviewed with : Sony 925
Mandarin Soundtrack
English, Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia, and Bahasa Indonesia Subtitles
Not Enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs
Behind the scenes, Interviews, Color stills, Original Poster, and Production Notes
Audio Commentary By Bey Logan
Running Time : 121 mins.
Region 3
THE HEROIC ONES is the story of 13 sons of a Mongol King. All are incredibly skilled in martial arts but among them all, two stand out. These two are portrayed by David Chiang and Ti Lung. Resentment is felt by two of the other brothers and a falling out ensues. The two brothers somewhat unknowingling lead the King into a double cross. This sets the stage for a climatic battle of brother against brother.

THE HEROIC ONES features lots of blood during the sword fights as well as some gory demises. The action is almost nonstop and it is very big in scale. At just about 2 hours long, the movie never lags.

Undoubtedly, if you have read other reviews on any of the Celestial Shaw Bros. releases you will see that people have very strong opinions on these. Some feel that these are the best that these movies ever looked while others look at them as a missed opportunity to get the perfect versions. So why the contrast of opinion and will you care? I'll state all the facts from what I know so you can make an educated choice before you make a purchase.

The first issue the detractors have is that these DVD's are not anamorphic. If you don't have a widescreen TV or plan to get one in the future, this doesn't affect you. You will be perfectly happy with the picture quality. I watched this on the 47 inch Panasonic TV and while the picture is good, it could have been even better. I believe the mastering could have been slightly better regardless of the TV setup because shots where the camera pans develop some kind of blurry effect. I saw this while watching it on my computer as well as the TV.

The film print that is used is remarkably free of specs and damage. The colors are also vibrant. I didn't see any artifacts. THE HEROIC ONES is presented in its original aspect ratio which really shows off the elaborate sets and sword fights. THE HEROIC ONES features some great cinematography. Everything is grand in scale and you wouldn't see scenes like these today without the use of computer generated graphics. The picture is good but the mastering could have been better. If you like this movie, the picture quality should be good enough for all but the most demanding technophiles. I would have preferred an anamorphic transfer but I might never see this movie if I wait for one. There is no guarantee if and when these movies are ever released for region 1 that they will be uncut.

Another issue detractors have is that the sound is a remix and on some Shaw Bros. titles, music and sometimes sound effects have been replaced. The original soundtrack is always preferred. I would much rather have an original mono soundtrack than a 5.1 remix with all the bells and whistles. This is the first time I have seen THE HEROIC ONES so I can't say whether there is any music or sound effects replaced. There is nothing out of place that distracts you from the movie. The sound mix is good though it's not necessary. This won't be your demo DVD to show off your sound system but for a film of its age, the sound is very clean and free of pops. From what I have read on various forums, THE HEROIC ONES should have it's original music. Overall, the remix is tastefully done and this DVD sounds better than some more recent movies.

The subtitles are placed well and stay on the screen long enough to read. There are some spelling errors but nothing that disturbs the flow enough to distract. For all the work done on restoration, the subtitles could have been a little better but they certainly aren't all that much worse than most other imports.

The extras on this disc range from the standard film notes to a commentary by Bey Logan. There are other features that I was a little disappointed with just because I thought behind the scenes meant a featurette instead of text. That's not a big deal, though. What is probably worth the price of the DVD alone is Bey Logan's commentary. The wealth of information is amazing especially about the background of the Shaw Bros. studios. If you are new to the Shaw Bros. films, Logan brings you up to speed pretty quickly. He also gives a lot of information about the actors as well as filming techniques.

If you are a fan of the movie, or a Shaw Bros. fan, THE HEROIC ONES is a must have. You'll have a great time noticing actors that are still in movies today, such as Ti Lung. You'll see Bolo Yeung's first performance. This is probably the best we will see this movie for a long time. There are rumblings of Region 1 releases but they will most likely be cut and missing the original soundtrack

I think what bothers people the most about the Celestial releases is that for all the trouble they went to towards restoration, it wouldn't have been all that much more trouble to make these releases perfect. As for THE HEROIC ONES, other than not being anamorphic and slight mastering problems (see section on picture quality), I think Celestial did a very good job. I would definitely recommend this DVD. Just don't forget that this is coded for Region 3 so depending where you live you will need a region free player.

Reviewed 2/13/2003