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Issue #145 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES February 3rd, 2003

The Anonymous Heroes
(1971; Shaw Brothers)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Mo ming ying hung
Mandarin: Wu ming ying xiong
English: No Name Heroes

Most fans of Chang Cheh's work recognize David Chiang Da-wei and Ti Lung as the director's most charismatic leads, and this middling 1930s actioner finds them in terrific form. A "red-blooded man of action," Meng Kang (Chiang) is also a slick thief with an excellent reputation amongst the townspeople, as he only preys upon the corrupt and is quite generous about spreading around his ill-gotten gains. Southern revolutionary Wan (Ku Feng) seeks to use Meng's expertise to stall the progress of local warlord Marshal Chin (Cheng Miao) and his Third Army by depriving them of 3,000 newly purchased bolt action rifles and 280,000 rounds of ammo. Enlisting old buddy Tieh Hu (Ti Lung) and Pepper (Ching Li), a fiery young lady unafraid of betraying her officer father, Meng and company manage to bluff their way into the armory and the weapons are soon secured. Chin eventually figures out that something has gone wrong, however, and sends a detachment of men to stop the train Wan is using to transport the guns south. When the engine suffers a mechanical failure, all seems lost but Meng's ingenuity and Chin's bad judgment keep the chase going.

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.
Intercontinental/Celestial #611087 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Mandarin Language Track

Optional Subtitles in English, Chinese (Traditional or Simplified), Malaysian, and Indonesian

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With (Tiny) Clips

Letterboxed (2.40:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

103 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains moderate (but bloody) violence

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Australia: PG
Hong Kong: OAT I
Ontario: PG
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!)

Additional extras consist of a video promo spot for this and other Celestial titles, the movie information section (color stills, the original poster, bios/filmographies), and an interview gallery. David Chiang (12 mins) does not specifically reference this film but does talk a bit about how Chang Cheh discovered him and what the director was like. "Tubo Law" turns out to be the Shaw favorite better known to Westerners as Lo Mang and, although he does not appear in this film, his talk (9 mins) covers Chang's working methods and the background of "The Venoms." Finally, film critic Po Fung (8 mins) converses about the period in which the film is set and compares it to BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (apparently -- the subs never call it anything but "The American Movie"). There is an unobtrusive layer change at 1:07:55 and, like all of the Intercontinental/Celestial releases, the clear keep case is packaged in a cardboard outer sleeve.

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