Issue #261            HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES               April 25th, 2005

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The Brave Archer
(1977; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Se diu ying hung chuen
Mandarin: She diao ying xiong chuan
English: Legend of the Eagle-Shooting Hero
Alternate English Title: Kung Fu Warlords


RATING: 7/10


This adaptation of Jin Yong's famous novel, "Legend of The Eagle-Shooting Hero" (also the basis of Wong Kar-wai’s ASHES OF TIME, DONG CHENG XI JIU, and numerous TV mini-series) was one of the Shaw Brothers movies released stateside in English dubbed versions by World Northal. However, grindhouse patrons buying tickets to KUNG FU WARLORDS (as the distributor re-christened the film) must have been perplexed to discover that it is more romantic, complex, and poetic than the fare often associated with director Chang Cheh.

Alexander Fu (left), Tuen Niu Tien Niu L to R: Ku Feng, Alexander Fu, Tien Niu

Following the murder of his father by Jin soldiers, young Kuo Tsing (Alexander Fu Sheng) is instructed in kung fu by a group of experts until he reaches the age of eighteen. One of Tsing's instructors (Lu Feng, playing a benevolent character for a change) is eliminated by an opponent using the Jiao Yin technique, which allows the user to plunge their fingers through an opponent's flesh and bone. In a desperate move, Tsing stabs the man in the stomach, inadvertently hitting the killer's one vulnerable point. The lad then befriends a beggar, who later reveals herself to be the noblewoman Huang Yung (a spirited Tien Niu), and the pair receive instruction from Master Hung (Ku Feng). Known as The Nine-Fingered Beggar, Hung's incredible kung fu allows him to shatter a tree trunk with only one blow. Armed with this ability, Tsing's fighting prowess is significantly increased and further instruction from eccentric master Chao Pai-tung (Phillip Kwok Tsui) gives him even more power. However, if Tsing wishes Yung's hand in marriage, he will have to undergo three tests, two of which do not involve kung fu, in the traditional sense anyway.

Lu Feng Alexander Fu (left), Phillip Kwok Johnny Wang

Unfolding in the Sung Dynasty, the extremely involved plot (only a portion of which is related above) certainly plays out like a novel adapted for film and viewers unfamiliar with the source material will quickly find themselves confused by the steady stream of characters, loyalties, and betrayals. Occasional input from a narrator helps but many Westerners will still find their initial viewing a rather confounding experience. Also, a more fluid and visually adept director like Chor Yuen (INTIMATE CONFESSIONS OF A CHINESE COURTESAN) might have been a better choice to helm the project, but the quality of the martial arts and the inclusion of some interesting supernatural elements (including a giant snake) make this worthwhile viewing for those wishing to expand their horizons into more traditional Chinese fantasy. The supporting cast is a virtual Who’s Who of Shaw Brothers contract players, including Ti Lung, Danny Lee Sau-yin, Johnny Wang Lung-wei, Lo Mang, Chan Shen, Dick Wei, Kara Hui Ying-hung, Fan Mui-sang, and Jamie Luk Kim-ming. The story continues in three follow-ups: THE BRAVE ARCHER PART II (US Title: KUNG FU WARLORDS PART II; 1978), THE BRAVE ARCHER PART III (U.S. Title: BLAST OF THE IRON PALM, 1981), and THE BRAVE ARCHER AND HIS MATE (1982). The stock soundtrack includes cues that would later be used in the original DAWN OF THE DEAD.


The anamorphic 2.35:1 presentation is beautifully restored, with a spotless image, vivid hues, and well-detailed contrasts. Alas, the DVD is knocked down several pegs by another idiotic re-mix, among the worst that Celestial has perpetrated yet. Cues are smashed together, creating not a rousing accompaniment but a cacophony of noise (it does not help that the new tracks sound like half-assed MIDI compositions), and the new whooshes and strikes are too clear and prominent to blend in naturally. The movie is not unwatchable, but purists might be better off checking to see if the company’s VCD version offers the original mono. Extras consist of video promo spots for this and four other titles, small photo galleries, and some bios/abbreviated filmographies.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2005. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd #103568
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 117 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: M 15+
  • Ontario: R
  • Quebec: G
  • Singapore: PG
  • Contains moderate violence


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful