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Fearless Fighters (Image Entertainment) DVD Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Fearless Fighters (Image Entertainment) DVD Review

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    Released by: Image Entertainment
    Released on: January 17th, 2006.
    Director: Min-Hsiung Wu
    Cast: Chiang Ming, Ma Kai
    Year: 1971
    Purchase From Amazon

    Fearless Fighters – Movie Reviews:

    Martial Arts films were all the rage for a while in the seventies, thanks in no small part to the popularity of Bruce Lee. While this fad was hot, dozens of distributors got in on the action and imported all manner of oddball fight films from overseas (usually Hong Kong but in this case, Taiwan), dubbing them into English and dumping them into inner city cinemas or drive-ins around the country. 1971's Fearless Fighters (it was released in North America two years after it was made in 1973), also known as Hero Of Heroes, was one of those films and Image Entertainment, bless them, have seen fit to rescue this one from obscurity and gave what was a rather shining DVD presentation by the standards of 2006.

    The story begins when a big-wig politician type called Lightning Whip is attacked while escorting a large shipment of gold. Hit by poison arrows, it doesn't look good for him but he manages to stumble home before he croaks where he meets his son, Chen Yi Chung (Chiang Ming), and his daughter, Yu-lan. His last dying wish is that they steal back the gold that was taken from him and return it to its rightful owner.

    But who was responsible for the theft and in turn, the death of Lightning Whip? All signs point to a good man named Lei Pong who as unfortunately set up to look like the culprit by his dastardly brother, To Pa (Ma Kai), who was the real thief behind the robbery. Lei Pong finds himself locked up in jail for a crime that he did not commit until Chen Yi Chung and Yu-lan figure things out and decide to spring him. The three of them team up and soon add a fourth member to their team in the form of a mysterious female warrior named Tien-Ly (who, coincidently, helped save Lei Pong's son from the massacre that his evil brother launched on his family), and soon they're off to get the gold back from To Pa and make him pay for what he did to Lightning Whip. What they don't realize is that To Pa knows they're hot on his heels and so he's hired some of the finest mercenary fighters around to get in between them and make sure that they don't make their way to him.

    The plot in Fearless Fighters is no great shakes but what it does have going for it in spades is cool weapons and wacky fighters. You want to see a guy called Solar Ray Of Death toss exploding discs at the heroes? This movie will give you that. What if you want to see a guy named Dragon Raiser fight the good guys using crazy claws? This movie will give you that too. It'll even throw in a guy called Soul Picker who has flying sword things and a special weapon for To Pa called the Devil Ripper too. Oh, and there's a bionic swordsman in here as well. You really can't go wrong when you've got a bionic swordsman in your movie. Plot comes secondary in this one, the story really only exists to bridge together the fight scenes and land our characters at the inevitable showdown with the lead villain. That being said, it works. The fight scenes are strong enough and the gimmicky weapons make for completely insane and totally entertaining combat sequences that rank up there with those seen in Master Of The Flying Guillotine (this one isn't quite that crazy but it certainly comes close).

    While Fearless Fighters doesn't have the star power of other martial arts films (don't look for Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan in this one, or even Sammo Hung or Jimmy Wang Yu) the cast does a fine job with the material. Ma Kei as To Pa is the best of the bunch, he's completely evil and totally over the top in his performance, which is made all the more madcap by the insane dubbing. Rather than impress you with moving performances or fantastic line delivery, instead they're content to simply run around looking cool and showing off their moves – in the fantastic context of the film, it works wonderfully. The garish costumes and unabashed wirework simply add to the magic, making this one more fun than you'd probably expect.

    Fearless Fighters – DVD Review:

    Image has dug up a pretty solid source for Fearless Fighters as the 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this DVD looks very nice indeed. Colors are strong and quite robust, while black levels stay deep and solid. There's some mild print damage here and there in the form of some specks and some mild debris but it's never too much so that it proves distracting. There are a couple of scenes that exhibit some minor to moderate film grain but it isn't anything that should prove off putting. Martial arts titles have, with a few exception, been shortchanged on DVD so it's nice to see Image present this one properly.

    Aside from some mild background hiss present in a scene or two, the English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is pretty decent. Dialogue is clean and clear and while there are a few scenes where the fighting and combat sound effects are a bit high in the mix, there's nothing here to really warrant a complaint. The movie doesn't sound perfect but it sounds good enough. No alternate language tracks, subtitles, or closed captioning options are available on this disc.

    Surprisingly enough, Image has recorded a commentary track with Richard Ellman, the man in charge of the film's North American distributor, Ellman Films, who is joined by editor Dick Brummer who rewrote the story into a more 'English friendly' version for its release stateside. This is a great history lesson in how foreign films were bought cheap and repackaged for the North American market during the seventies exploitation and martial arts boom and having the chance to hear how smaller companies were able to move in and take advantage of their popularity at the time makes for an interesting crash course in DIY distribution. Ellman also talks about how he had the source for this DVD just sitting around at his house before it was brought back out for this DVD release. Despite a few moments of awkward silence, for the most part this is a lively and very interesting discussion sure to please those interested in the oddities of film distribution.

    The U.S. theatrical trailer for Fearless Fighters is also included and the disc features some slick menus as well as the standard chapter selection option.

    Fearless Fighters – The Final Word:

    Fans of old school martial arts films should really get a kick out of Fearless Fighters as it contains a great blend of goofiness, action, flamboyant costumes and crazy characters. Image's presentation is very strong and the commentary turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. Recommended!


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