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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

BROTHERS FIVE -- Movie Review by Porfle

BROTHERS FIVE (1970), a raucous frenzy of clashing swords and impossible feats of derring-do, has just enough story to string together one blade brawl after another.

We're back in ancient China again, where evil Long Zhen Feng (Feng Tien) and the villainous cutthroats of Flying Dragon villa keep the countryside in a state of terror.  Young swordsman Gao Wei (Yueh Hua) travels there to settle an old score with Long Zhen Feng, who murdered his father and took over the villa from him.

On his way there, he meets beautiful Miss Yan (Cheng Pei Pei), who informs him that he has four brothers and that it was his father's dying wish that they someday reunite and avenge him. 

Eventually the five brothers--Gao Wei, burly blacksmith Gao Hao, scholar Gao Zhi (Kao Yuan), dashing bandit Gao Xia (Lo Leih), and Security Bureau chief Gao Yong (Chang I)--join forces to take on the bad guys.

Once the exposition is taken care of, the story barely gets in the way of a succession of battle scenes that seem to crop up every few minutes or so.  Blacksmith Gao Hao settles an altercation in the street with the Flying Dragons by swinging his mighty hammer with deadly effect, while Shaolin-trained bookworm Gao Zhi has a nifty battle against two of them in a restaurant. 

Gao Yong's Security Bureau men are ambushed and wiped out on an isolated road, and his assistant Chu, played by a very young Sammo Hung, is killed.

Most of the fighting takes place in and around the Flying Dragon villa, with the brothers going up against impossible odds time after time. 

The group choreography is excellent, with foreground fighters surrounded by several other fairly realistic battles going on all around them.  There's plenty of sword-clanging action and some pleasingly fake wirework, including one astounding shot in which kung fu mistress Miss Yan makes her escape by suddenly and inexplicably flying away like Superman. 

The drawback here is that a monotonous sameness begins to set in after awhile, with one drawn-out clash beginning to pretty much resemble the next.  But it's all solidly directed by Wei Lo and expertly performed.

The topper comes after Miss Yan introduces the brothers to the special Five Tigers kung fu technique ("Five tigers, one heart") which requires five men with different skills to pull it off. 

During their climactic free-for-all against a seemingly invincible Long Zhen Feng, they go into their rotating Five Tigers formation, which resembles one of those razzle-dazzle cheerleader formations and is pretty funny to look at. 

The five brothers whirl around in this position for awhile, which seems to confuse Long Zhen Feng and leave him open to attack, so they start leaping at him.  I won't give away the exciting conclusion.

With nice period atmosphere, furious swordplay and martial arts mayhem, and likable characters (Miss Yan is particularly captivating and the brothers are a robust bunch), BROTHERS FIVE overcomes a tendency toward occasional monotony and is ultimately a pretty colorful and entertaining adventure. 

Read our review of the SHAW BROTHERS COLLECTION VOL. 2


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