NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: The Water Margin (1972)

Also known as Outlaws of the Marsh and Seven Blows Of The Dragon, this Shaw Brothers movie was directed by Chang Cheh and tells the story of the 108 Heroes. The book that it is based on is considered one of the masterpieces of Chinese literature, containing many of its most beloved characters like Wu Song, Lin Chong, Pan Jinlian, Song Jiang and Lu Zhishen. It even has an influence on Japanese literature.

This movie starts by introducing nearly every single member of the Honorable 108, a group of mountain bandits who live by a code of honor and who have also pledged to return freedom to the people. This movie is just a few chapters of the overall story, so of course it can get confusing and who could remember all of those names, unless they were super invested in the source material?

This part of the story — chapters 64 to 68 of the one hundred chapters in the novel — is about Yen Ching the Wanderer and how the 108 Heroes — still the Outlaws of Mount Liangshan — comes to join and also how his mentor Lu Jun-yi gets framed by sinister fighting machine Shi Wen-gong, who is working for the Chinese government.

Two years later — it was filmed at the same time but censorship reared its head and it took some time to get all the gore past the government — the sequel All Men Are Brothers has the Imperial Court offering to erase all of the crimes of the 108 if they stop an invading army from taking over China.

Speaking of gore, Yen Ching gets revenge against his mentor’s traitorous wife Lady Chia by punching her through the stomach. After all, she got bored because her husband was such a good person and she set him up to add some excitement to her life.

The music in this movie is incredible, like some kind of prog rock organ jam out which doesn’t match the period time of this film, but when it’s this good, who cares? The opening introduction of each character is the kind of thing I watch again and again.

New World Pictures brought this to the U.S., but not before cutting a third of the movie, having the Shaw Brothers shoot an additional sex scene and recording a new narration.

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