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DVD review: The 14 Amazons (Funimation)
Review Page 1
Info
Author(s) : Sylvia Rorem
Date : 1/6/2010
Type(s) : DVD Review
Review
 
 Intext Links  
People :
Ching Gong
Fan Mei Sheng
Lily Ho Li Li
Ivy Ling Po
Lo Lieh
Lisa Lu Yan
Run Run Shaw
Tien Feng
Charles Tung Shao Yung
Bolo Yeung Tze
Yueh Hua
Movies :
The Fourteen Amazons
Lady General Hua Mulan
Companies :
Shaw Brothers
 
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 Notes  
Note: Screen caps are for illustration only and don't necessarily reflect the picture quality.


The 14 Amazons, re-released on DVD by US-based Funimation in March 2010, is a must-have for upscale Shaw Studio production enthusiasts. An epic historical drama filled with stirring heroism, battles of wits and clashing weapons, this 1972 Hong Kong blockbuster is Shaw’s tribute to the legendary Yang family. The female heroes, so popular in Cantonese Opera, are larger-than-life characters and their legendary story deserves an epic production. Shaw Brothers went all out to make The 14 Amazons. One of the studio’s biggest productions and one year in the making, it is a stupendous film that decades later remains an enjoyable, entertaining piece of international cinema.

 
The Movie

The 14 Amazons is not a kung fu flick, nor is it a Huangmei diao opera piece like Lady General Hua Mulan; it is a military action saga about the Yang women who bravely fill their husband’s shoes, and armor, to guide their army and family through extremely troubled times. Their adventures reflect a traditional sense of good and evil and reinforce the value of personal sacrifice for one’s country. It is a highly dramatic, patriotic and morally upright movie, albeit a fun one.

The film opens with the loss of the Yang family’s last adult male warrior during a defense against the northern Hsia [Mongol] invaders. Left alone with only one young male heir and facing the extinction of their clan and homeland, the patriotic Yang women bravely decide to take up arms to defend their country. Heavily outnumbered and threatened by political corruption at home, they set out to stop the Hsia invasion using the only thing they have: An abundance of intelligence, skill, and man-sized bravery. Beleaguered by the evil Hsia at every turn, the Yang army devises some of the most inventive battle tactics [the human bridge] and clever escapes seen in the Hong Kong cinema.

The story sweeps onto the big screen with resounding music and lavish sets, truly outstanding photography by Tung Shao Yung and a solid gold Shaw cast that includes the incomparable Ivy Ling Po, Lily Ho, Lo Lieh, Tien Feng, and scores of other Shaw Brothers favorites. Directed by Cheng Gang and produced by Run Run Shaw, The 14 Amazons won several 1972 Golden Horse Awards [the Taiwanese equivalent to the Oscars] including best director, best supporting actress (Lisa Lu) and best sound recording. Lily Ho also pocketed a prestigious 1973 Asian Film Festival award for her performance as the Yang family’s last male heir. Big battles, clever strategy, stirring heroism and a beautiful, charming army of underdogs ensure that The 14 Amazons has remained a film beloved to Chinese and international viewers alike.

 

 

   
By modern Hong Kong standards, the female action in The 14 Amazons is not particularly impressive. Ivy Ling Po is luminous as Kuei Ying but she, along with the majority of glamorous Amazons who are strong only in the hair-and-eyeliner department, is not particularly athletic. Many of the ladies’ action scenes are therefore subject to a heavy editing style that may frustrate martial art fans. Fortunately Shaw regulars Lo Lieh, Yueh Hua, Fan Mei Sheng and Bolo Yeung provide enough action to make up for the female deficiencies, and the many large, colorful extended battle and fight scenes, almost all of which are filmed in the panoramic outdoors with large numbers of extras, are relatively fast-paced, creative, visually pleasing and memorably entertaining.

While the Amazon’s impeccable army costumes and hairstyles are charming and several beautiful opera-style outfits make their appearance, the costumes of the Hsia are downright cheesy, especially that of the battle infantry who appear in great numbers on the horizon wearing identical outfits of brand new, bright red vinyl and white fake fur trim. Yes, Santa and his elves. Trademark Shaw Studio indoor stages are used increasingly toward the end of the film (which was possibly over budget?); subjective taste determines whether artificially lit and carefully composed stages appeal or appall. The photography, both indoor and outdoor, is so absolutely outstanding that it deserves a second mention.

While the Yang female warriors confront and outwit the evil Hsia at every turn, a nice balance of personal conflict, grief and victory keeps the story rolling within the context of the film’s larger themes: revenge, heroism and martyrdom. The 14 Amazons’ blend of excitement, exuberance, drama and action are sure to please international filmgoers of all ages. It is not only another notch in the prestigious Shaw belt and a milestone film in Asian cinema, it is also a great film for afternoon popcorn and happily cheering on an army of brave, cute underdogs.

Parental Warning: this film contains heavy doses of graphic violence, torture and killing.

 
   
 
dvd specifications

Distributor: Funimation.com/Hong Kong Connection
Region: 1
Languages: Mandarin Mono, English Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English
Format: 2:35.1
Run Time: 117 minutes

1 DVD with unfortunately no bonus features other than a handful of mixed-bag trailers. Because The 14 Amazons is a significant film, the absence of bonus materials is almost sinful (the French Region 2 DVD is generous in this department).

Release Date: 2010
Price: $19.98

 
 
DVD Review

The Funimation DVD is the Celestial Pictures anamorphic 2.35.1 widescreen transfer. Minor print damage and some graininess is occasionally evident but the restoration ensures a picture quality and sharpness of color that makes the Shaw blood, costumes, weaponry and sets very enjoyable. The sound nicely balances music, dialogue and effects, and the English subtitles (the second English option does not work) are readable and 99% error-free. The English dubbing, although more tranquil than the original Mandarin, is fairly well done. The ubiquitous preliminary Funimation promotional reel cannot be skipped but can be fast-forwarded on select players. The chapter selection pictures are numerous and small, making selection extremely difficult but the main menu is simple and easily navigable.

 
conclusion

The 14 Amazons may be a film you want to own; this Funimation version is the only one available stateside and a good choice with good subtitles for those who don’t shop all-region DVDs.

 
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