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Film / Blood Brothers (1973)

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"Must... show... abs... no matter what!" - Ti Lung, probably. note 
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The Blood Brothers, also known as Dynasty of Blood, is a 1973 Shaw Brothers martial arts Epic Film directed by Chang Cheh, starring Shaw Brothers regulars David Chiang, Ti Lung, and the newcomer Chen Kuan-tai.

In the twilight of the Qing Dynasty, a former soldier Chiang Wen-hsiang (David Chiang) and a hoodlum Huang Chang (Chen) befriends a scholar and warrior, Ma Xin-yi (Ti Lung), under the most unlikely circumstances. Deciding to become sworn brothers and lacking an aim in life, the trio decides to join the Imperial Army, on a military campaign during the Taiping Rebellion. But as their ranks in the army grew through the years, their ambitions may lead to their eventual downfall.

At the 11th Golden Horse Awards, Ti Lung won the Special Award for Outstanding Performance in the film. It's worth noting that his character, Ma Xin-yi, is very loosely based on a heavily-fictionalized account of a real-life military general that served in the Qin Dynasty.

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This movie will notably, a few decades later, inspire Peter Chan's The Warlords, with Jet Li, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro in the roles previously filled in by Ti Lung, Chen Kuan-tai and David Chiang.

Not to be confused with Blood Brothers (2007).


Dynasty of Tropes:

  • Agonizing Stomach Wound: What eventually takes Ma Xin-yi down, courtesy of an enraged Wen-hsiang stabbing him through the midsection with a knife and twisting it. The knife stays there throughout the entire penultimate confrontation between the two former brothers.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Ma Xin-yi, after being promoted to the commander of the Imperial Army and given a high position of authority, started turning against his former sworn brothers.
  • Badass Moustache: On Ma Xin-yi. He's clean shaven for his earlier scenes in the first act, his mustache as shown on the above screenshot appears after a Time Skip where he gets promoted into a position in the Imperial army.
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  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: A rather lengthy battle montage occurs halfway through the film, with the brothers Ma Xin-yi, Huang Chang and Wen-hsiang leading their former bandits-turned-imperial soldiers into battle against the rebels. It culminates into the trio capturing a fortress from the rebel army, with Huang Chang and Wen-hsiang fighting the rebel commander and winning.
  • Blood Brothers: The protagonists Ma Xin-yi, Huang Chang and Chang Wen-hsiang. It's right there in the title. Although as the film goes on, a schism in power struggle causes the trio to fall apart and eventually turn against each other.
  • Break the Cutie: Wen-hsiang, the youngest of the three brothers (played by the always lovable David Chiang). Let's see... at the peak of his life as a decorated Imperial Army Sergeant, his best friend and sworn brother, Huang Chang, disowns him after refusing to believe that their mentor, Ma Xin-yi, has turned against them. After learning of Huang's death, Wen-hsiang suffers a massive Heroic BSoD before deciding to confront Ma Xin-yi, face-to-face, which ends with both men fighting each other to the death with Wen-hsiang as the survivor. He then gets arrested, flogged for trying to avenge his friend, and learns that Ma Xin-yi's betrayal was caused by the Imperial Court manipulating the brothers against each other, and that the truth behind the incident will be covered up. And the movie literally ends with Wen-hsiang being put to death, right over the credits.
  • Cassandra Truth: Wen-hsiang's attempts to convince Huang Chang that their eldest brother and mentor, Ma Xin-yi, has turned against them and is plotting Huang Chang's assasination, falls into deaf ears. Huang doesn't buy it, and it goes back biting him in the ass the next day.
  • Combat Hand Fan: Ma Xin-yi, before achieving a position in the Imperial military, primarily uses a folding fan as his weapon. When he becomes a soldier he switches to a spear instead.
  • A Deadly Affair: Between the eldest brother Ma Xin-yi, and the wife of Huang Chang, Mi-lan. It culminates into a power struggle that ends horribly for all three men.
  • Defeat Means Respect: The bandit army relegates leadership to the blood brothers, after Ma Xin-yi defeats their leader in a one-on-one duel.
  • Downer Ending: The power struggle between the brothers ends on a depressing note. Huang Chang ends up being first to die in an assasination ordered by Ma Xin-yi, despite being warned by Chiang Wen-hsiang. When the latter confronts Ma, both men ends up renouncing their brotherhood and fighting each other to the death, culminating in Wen-hsiang killing Ma Xin-yi. For his efforts, Wen-hsiang ends up being publicly executed. Roll credits.
  • Drunk On Power: Ma Xin-yi, upon his promotion as a commander and governor, and deciding that his power should belong only to himself.
  • Dual Wielding: Huang Chang uses twin butterfly swords when fighting enemy rebels.
  • Duel to the Death: Between the two surviving brothers, Ma Xin-yi and Chaing Wen-hsiang. The former orders his soldiers to back off so that they can sort this out between themselves.
  • Elite Mook: The rebel leader during the fortress battle puts up a far more competent fight than the regular rebels. He's played by Danny Lee prior to fame, by the way.
  • Epic Flail: Wen-hsiang's preferred weapon is a six-sectioned flail, which he expertly uses in battle sequences taking down hordes and hordes of rebel soldiers.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Ma Xin-yi, the eldest of the brothers, through a combination of being promoted a Commander before his brothers, and having an affair with Huang Chang's wife.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: The affair between Ma Xin-yi and Mi-lan, wife of Huang Chang, begins when she nursed him to health after he suffers a stray injury on the battlefield and she took him in, while her husband was absent fighting rebels.
  • Framing Device: Most of the movie is a flashback as Wen-hsiang - arrested for the murder of the Imperial Commander Ma Xin-yi - narrates the story behind the incident to the magistrate.
  • Frontline General: The three brothers are often depicted leading their soldiers directly in combat.
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens with Wen-hsiang's trial in front of the Imperial Court, arrested for the assasination of the Imperial Commander Ma Xin-yi. Before going to a Whole Episode Flashback depicting Wen-hsiang's friendship with his former sworn brothers, Ma Xin-yi and Huang Chang, and the events that leads to his eventual arrest.
  • Karma Houdini: Mi-lan, the wife of Huang Chang. Her affair with Ma Xin-yi is one by her own choice, she flirted with him despite being already married to Huang Chang, resulting in the brothers killing each other. By the end of the film after Wen-hsiang's execution, Mi-lan is shown reflecting over the consequences of her action, but whether she genuinely regrets her affair and is pinning for her deceased husband Huang Chang, or she is actually missing her new lover, Ma Xin-yi, isn't made clear.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: After killing Ma Xin-yi, in front of more than a hundred of his guards, what does Chiang Wen-hsiang has to say for himself?
    Wen-hsiang: "You may arrest me now." [drops his dagger and flail before raising both hands]
  • Leave Him to Me!: When Ma Xin-yi witnessed Wen-hsiang surrounded - and fighting off - an entire platoon of his soldiers, taking down maybe two dozen men single-handedly, he immediately orders two other approaching platoon of reinforcements to back off. Cue the final battle.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Ma Xin-yi was already turning evil when he gets a position of power, but after an affair with Mi-lan, the wife of Huang Chang, he ultimately decides to have her for himself and that Huang Chang is in the way of their relationship. Thus begin the downfall of a once-glorious brotherhood...
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: The love affair between Ma Xin-yi and Mi-lan, the wife of Huang Chang, culminates into Ma Xin-yi arranging for Huang Chang's murder.
  • One-Man Army: The brothers can take down legions and legions of rebels on their own, but even more so for Wen-hsiang, who fights off hordes and hordes of guardds by himself when he goes out to confront Ma Xin-yi over Huang Chang's death.
  • Staircase Tumble: During the battle to recapture the fortress, Wen-hsiang is shown fighting off a platoon of rebels while on top of a flight of stairs. In the next shot, half a dozen dead rebels are sent rolling downwards as Wen-hsiang desceneds to continue fighting.
  • That Poor Plant: Occurs in a scene where Ma Xin-yi gloats about his power.
    Ma Xin-yi: "Nothing gets in my way for ultimate power. NOTHING!" [kicks over a random potted plant in front of him]
  • Training from Hell: The training Ma Xin-yi gives to his men definitely counts; right after establishing himself as a leader, he demands the best from his men to train themselves until many broke down in exhaustion. When one decides to slack off, Ma gives him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown right in front of the army before choking him to death with a boot.
  • Villainous Valour: Let's face it, despite becoming evil and rotten to the core by the end of the film, it's undeniable that Ma Xin-yi is at least honorable enough to order his soldiers to back down and not interfere, so that he can battle Wen-hsiang one-on-one.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Well, Shaw Brother's own Mr. Fanservice Ti Lung plays Ma Xin-yi, so naturally he must remove his shirt to expose his abs at least 12 minutes in the film. But the same goes for Huang Chang, played by the muscular Gary Chen Kuan-tai, who leads his soldiers and fights enemy rebels without his shirt.
  • We Used to Be Friends: In their final confrontation, Wen-hsiang said this verbatim when Ma Xin-yi admits he's indeed the one behind Huang Chang's murder.

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