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Film / The Emperor and His Brother

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The Emperor and his Brother is a 1981 Shaw Brothers film directed by Chor Yuen, and is The Film of the Book based on The Book and the Sword by Jin Yong.

Much of the film's events is based on the middle chapters of the book. Boasting a massive cast with Jason Pai as the titular Emperor, Chien Lung (previously played by Anthony Liu in the Emperor Chien Lung series), who was switched at birth by a warlord, the Emperor forms an alliance with the Red Flower Society, led by the lawful ex-martial artist Chief Chou Chung Ying (Ku Feng), the Emperor must team up with his foster brother, the rebel leader Chen Chia-Lo (Ti Lung) to take on the leader of the Manchu warlords, Lord Cheng (Lo Lieh).


The Emperor and his Brother contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie is based on The Book and the Sword, whose page-count reaches thousands. Given that this is the Shaw's sole attempt at adapting this novel, loads of stuff have to be cut.
  • Affably Evil: Chang Chao Hung, the film's main villain, is surprisingly polite and affable towards his foes, and displays plenty of respect when fighting Chen Chia-Lo and the rest of the Red Flower Society resistance members. He even visibly smiles when goading Chief Chou's young son into spilling the beans on the resistance hideout.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Surprisingly played straight, despite this being a Shaw Brothers film.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Granted, the film tries to paint it's final scene as a moment of victory, with Chen Chia-Lo, Chu-Qi, Master Chou and all the Red Flower Society's members revealing the platform where the final battle took place to be an impromptu escape boat, and rowing away while their allies holds Lord Cheng and his soldiers at knifepoint. But there are less than a dozen of those leaders, they're stuck in a platform and an earlier line of dialogue states that the Manchurian have an entire army of thousands waiting to attack, while Lord Cheng and his mooks totals up to less than a hundred. What happens beyond that is never explained.
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  • Carry a Big Stick: At least one of the resistance fighters uses two gigantic, spiked maces during the big fights.
  • The Cavalry: When Lord Cheng decides to simply turn on the Red Flower Society's members and order his archers to corral everyone on the floating platform, intending to kill them all, suddenly a platoon of resistance members under the Society shows up, and grabs Cheng's archers hostage, forcing them to drop their bows.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase
  • Combat Hand Fan: Chen Chia-Lo, given his Martial Pacifist nature, uses a paper fan as his preferred weapon, but only to disarm his opponents without killing them. He's damn good at it as well.
  • Convenient Escape Boat: At the end of the film, the Red Flower Society leaders, having bested Lord Chang's best fighters, ends up having Chang's archers suddenly forcing them to be gathered in the floating platform where the arena is located. But as it turns out, the platform is a well-disguised boat, easy for the society's leaders to float away to their escape.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Yeah, the Red Flower Society knew beforehand that even after accepting Lord Chang's challenge and winning the duel, they will backstab the society's members by having their archers ambush them. So they have their own La Résistance members hiding on standby to ambush the archers before they can ambush.
  • Disguised in Drag: The infiltration in the banquet has the Red Flower Society's servant, Yang, disguised as a chubby concubine in order to get close to Lord Cheng. 17 years before Mulan, mind you.
  • Doppelgänger Spin: Chen Chia-lo, when using his chi ability to its fullest extent, can conjure one to two translucent copies of himself to fight alongside himself, where he can fight multiple opponents at the precise same time.
  • Dual Wield: Many fighters tend to use double weapons, including swords, maces, axes and the like.
  • Ensemble Cast: If the above poster is anything to go by.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Manchu guards are so incompetent at their jobs that they're lured away from their guard posts by Chou-qi's meowing.
  • Head Crushing: Chief Chou of the Lotus Clan is forced to execute his 12-year-old son in an Offing the Offspring moment, which he did by slamming a chi-empowered palm through the child's scalp. Cue the Sickening "Crunch!" of breaking bones and a skull being penetrated.
  • In a Single Bound: Mostly displayed by Chen Chia-Lo, but also for the Red Flower Society seniors.
  • In the Hood: The Imperial elite fighters in the final scene are shown clad in red hoods and capes that covers themselves entirely, only removing their hoods when it's their turn to leap onto the floating platform to meet the Red Flower Society fighter's challenge.
  • Infodump: The film begins it's first fifteen minutes with one of these, explaining much of the backstory behind the reign of Emperor Yong Zheng, the Manchu tyranny, the establishment of the Red Flower Society, their leaders and allegiance... granted, they're adapting the middle chapters of a relatively thick book, so that is expected.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Chief Chou of the Red Lotus Clan is forced to kill his 12-year-old son in order to preserve family honour, due to the boy unintentionally giving away the La Résistance's hideout to the Manchurian invaders led by Lord Chang, and causing the family to be arrested.
  • La Résistance: the Red Flower Society are a resistance group opposing the Manchu lords.
  • Last Request: Right before the above described scene, before Chief Chou performs his execution, he asks his son if there's any unfulfilled promise from the boy. The boy's reply was that he's supposed to give his cousin a handmade cloth purse as a weapon, at which point Chief Chou said he will give the purse on the boy's behalf. The kid dies seconds later.
  • Lured Into a Trap: The Red Flower Society's attempts to rescue one of their leaders, Wen, turns out to be a trap - one which is glaringly obvious - when Chen Chia-Lo leads a team of the society's seniors into the dungeon where Wen is held. Chen notes that there aren't any guards and everything seems to quiet, when the previously semi-unconscious Wen, realizing his allies gathered outside his cell, suddenly shouts at them to leave. Cue a bunch of Imperial guards surrounding the resistance fighters.
  • I Lied: Lord Cheng's promise that he will let the leaders of the Red Flower Society go if they meet his challenge and win. They did, so Cheng summons his archers instead.
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: During one prison infiltration with Chen Chia-Lo and his partner, Chou-Qi, Chou lures out the guards by pretending to be a kitten. The moment they came out to investigate, Chen knocks out both of them.
  • Retired Badass: Chief Chou Chung Ying of the Red Flower Society.
  • Sudden Soundtrack Stop: Used in the exact moment Chief Chou executes his son.
  • World of Action Girls: Most named female characters are capable fighters, including Lady Chou Qi, Madam Lo Ping, Miss Wu Chien Chuan, and several unnamed female elites from both sides in the final battle.