In the mid-1970’s it was a frustrating experience being a young martial arts movie fan in the UK. Most films were rated X so you had to be over 18 to see them and there was very little on TV apart from the Kung Fu TV series.
Then the BBC started showing this classic Japanese series The Water Margin, based on a famous Chinese novel and dubbed into English! The opening narrated by the late Burt Kwouk said ” The ancient sages said, “do not despise the snake for having no horns, for who is to say it will not become a dragon?”. So may one just man become an army. Nearly a thousand years ago in ancient China, at the time of the Sung dynasty, there was a cruel and corrupt government. These men riding are outlaws – heroes – who have been driven to live in the Water Margins of Liang Shan Po, far to the south of the capital city. Each fights tyranny with a price on his head, in a world very different from our own. The story starts in legend even then – for our heroes, it was said, were perhaps the souls reborn of other, earlier knights… “
The series which was made in 1973/74 lasted for two seasons each season consisting of 13 episodes. The series shown on the BBC although violent was also censored of the more brutal scenes. Ling Chung and Liang Shan Po became well-known names amongst youngsters after they watched the series and when viewed today the story stands up very well, and the English dubbing is extremely well done when compared to other kung fu films of the time. The action has not dated well sadly, with the choreography often slow and sloppy but surprisingly gory for its time. One of the great things about this release is that it is now fully uncut and the restoration includes many deleted and shortened scenes never ever seen before.
The Blu ray box set released by Fabulous films is a mixed bag for fans. The good points as already mentioned are the fact that it is uncut but the 1080p picture quality disappoints. Lacking detail and clarity this is a small step up from DVD. There is an improvement but the elements used seems washed out and dated, although cleaned up.
Audio is just standard English dub, the original Japanese is not included, probably because of the cost of it and for doing subtitles, the German release apparently had it, but as most fans will remember it with the English dubbing its not that big a deal. No extra’s whatsoever which is again slightly disappointing, also the cover and the static menu on all the discs uses a picture from the Shaw Brother film of the same name for some reason, which is very sloppy.
Fans of the series should definitely pick this up, first time uncut the slight improvement in picture quality should be enough to sway them to add this to the collection on Blu Ray or if not the DVD set which is also uncut.
SERIES: 7 PICTURE: 5 AUDIO: 6 EXTRAS: 0