The Yang family is faithful to the Sung Dynasty (960-1279), each generation has sacrificed itself to save the honor of this dynasty, until the last generation with General Yang Tsung Pao. The latter is trapped in an ambush stretched by the Mongols, he is savagely killed. This general was the last great fighter of the Yang family, after his death, there are only widows and a young son. However, the Yang do not give up their task, the 14 women decide to go and face the Mongolian troops.

The 14 Amazons was a highly anticipated film, it was almost 30 years that it was not found or in any case difficult, and in a very average image quality. Everywhere one could read about this film that it is a great masterpiece with a hallucinating casting and its lot of cult scenes. All these praises for the film and the impossibility of seeing it in very good conditions have only increased the frustration of many spectators.

What should we expect? By leaving all the good reviews of the film on the side and looking more closely at what the film looks like on paper, it can be seen that the film feels the big production. On the realization, it is the too unknown Cheng Kang, he has realized among others The Sword Of Swords, a pearl of the masochistic wu xia pian in which he takes Chang Cheh to his own madness by pushing as much as possible the icon chang chehien by Jimmy Wang Yu, he does not glorify him, on the contrary, this hero sees his family being massacred, his fiancée being almost raped, he is mistreated as it is not possible to finally be blinded ! Cheng Kang assures us for Les 14 Amazones a spectacle of the bloodiest bathed in a remarkable staging.

At the casting level, it’s just incredible. It was known that Run Run Shaw was very proud to have given Hong Kong viewers local female stars, and in many productions he tries to place his beautiful actresses to the maximum. There is no lack of examples, since his strategy applies to a majority of the productions of the 1960s, affecting all genres of the era without distinction. The 14 Amazons is the ultimate opportunity to bring together all the prestigious big names of the time, mixing all the generations of actresses of the studio. Ivy Ling Po ( The Love Etern ), Li Ching ( West Chamber ), Lily Ho ( The Angel With The Iron Fists ), Tina Chin Fei ( The Monkey Goes West )

It would have been a pity not to use the actors, for this reason we find Yueh Hua ( Come Drink With Me ), Lo Lieh ( The Flying Daggers ), Tien Feng ( One Armed Swordsman ), Yeung Chi Hing Sword), Wong Chung Shun ( Dragon Swamp ). This distribution is ample enough to make us understand that Les 14 Amazones will not be a small serial production without ambition.

Once the film is launched, we realize the care taken to this realization by the studio. To begin with, the story is placed in context with the voice-over of a narrator and then plunges us into the bowels of a battle. The big production is becoming more and more, the hallucinating cast is complemented by a number of incalculable figures. The big battles are not a novelty for the studio, we often find a few bits of battle at the beginning of the films in the image of Raw Courage . The only exception was made by The Last Woman of Shang in which Yueh Feng had tried to go a little further, but it seems clear that the budget was too limited for this kind of idea. Cheng Kang did not have this problem, He can afford to serve us on a plane of the bloody battles that are well entrenched in the feature film, these are not small scenes quickly zapped to move on. This first battle marks the death of the great fighter Yang Tsung Pao, he fell into a trap and all around him there are only Mongolian soldiers! To our delight, there are not a dozen, no, the director does not hesitate to appeal to as many extras as possible. Yang Tsung Pao and his few soldiers are going to be literally massacred by the Mongols. For this soldier, the action is all the more heroic because he has just fought for three days and three nights. Fortunately he had taken care to send his two most faithful generals to announce the sad news to the rest of his family. These are not small scenes quickly zapped to pass in the suite. This first battle marks the death of the great fighter Yang Tsung Pao, he fell into a trap and all around him there are only Mongolian soldiers! To our delight, there are not a dozen, no, the director does not hesitate to appeal to as many extras as possible. Yang Tsung Pao and his few soldiers are going to be literally massacred by the Mongols. For this soldier, the action is all the more heroic since he has just fought for three days and three nights. Fortunately he had taken care to send his two most faithful generals to announce the sad news to the rest of his family. These are not small scenes quickly zapped to pass in the suite. This first battle marks the death of the great fighter Yang Tsung Pao, he fell into a trap and all around him there are only Mongolian soldiers! To our delight, there are not a dozen, no, the director does not hesitate to appeal to as many extras as possible. Yang Tsung Pao and his few soldiers are going to be literally massacred by the Mongols. For this soldier, the action is all the more heroic because he has just fought for three days and three nights. Fortunately he had taken care to send his two most faithful generals to announce the sad news to the rest of his family. This first battle marks the death of the great fighter Yang Tsung Pao, he fell into a trap and all around him there are only Mongolian soldiers! To our delight, there are not a dozen, no, the director does not hesitate to appeal to as many extras as possible. Yang Tsung Pao and his few soldiers are going to be literally massacred by the Mongols. For this soldier, the action is all the more heroic because he has just fought for three days and three nights. Fortunately he had taken care to send his two most faithful generals to announce the sad news to the rest of his family. This first battle marks the death of the great fighter Yang Tsung Pao, he fell into a trap and all around him there are only Mongolian soldiers! To our delight, there are not a dozen, no, the director does not hesitate to appeal to as many extras as possible. Yang Tsung Pao and his few soldiers are going to be literally massacred by the Mongols. For this soldier, the action is all the more heroic because he has just fought for three days and three nights. Fortunately he had taken care to send his two most faithful generals to announce the sad news to the rest of his family. The director does not hesitate to appeal to as many extras as possible. Yang Tsung Pao and his few soldiers are going to be literally massacred by the Mongols. For this soldier, the action is all the more heroic because he has just fought for three days and three nights. Fortunately he had taken care to send his two most faithful generals to announce the sad news to the rest of his family. The director does not hesitate to appeal to as many extras as possible. Yang Tsung Pao and his few soldiers are going to be literally massacred by the Mongols. For this soldier, the action is all the more heroic because he has just fought for three days and three nights. Fortunately he had taken care to send his two most faithful generals to announce the sad news to the rest of his family.

The Mongols are merciless, they hammer two Han soldiers still alive while dragging them on a few meters! A little later in the film they will not hesitate to burn people still alive! Blood is the appointment, it is not a few timid flows, but puddles and bodies totally red that Cheng Kang films with the greatest pleasure. As for Yang Tsung Pao, he tries in vain to fight but is just like his soldiers, sabotaged by the arrows and sabers of his enemies. The director takes the opportunity to make a fresh nose to Chang Cheh with the figure of the dead hero still standing, evidently where Chang Cheh this position symbolizes ecstasy, absolute enjoyment, Cheng Kang it serves only ” To strengthen the image of an eternal hero, Faithful to the great reputation of the Yang family. There is no doubt, The 14 Amazons is definitely far from a cute ballet, Cheng Kang is worthy of his reputation.

The 14 Amazons - 1972 - Cheng Kang

With this magnificent opening scene, Cheng Kang began to divide the world of men from the world of women, the Mongols are exclusively barbarians, they are warriors without faith or law acting with instinct and excess. The battle ended up being sent to the family home of the Yang, the rhythm is no longer so oppressive and frenetic, instead Cheng Kang takes his time to set up the heroines of his film. This finished presentation of completing the difference between men and women, between Mongols and Yang widows, on the one hand there is coldness, on the other there is a reservoir of emotions, human heat, Inevitably because one is in the precincts of a family united until death! With a large number of women, it seems normal that Cheng Kang takes her time, The simplest way to make us understand who is who to use when appearing a character a sentence that will come next to the face of the individual frozen to point out the actress and the name Of the incarnated character. It’s simple and effective, this method assimilates women without losing a single second of the film.

The women of this family belong to 4 generations, there is the great grandmother surnamed the Great Lady (Lisa Lu), a grandmother (Chen Yan Yan), mothers (Ivy Ling Po) and finally a son Lily Ho). As in all families, there is a profound respect for the oldest being, here the Great Lady is shown as a unifying point between the different generations, she perfectly symbolizes longevity, patience but also with her great experience determination. The death of the last fighter is a sad news, he died precisely on his birthday, he leaves behind a wife and a son.

It is after the loss of this fighter that the Great Lady decides to take the affairs of the family in hand and to fulfill its eternal duty, to defend the Song Dynasty. We understand that the hidden leitmotiv is vengeance, Cheng Kang himself will not be deprived of us to make it understand since it refocuses the film softly on the mother (Ivy Ling Po) and the young son (Lily Ho) To the detriment of the many other Amazons.

The 14 Amazons - 1972 - Cheng Kang

This theme of revenge is recurring in Cheng Kang, but basic revenge is not what it interests him. To accomplish this goal, individuals must sacrifice themselves. Before deciding to go and kill his enemy, Jimmy Wang Yu in The Sword of Swords first underwent an impressive humiliation, he was degraded to the lowest level of the human species. For the 14 Amazons, it’s a bit similar, in going to take revenge, they will lose sisters. But Cheng Kang does not fall into the same simplistic Machiavellian game with The Sword Of Swords , he nuances the loss, a certain humiliation, with the idea of noble sacrifice for his homeland. This noble side of the film gives him a Manichaean aspect fully assumed and really well thought out since besides being bad guys, The Mongols have the misfortune to be men. The women do not act officially to clean their navels but to restore honor to the country, which is rather well seen on behalf of Cheng Kang since it plays on two totally antagonistic levels.

Besides, the few men who belong to the group of Amazons do not have an important position, they are soldiers or servants devoted to the cause. The only one that seemed to stand out was Lu Chao (Yueh Hua).

The 14 Amazons - 1972 - Cheng Kang

This man is a victim of the Mongols, he had to fight a colossus (Bolo Yeung) to obtain a reprieve. The fight was not in his favor, he is all skinny and must fight with his bare hands, Bolo Yeung is a mass that has a few weapons! Everything seemed to be well on the way to making Lu Chao an equivalent of the Amazons, but in the end, he was just another nicer advisor.

We understand why the only son of the family is interpreted by Lily Ho, a charming actress. This type of role was common in the great era of huangmei operas, but since the revelation of the modern wu xia pian, practice had fallen somewhat into disuse. It is indeed a way of putting in scene the supremacy of the clan of the women since the only important warrior man is played by a woman.

After setting up the characters, Cheng Kang gets to the top speed to deepen the furious madness of his short introductory scene. Battles, battles are the nerve core of the film. Once the women are in the fight, Cheng Keng becomes uncontrollable just like actresses and actors. This is madness ! It leaves us just a few seconds of respite before we plunge back into the middle of a battle. Of course it brings in a subtle way the battle, one does not arrive directly in front of two clans that clash. During their crusade, the Amazons must face the traps of the Mongols who are aware of their coming. We are talking about ambush in the line of that of the first scene of the film.

Visually it is herculean, Cheng Kang uses special effects, small models to simulate some formidable passages, such as a landslide or even a tidal wave. Say like that, we think back to the special effects already seen in the old productions of the Shaw Brothers, it is kitchen and not really close. It’s bad to know Cheng Kang, the editing of the film ensures a coherence rarely equaled for this kind of attempt, models and realistic plans really complement well, of course we realize that it is a model, Is not that the stage loses its coherence or turns into ridicule. To camouflage at best what could become a weakness, Cheng Kang decides during these phases and fighting, to have a frenzied montage, everything is linked in a surprising speed of action.

Yueh Hua has never been more credible and absorbed by her action, as well as actresses like Ivy Ling Po who as a female fighter has shown us A rather average performance in the genius The Finger Of Doom, or Lily Ho who in the role of The Silver Fox lacked frankly tone and flexibility. But the mistakes of the past are repaired, the battles are powerful and enjoyable. Cheng Kang is not only satisfied with a very fast editing, it plunges us into the heart of the action, it happens that we are at the feet of the fighters!

The 14 Amazons - 1972 - Cheng Kang

One would think that without these fabulous scenes of combat, The 14 Amazons is a commonplace story with a big casting. Again, this would underestimate the talent of Cheng Kang, he perfectly balances his narrative between the apocalyptic battles and the intermediate scenes. At the heart of a war, life is not rosy, there are problems that will appear, either as a result of a tactical error or by chance. When there are no more foods, individuals have to eat a soup in which leaves of trees have simmered, some try to find another dish but have to deal with the severity of others. It is also during these phases that the Amazons develop their strategy for the future. With these scenes, Cheng Kang solidifies the general atmosphere of the clan of the Amazons and makes us discover other facets of the characters, it emerges from the humor, suspense. We are far from flat and uninteresting scenes as one might have imagined.

The 14 Amazons - 1972 - Cheng Kang

As a recent widow, Mu Kuei Ying (Ivy Ling Po) is the main character of revenge. The Grande Dame (Lisa Hu) indirectly delegates her decision-making power over her little daughter. It is amusing to see that Cheng Kang connects Mu Kuei Ying, the mother of Wen Kuang (Lily Ho), with the 5 th Mongolian Prince incarnated by Lo Lieh, son of the great villain. This man is one who has completed her husband, he tells her clearly. One can not help seeing a filial relationship between these two characters, as if this Prince were trying to kill his mother to save his father, which looks rather like the complex of Ajasé (as opposed to Oedipus complex). In the same way, the prince can embody a real son, unlike Wen Kuang (I recall that Lily Ho is an actress), Which is in view of her sex hated by the mother, who through this illegitimate son seek to revenge her husband. From this point of view, the Amazons’ revenge is no longer that of a woman who has lost her husband, but that of a group of women ignored and not recognized by the officials of her country. By saving the buttocks of the Song Dynasty, women affirm their existence and their power to change the situation.

A little higher, I was talking about the visual delusions of Cheng Kang. There is more surprising than a tidal wave, there is what one will call one of the cult scenes of the film: the human bridge. One wonders where the director was looking for such a crazy and unbelievable idea, on paper it seems unrealizable, impossible. Yet he managed to stage it!

The base of the Mongols is no longer far away, troops are always in search of the Amazons and try by all means to prevent them from reaching the den. Burning a wooden bridge appears as the definitive way to stop them. The Amazons are too imaginative – Cheng Kang too – it is actually Mu Kuei Ying (Ivy Ling Po) who emits the idea of forming a human bridge, since building a new bridge would be too long and could prove dangerous For them the enemy is all around. Before the bridge collapsed, some women managed to pass on the other side, some unfortunately fell with debris from the bridge. On each side, two soldiers will serve as carrying feet for the human pyramid. In turn, the women climb and form a solid edifice. When both sides are ready, They drop to catch and allow the soldiers to cross the ditch without any problem. With this human bridge, Cheng Kang intensifies the suspense, no one is sure that he will hold the necessary time, especially since Mongolian troops have come closer and attacked a group of volunteers. This sacrifice allows others to arrive at good harbors, but those who have been caught will suffer a horrible fate, women and men will be whipped to finally be decapitated, the blood still flows so much!

The symbolism of the pyramid formed by the human bridge supports the purpose of the film, at the base one finds a man then women. In fact, to advance in life, women necessarily need a man, procreation does not happen by itself, but once the child is born, the woman no longer needs man to live , She is able to fend for herself, it is the man who ends up clinging to the woman. Would not Cheng Kang be a feminist bit?

The 14 Amazons - 1972 - Cheng Kang

Les 14 Amazones est sans problème l’un des grands chefs d’œuvre du studio de la Shaw Brothers, on voit bien que le réalisateur est à l’aise dans son exercice, il sait prendre son temps pour fignoler quelques points. Ce film n’est pas qu’une réussite artistique, celle d’avoir su mettre en scène des idées totalement folles et ingénieuses, c’est aussi une réussite d’aboutissement. Ce point se ressent fortement dans chaque scène du film, tout sonne bien, il y a une harmonie surprenante qu’on ne retrouve que trop rarement dans les productions de la Shaw Brothers. Cheng Kang confirme qu’il est bien un très grand de ce studio, un grand méconnu par chez nous Même si Les 14 Amazones profite d’un budget conséquent, le réalisateur ne gâche pas le film en ne s’engageant que dans une unique direction, au contraire il arrive à aborder différents thèmes tout en gardant leur richesse !

Similarly, the decorations are sumptuous, one rarely finds twice the same landscape! Cheng Kang turns both indoors and outdoors without any problem, it must be said that his chiseling at the assembly level allows him to make stealth connections between the different planes. What we can regret to the film is not to be able to achieve certain transitions, as for example the character of Lu Chao who passes into a scene of semi-spy status to that of general-in-chief of the troops! The 14 Amazons is a visual explosion, it is an end-to-end delight, the apocalyptic montage gives thanks to the choreographies of Ching Siu Tung (Duel to the Death), which is the son of Cheng Kang, frantic speed can even Becoming frustrating in the final fight, It’s so fast that you may find yourself frustrated by not having enough time to enjoy it. The film is well worth the many awards it received at the Eleventh Golden Horse Awards in 1973. The 14 Amazons is the final apotheosis of the modern wu xia pian, a film that explodes and explores the usual rules of the genre by Chang Cheh.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *