What was supposed to be achieved by cutting this film?
Next to the many small cuts, which were simply meant to accelerate the storyline, you can find the following systematic approaches:
1.) The General, who is fully overchallenged by his assignment, lost a lot of his on-screen time. A good decision on the one hand, as the constantly grim-faced actor is no match for his role. A crying shame on the other hand, as this aspect of the story is weakened up to a point where several scenes stop making sense, the General’s confession of cowardice towards the princess, for example, becomes completely unexpected.
2.) Many action scenes have been shortened to a collage of shots that don’t fit together; snapshots instead of a choreography.
3.) It might have happened accidentally while shortening the running time, but many of the subtle scenes, which are important for the secondary characters, were deleted. Like the elderly lady on the back of an unknown man, tenderly caressing his hair. While the tale unfolds she takes the role of the formerly absent mother. As the story has no real heroes in starring roles, anyway, this reduction of the secondary characters is twice as annoying. The slave remains too distant, the archer prefers fighting in the background and the General is a very ungrateful figure from the start.
Surprisingly, the HK version incorporates 3 more scenes than the Korean DVD does. Nothing important, but still interesting. You can read more about it at the end of the censorship report.
KOR: 276,989 frames (excluding closing credits) = 154.05 min
HK : 231,411 frames (excluding closing credits) = 128.45 min
Closing credits: 6,739 Frames each = 3.45 min
HK cuts (measured/rounded):
142 scenes counting 25.36 min
2 scenes counting 29 sec + re-edited scene
The censorship report timer starts after the ”CJ Entertainment” lettering first appears in both versions. To match the time data of the censorship report with a DVD timer, subtract approx. 5 sec.
Cuts shorter than half a second were not recorded.
The man wearing blue first bows to the Koreans before dashing on.
When the General is about to ask what’s going on, the diplomats’ concerned faces are shown slightly longer.
When the Chinese take up their arms and surround the delegation, the diplomat tells his slave to keep quiet.
When the General drops his arms, his grim face can be seen slightly longer.
The attackers ride away for a moment longer.
The General receives a report concerning the loss after the attack; 12 Koreans died.
A few people got lost in the sandstorm and the rest are digging themselves out of the desert.
The officers take a moment longer to find the correct route to China.
Same scene; the General can be seen slightly longer.
The discussion at the camp fire continues
The guy on the ground is helped to his feet.
Two soldiers are caught while stealing and eating a part of the scarce ration. The General commands punishment by 20 cane strokes. One of the members of the Joojin brigades cannot accept that his pals get less to eat than the Yongho brigades, so he grabs some bread and sulkily waits for the General to punish him. Naturally, the General can’t let him get away with this impertinence and canes the guy like a madman.
The dialogue between the General and the chief officer appears a bit later in the HK version. (41.5 sec)
A short moment is missing in which the slave is threatened by the soldiers.
When the soldiers discover the settlement, they run towards it.
The General, again.
The General observes the princess.
When the slave receives a piece of jewellery from the man in front of the camel, a shot of the slave is missing.
The slave points at the man’s spear.
Both soldiers observe the slave being captured.
Our heroes go on observing what’s going on.
Two soldiers praying.
The General discusses the attack of the Mongolians with his men.
The shot showing both groups at the end of this cut is shown slightly later in the HK version.
The people go on running towards the wagon.
The slave picks up a weapon.
A man is thrown from his horse with a spear.
Two short duels, or rather brute punch-ups, are missing.
The slave kicks away an opponent.
A short fighting scene.
A soldier is thrown over a shoulder. Start of a shot.
More battling tumult.
A man is pushed to the ground with a spear in his chest. His impalement is shown a scene later in the HK version.
The soldier from the last cut sees a friend hitting the ground, jumps up and kicks the attacker aside.
An opponent is kicked aside and further assaulted.
More battling tumult.
Close-up of the General, before he dashes off.
When the princess attempts to flee, she encounters the Mongolian leader who drags her away. When he is attacked by a Korean, the princess escapes.
Yeosol, the slave, runs after the princess.
The princess scrutinizes her savior.
The General arises only very slowly in front of the princess.
The interpreter greets the princess.
The Mongolian Leader reports the loss of the princess to his superiors.
A moment of peace after the battle. An interpreter flirts with one of the girls, only to be interrupted by the monk.
The chief officer keeps on talking insistently to the General.
Selecting the volunteers, who are to conduct the diversionary tactic, takes slightly longer. Many appalled faces are shown.
The volunteer has to be forced to his honorable task.
Yeosol wants to give a present for his master’s family to the archer. The latter refuses and says: we will meet again.
The carriage takes longer to depart. The interpreter gazes after his sweetheart (see 38:50) with concern.
The soldiers look down at the Mongolians, who are following the carriage, for a slightly shorter period of time.
Some of the scenes are arranged in a different order.
The soldiers talk about the people on the carriage for a slightly longer period of time.
The archer gazes after the carriage.
Yeosol tries to persuade the lady to help him with the wagon.
A rider behind the wagon.
The one who fled comes back and is hit to the ground by Yeosol. After the poor guy apologizes for having run away, the jouney continues. In the meantime one of the members of the Jojin brigades relates how he (re-)joined the army. He came home with empty pockets after 4 years of regular service, so he hit a superior and once again had the choise between prison or military service. Then he talks about his wife who looks like a fat bear, but to him, she is the most beautiful woman in the world.
The monk and some other people can be seen shortly.
The princess comes in and takes the General to task, because the journey has halted. A short discussion amongst the commanders ensues.
The scenes of Yeonsols return are cut differently.
Yeonsol gives the scarf back to the princess. The General barges in between and throws the scarf into the fire, as it has been ”soiled” by the Yuan brigades. He then tells Yeosol that he is very happy to see him back; after all, he never would have granted him such a heroic death.
One of the men complains about the princess wanting to be carried in a seat, whereupon the General commands it to be built.
One of the men tells the monk about his worries for slightly longer.
The Mongolians discover the Koreans’ fireplace.
Yeonsol and a few others talk about their wives, girl friends or the absence of a female companion. The princess does listen, but she has a strange expression on her face.
A shot of the forest and a pan over the brigade. An elderly lady, on the back of a man, tenderly caressing his head.
The princess gazes after Yeonsol.
One of the soldiers runs away.
A Mongolian tries to bully the princess who is ”protected” by an old man.
The victims of the Mongolian attack are shown. The old man tells Yeosol about the princess’ disappearance.
The monk tends to a man’s wounds with a knife.
After the battle, the General tells his men that they would never have reached this point alone, solely the hard decisions he had to take and took lead the way. Whilst boasting, he, however, appears to be quite desperate and maybe even a tear or two can be detected in his eyes. A shot of this can also been seen shortly afterwards, without sound (4 sec).
The General leaves the group after the debacle and threatens to slit everyone’s throat who follows him. As he rides away, badly wounded, the others discuss if that was such a good idea. The princess even calls the General back. A part of the conversation between the monk and the archer can be seen at a later point in the HK version (26.5 sec).
Yensol can be seen for a slightly shorter period of time.
The archer and the chief officer talk about the General. The chief officer goes away to fetch back the General.
The Mongolians have a longer discussion about what to do next.
The brigade finds the General lying on the ground. His chief officer is already kneeling next to him. The monk wants to pick him up, but he is thrust back. The princess is also turned down.
The fort’s gate is opened a bit earlier.
The group walks through the fort for a longer period of time.
The Mongolians appear on the horizon.
A shot of the fort’s gate is missing.
The wife of the man who has just been slain runs through the crowd, crying. The princess looks aghast and then grumbles at Yeonsol. Then you can see how the brigade sets up guards in the fort. (The shot of the Mongolian camp can be seen later in the HK version (4 sec)).
Hustle and bustle at the fort. The translator tries to get rid of some kids he is entrusted with. Another one flirts with a woman. The well is reactivated and the General barricades the gate. The archer tries to talk him into leading the brigade again and even goes down on his knees. But the General goes on fighting for himself alone. In the meantime at the Mongolian camp: the leader is being patched up while he commands the men to pour out alcohol. Others insist on attacking immediately. The spear-building scene with Yeonsol appears later in the HK version (15.5 sec).
A man hides ”his” old wife, who has had to act as a surrogate mother for quite some time already.
The last part of a scene where a horse flips over is cut. What nonsense, as only the last 18 frames were ommited. The ugly beginning stays the same. Again nice to see: the hideous yellow tone of the HK version.
A Mongolian tumbles with his horse.
Yeonsol jumps at two Mongolians.
The Mongolian is shown earlier.
Short battling tumult.
The General raises his sword (shortly before ramming it through the top of the opponent’s head).
One more Mongolian is impaled with the spear.
Cut number 87 seems to be the first one that is reducible to censorship. The bearded guy comes to the aid of a colleague and splits the Mongolian’s skull with an axe.
Calm before the storm.
The archer hits Yeonsol in the face for leaving his position, resulting in the death of many people.
Scenes after the battle.
The man who got an arrow shot into his eye brushes his ”medics” aside and yells at the monk, hoping the latter will stop pounding about and praying.
A shortened shot of the General.
The monk talks to one of the men entrusted with taking care of the children, who has kept away from the fighting grounds, so far. He doubts about his life and the meaning of his actions.
10 minutes without a cut. The censors didn’t run out of stream towards the end, after all: the princess can be seen.
The princess wants to surrender herself to the Mongolians. The General wants to prevent it, but he is stopped by the chief officer.
The man runs toward his opponent before hitting him.
Battling tumult. The last part of this cut was already shown in the HK version at 105:52 (3 sec)
Yeonsol is held back.
The Mongolian lunges out with his whip a bit earlier.
The General inquires about his chief officer. Daejung tells him the chief officer is dead.
The General pulls himself together.
The conversation between the General and the princess is edited completely different in both versions and also uses different camera positions. The conversation’s contents, however, are almost identical. The HK version is slightly shorter. Interesting to see: the longer Korean version only uses 4 cuts, while the HK version changes the perspective 9 times. This ”diverting variation” is symptomatical for the aim behind most of the cuts in this film.
The General talks shortly longer to Daejung.
The conversation between the General and his men is shortened at the beginning.
Camp fire romanticism: a man snuggles up close to his surrogate mother.
Daejung notices Yeonsol’s absence from the stake.
Daejung, one second before the attack.
Reflecting before battle.
Daejung fires an arrow at a Mongolian.
The angry one-eyed man for a bit longer.
The Mongolian attacks the old man slightly longer.
Battling tumult in the children’s house.
At the beginning of this shot, the man takes a little more time to save one of his children.
Yeonsol goes out of the tent for a longer period of time.
The Mongolian leader is also on screen longer for a longer period of time.
The monk swings the pole for a moment longer and the girl is shown from a different angle than in the HK version. The HK shot can be seen later in the Korean version.
Short end of a shot in front of the fire.
The angry one-eyed man with hachet for a longer period of time. One of the monk’s victims falls against a wall of fire.
The one-eyed man takes longer to be thrown to the ground by an opponent.
Then she sees a peasant woman attacking a Mongolian with a pitchfork. The scene depicting the princess dropping her sword comes later (2.5 sec).
The princess can be seen slightly later (121:47).
no difference in time
The one-eyed man’s slit-up face is on screen for slightly longer.
The meanwhile blind one-eyed man screams in pain and anger.
Yeonsol rides on shortly longer.
The beginning of this shot was shortened.
The end, too: a rider throws himself with spear and horse onto an opponent.
A shot of the princess is missing.
Now everthing goes wrong
The following scenes, in which many of the important characters die and Yeonsol returns, were completely re-edited and also shortened. All shortened parts of singular shots are mentioned in the position they probably should have been in the HK version. I will not comment on the order in which the scenes appear.
Time of the debacle:
HK: 122:18 - 123:08
The Mongolian leader comes along, mounted on horse.
The monk is pushed against the wall. Beginning of the shot.
ditto. End of the shot: swords are thrust into a stomach.
The man shows up at his surrogate mother’s place a moment earlier.
After the Mongolians have pulled the swords out of the monk’s stomache, they take longer to depart.
Yeonsol can be seen with his spear for shortly longer at the beginning.
The center piece of the faltering man who is caught by his surrogate mother is missing.
The monk takes less time to collapse.
Now the chronologic order is resumed.
They just couldn’t keep their hands off it. Even Yeonson’s heroic death was manipulated. How can anyone be so presumptuous and fiddle around with such a perfectly arranged scene. Especially as it ends up in a minimally erroneous storyline.
Now the shot of the girl should be shown that is to be seen earlier in the HK version (120:05).
no time difference
The shot of the Mongolian lying on the ground, which belongs here, was also shown earlier (126:25).
no time difference
Yeonsol kneels on the ground.
The couple near the fire can be seen slightly shorter at the end.
Daejung can be seen for a moment less in the boat. The boat is also shown for a shorter period of time in the water.
THE MISSING SCENES IN THE KOREAN VERSION
The princess goes for a walk at night and her watchdog Yeonsol accompanies her for a few more meters. She offers him a coat as it’s very cold, but he doesn’t react and just looks aghast.
short scene with Yeonsol.
Here a couple of the pictures missing in the HK version of the dialogue between General and princess
Strikingly, the images of the HK version not only have to bear with a wrong format, but also had to go through futher manipulation.
The pictures were brightened and alienated with a color sceen, the effect is sometimes hideous. The original roughness is lost and the film is not as gloomy. Besides all of that, the Korean version is distinctly sharper than the HK version.