At the end of the Han dynasty, prime minister Cao Cao can convince the emperor to go to war against the kingdoms Xu (in the west) and Wu (in the south). His goal is to unite the empire.
His superior army invades the west and forces its king Liu Bei to flee. Bei’s counsellor, Zhu Ge Liang, suggests a coalition with the south in order to defend themselves against Cao Cao.
The south’s emperor, Sun Quan, hesitates at first but eventually agrees to this and the two kingdoms make their stand against Cao Cao.
The originally two movies were cut into a single one in order to create a John Woo action movie which seemed to be easier to sell to Western audiences. Producer Terence Chang comments:
Casualties of this policy were
A lot of small cuts during the battles have also been made. The battle of San Jiang Kou alone features almost 200 cuts in twenty minutes.
The editors have done quite a good job when they joined different scenes together. For example, Zhou Yu’s sword dance was integrated into the Cuju game.
An explanatory introduction and name overlays at the first appearances of the main characters were added in order to help the western audience to understand the story.
Takeshi Kaneshiro’s character was renamed (HK: Zhu Ge Liang/ IV: Kongming).
The Soundtrack is the same but is used differently.
If you know and like the original version the new edit will seem like an unnecessary fast forward through the story. However, it will be suitable for most of the western viewers, because the average movie fan probably considers the break between the second and the final battle as too long or Meng Meng’s birth as unnecessary.
Comparison between the International Version, taken from the German DVD by Constantin Film and the Original Version, taken from the two HK DVDs by Mei Ah Entertainment.
In order to make the report easier to read, it was divided into parts and not every cut features illustrations. Sometimes cuts were combined (note the bordering). The missing of single frames will not be mentioned either.
The names of the actors and characters were taken from the HK DVD’s ending credits. The dialogs are from the Original Version as well.
Sometimes a few frames of the following scene were removed when cuts were made, this will not be mentioned either.
Time designations have been rounded up in most cases.
IV = 02:23:00 (02:17:11 w/o ending credits)
HK Part 1 = 02:25:23 (02:18:18 w/o ending credits)
HK Part 2 = 02:21:23 (02:16:28 w/o ending credits)
Running time of the IV until the end of Part 1 = 00:59:54
Running time of the IV until the end of Part 2 = 01:17:17
HK = Hongkong Version
IV = International Version
The German DVD starts with the Constantin company logo and the explanatory introduction, the OV starts with regular opening credits.
There is another text overlay to make sure the introduction has been understood.
The HK displays the date here.
„Han Dynasty, 208 A.D. Summer, Xuchang“
Cao Cao’s (Zhang Feng Yi) walk to the emperor (Wang Ning), has been changed a bit. Also, the emperor playing with a bird was removed.
Cao Cao makes a small step towards the emperor.
A small camera pan to Cao Cao’s face.
Zhao Yun’s introduction ends earlier, therefore an opponent’s fall from his horse and other scenes of Cao Cao’s campaign agains Liu Bei are missing. The IV directly switches to Liu Bei’s troops on the field, there is another text read from the off.
At the beginning of the scene a few images of the soldiers are missing.
The HK shows further shots of the refugees.
The refugees going up the hill can be seen slightly longer and after that we see Cao Cao's forces marching and further refugees.
At the first appearance of Liu Bei (You Yong) the beginning of the scene was shortened. Liu watches the people pulling back.
Zhang Fei (Zang Jin Sheng) can be seen earlier.
Zhu Ge Liang riding away appears on the screen earlier.
Cao Cao orders his forces to depart.
During the conversation between Bei and Liang the shots of the refugees are different.
The head of the horse can be seen slightly longer.
Another horse is falling down when the shields are used.
More horses are being blinded by the shields' reflection, causing more of Cao Cao's soldiers to fall down.
The two version are in synchronicity before a few shots of horses rearing up are missing.
The two armies are rushing towards each other. Liu Bei's army is being led by Zhang Fei, whose horse jumps over an enemy horseman.
The combattants are getting closer.
The end of the scene of the two armies meeting each other before the cut to Zhao has been removed.
The beginning of the scene after Zhao ties the child to his back is missing.
Zhao can be seen longer, the next transition has been shortened a bit.
After Zhao Yun talks to the child, the enemies attacking and a scream of Zhao are missing before he gets his spear.
Yun's spear can be seen longer.
The spear can be seen earlier before it hits the first soldier.
Zhao's spear cannot be seen stuck in the soldier's chest.
Zhao holds the spear longer to his enemy's neck.
Back to the battlefield, after Zhang Fei threw four horsemen from their horses. Then, a few frames of fighting soldiers and Zhang dismounting two more are missing.
General Yu kills one more soldier.
The fighting sequence of Yu ends in the IV after the soldier being smashed against the shields. Cao Cao arriving on the battlefield and watching him is missing as well as a shot of Zhao approaching.
Guan Yun can be seen longer, Zhao Yun earlier.
There is an additional shot of the rider heading towards Zhao, Cao Cao watches them.
After Zhao pushes his opponent off his horse, the IV shows instantly the relieved Zhu Ge Liang. In the HK, the horse is being attacked by soldiers but can successfully defend itself.
After that, one of the soldiers can loosen the bundle with the child of Zhao and throw it in the air. Zhao gets off his horse and is able to catch the child which he defends afterwards.
Cao Cao watches the whole scenery and asks who the man was. Xia Hou Jun answers: “Zhao Zilong of Changshan.“. Cao:“Why is there no such a brave warrior under my command?“.
Additional shot of Zhao yun on his horse.
More soldiers of the empirial army are entering the battlefield.
A short glance away from the battlefield to the fleeing civilians is missing.
Zhang Fei and Zhao Yun look at the fighting Guan Yu.
Zhao and Zhang get ready to leave, Guan Yu continues to fight.
The charging soldiers can be seen earlier.
A battle cry of Zhang Fei and a few shots of Liu Bei's soldiers are missing.
During the battle, a soldier's death and the general's departure have been removed.
Zhu Ge Liang has to watch how Cao Cao's troops overwhelm Liu Bei's forces.
Zhang Fei looks back.
Zhao Yun's horse needs no treatment because the injury in the battle had been cut, therefore this scene is missing as well.
Missing footage at the beginning and the end before Zhu Ge Liang tells the others he was going to go to Sun Quan.
Before Zhu breaks up to Wu, Liu Bei wants to know if he was sure he could persuade Sun Quan.
Zhu Ge Liang: "My Lord, please rest assured."
Liu Bei: "Are you confident you can convince him?"
Zhu nods and Bei gives him a bowl full of rice.
Liu Bei: "Eat some more. The road to Wu is Iong, and you will need energy?"
Cao Cao is being informed the two surrendering generals (admirals) Cai Mao (Yi Zhen) and Zhang Yun (Jia Hong Wei) had arrived.
Counselor: "Prime Minister, the surrendered generals, Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, are here. These two men are untrustworthy. Please be cautious."
Cao Cao: "I trust those who are of use to me."
Afterwards Cao Cao meets the two generals and asks how many troups they had brought.
Generals: "Greetings, Your Highness!"
Cao Cao: "Rise."
Cao Cao: "How many ships and men have you brought with you?"
General Cai: "We have with us three hundred thousand naval troops and more than two thousand battleships and boats of various sizes."
Cao Cao: "Great! Now we can be tigers that swim!"
General Cai passes the letter of surrender to Cao Cao. Cao starts reading and seems to be amused about Cai's mistakes in it (it's relevant for the subsequent story).
Cao Cao's counselor is still distrustful and asks Cai about the exchange between him and the empire Wu. It doesn't make a difference for Cao Cao, he is more interested in the general's gift, a detailed map of Wu.
General Cai: "Your Highness, here is our letter of surrender."
Cao Cao: "General Cai, I see many grammatical errors here. I hope your military strategies are not as poor as your command of literature."
Counselor: "I hear you have frequent exchanges with the State of Wu."
General Cai: "Your Highness, I have declared war on Wu many times. These so called exchanges are limited to only this."
Cao Cao: "No need to explain. What is this?"
General Cai: "This is a map of Wu that I drew taking great pains to be precise."
Cao Cao: "General Cai, you took great pains indeed."
The IV only contains the rolling out and watching of the map.
IV: 7 sec
HK: 100 sec
Extended shot of the laughing people after Cao Cao's snarky comment about a possible alliance of Lui Bei and Sun Quan. Then a change of scenary to Sun Quan's palace where Zhu is being brought to Sun by Lu Su (Hou Yong).
Lu Su: "Though my Lord is young, he shows wisdom beyond his years. Speak frankly and don't hold back. The senior advisors will be your biggest obstacle."
Mumbling counselors while both of them are on their way to the seats.
"You say we can fight this war? We can't! Hopefully, he has some good strategies to use against Cao Cao. This time around, Cao Cao is determined to fight. We are gravely outnumbered. How could we ever hope to fight this war? We cannot fight!"
The IV immediately shows Sun Quan's (Chang Chen) appearance.
After the conversation between Lu Su and Zhu, the shot of the valley and the following beginning of the scene have been removed.
Missing shot of Gan Xings (Shidou Nakamura) after the field exercises. He divests a soldier of his spear and shows him to handle it. Parts of the scene appear later in the IV.
Extended shot of the soldiers plus a couple of missing frames at the beginning of the next scene.
Earlier beginning of the shot of the soldiers before Zhou Yu interrupts the exercises.
As compensation, the scene is longer.
Zhu and a soldier on the ground looking up to the sky.
Again an uplooking soldier and a missing beginning of the scene.
Earlier beginning of the shot of Liang.
Takeshi Kaneshiro keeps on looking to the hill.
Extended shot of the troopers.
Earlier beginning of the shots of the nature after the guy keeps on making music.
The IV cuts back earlier to Zhou Yu (Tony Leung). As a result of that some few moments of the shot of the nature are missing.
Earlier appearance of the soldiers on horses.
In the IV, Zhou Yu leaves the hill immediately after the playing of the flute is finished. In the HK, the elderly man walks straight to him und reports some water buffaloes of the family had been stolen.
Men: "Your Honor! My family's water buffalo was stoIen from the fields near the barracks. Some people saw..."
Zhou on his way to the soldiers.
Earlier beginning of the shot of Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro walking down the stairs.
Gan Xing looks grimly to Zhu Ge Liang after Zhou confronted Zhu with the archaic goose formation.
Additional shot of Zhu Ge Liang walking down the stairs.
Zhou looks at the soldier's footwear and asks Gan Xing about the formation while pacing off the row.
Zhou Yu: "Are you aware that a bad formation can kill our brothers?"
Gan Xing: "I have never thought of killing my own brothers."
Earlier beginning of the shot of Zhu when he wants to know who that is (he's refering to Gan).
Now the birth of the horse Luoyue after the shot of Zhou's domicile n the HK.
Xiao Qiao (Chiling Lin), Zhou's wife, attends the horse and asks for silence. Her husband arrives and tries to help as well, but neither of them are really familiar with that. Zhu enters the stables and offers to help. Zhou asks if he was experienced and Zhu Ge Liang replies he had been assisting at the births of some cows and adds it had to be similar at the birth of horses. He succeeds and the foal is unharmed.
Then the foal is being named Meng Meng and Zhou has to promise Xiao that he is not using the horse for war when it's older.
The servant kneels down in front of Lu Su to pour out some wine. Refering to the birth of Meng Meng, Lu Su says: "Xiao Qiao looks like she's the proud new mother herself."
After Lu su tried to make the upcoming war a subject of discussion, a shot of Zhu Ge Liang and Xiao Qiao in the IV before Zhou Yu's reply. The HK contains a profile shot of Zhou instead.
IV: 3.5 sec
HK: 3.5 sec
The IV screens off to Cao Cao's camp, where he looks at a painting from Xiao, while the two main characters are making music. His doc wants to know if he had painted it on his own. He replies he had only seen her once in a lifetime and her father had thought the world of her.
Continuation of making music in the HK.
After a short while the music is being interrupted by Cao Cao again. He continues to talk about Xiao. He says she had become a real beauty and she was going to be his after the victory about the south. This segment and the one before are being used later in the HK.
The HK contains a scene of Lu Su and Xiao listening to Zhou's and Zhu Ge's music here.
Zhu Ge Liang and Xiao keep on listening to Zhou. This shot ends with a different freeze frame in either of the versions.
Extended shot of Zhou's face while the music is going off.
Xiao passes some tea to Lu and Zhu. She thanks Zhu for the husband having been playing qin after a long time.
Xiao Qiao: "Thank you, Mr. Zhu-ge. My husband has not played his qin for a long time."
Zhu Ge Liang: "I, too, have not been so enervated for a long time."
Sun Quan's decision to ally with Liu Bei and, as a result of that, to make war on Cao Cao has been shortened.
After Takeshi Kaneshiro and Hou Yong left Tony Leung's domicile, the IV continues with a scene at Cao Cao's camp, where Cao Hong (Wang Hui) wonders that his brother wants to go to war for a woman.
Xiao and Zhou are discussing that there was no choice to prevent the war. Zhou asks his wife why she wrote peace so often, she replies it stood for a name in that particular case. Then she walks to him and puts his head on her belly. She asks him if heard and wants him to listen very carefully. Distracted by the rain, Zhou Yu starts humming instead of seeing the obvious.
Then a love scene, Zhou doesn't want Xiao to leave Red Cliff. The scene ends with a look at the sword, which Zhou gets from Sun Quan in the following scene.
Sun Quan looks at his sword. He thinks of what Zhu Ge Liang said while doing that plus Cao Cao's troups.
He chops off the edge of a table in the throne room and makes clear that anyone, who talks about surrender, would end up like the table. He makes Zhou Yu, Cheng Pu (Wang Yu Zhang) and Lu Su the commanders-in-chief of the army and gives the sword to Zhou. Zhu is watching him.
IV: 5 min 7.5 sec
The HKV continues with a short conversation between Xiao and Zhou after Lu and Zhu left the house.
Xiao Qiao: "I think you two can be great partners."
Zhou Yu: "His music tells me, that he needs friends."
Xiao Qiao: "Your music tells me that you need to fight this war."
Now a shot of Hua Tuo ((Xie Gang) the doc) in the HKV. He asks Cao Cao for the picture. The first sentences are missing in the IV.
Hua Tuo: "Prime Minister, desire and obsession can also cause of headaches."
Cao Cao: "Have you not heard that desire makes one young!"
Hua Tuo: "This painting must be by Your Highness."
Cao Cao: "Her name is Xiao Qiao. When I was young, her father thought very highly of me. I saw her only once. Now, she is the most beautiful woman in the world and married to Zhou Yu. After I pacify Wu, she will be mine."
Cao Cao leaves his rooms and talks to the generals. Here a little conflict between land and sea forces arises.
Cao Cao: "Gentlemen, you are all here."
Generäle: "Yes, Your Highness!"
Cao Cao: "General Cai, your ships are well built!"
Admiral Cai: "Thank you, Your Highness. I have guarded Jingzhou for many years. With the strength and power of our current navy, we will surely defeat Wu."
Cao Cao: "Great!"
Xia Hou: "What? The two generals are saying that our ground troops are just for show?"
Cao Cao: "General Xia-hou, while we Northerners are great on horseback, the Southerners are experts on the water. To destroy Wu, we will need the hard work of General Cai and his navy!"
Admiral Cai: "Thank you, Your Highness!"
Cao Cao: "General Cai, What...is the best food in the South?"
Admiral Cai: "River fish is the best food in the South, Your Highness."
Cao Cao: "Then...what is the worst thing about the South?"
Admiral Cai: "The weather is the worst. This is the windy season. The wind can often be unpredictable."
During the conversation, Cao Cao arrives on the bridge and looks at his soldiers, who start yelling victory. Cao turns around and says: "Six dragons lead my chariot. I will ride the wind with the greatest speed, with all of the feudal lords under my command, to rule the world with one name."
Now the troup movements insert in the IV.
Quan is his in rooms, looking at his sword. His sister, Sun Shang Xiang (Zhao Wei), enters the room and opens the curtain. She sits next to her brother and tries to make him laugh. While doing that, she recognizes a message on the ground.
"On land and sea, with forces numbering eight hundred thousand, I wish to meet Your Highness at the hunt for Wu."
Then she continues to cheer his brother up, but it doesn't work out.
Shang Xiang: "This Cao Cao really has some nerve. What does he mean by a hunt for Wu? Brother, Smile! We will get through this. They all want you to smile too (she points at the ancestors)."
Sun Quan: "When father was nineteen, he was known as the Tiger of the Southland. When my late brother was twenty-six, he conquered the Southland. I am now twenty-six, yet I have done nothing! It seems that my achievements will never be able to be compared to theirs. No matter how hard I try, those old advisors call me worthless."
Zhou Yu enters while the last words are being spoken.
Sun Quan: "Brother?"
Shang Xiang: "You came at the right time...He will not listen or even smile."
Zhou Yu: "My Lord, What is it?"
Shang Xiang: "Cao Cao requests our surrender. See for yourself."
Shang Xiang passes the message to Zhou, who doesn't even look at her. Then Zhou rips it apart. The siblings wonder why he did that and Zhou goes to a bow in tghe corner. He bends a bow and lets loose. Dust comes off the bow.
Zhou Yu: "You have not used this for a long time."
Quan looks indecisively. Zhou goes to him and gives him the bow.
Zhou Yu and the siblings are hunting tigers. When a tiger has been spotted, Zhou shots but misses by a hair's breadth. The group stops and looks around.
Zhou Yu: "He is cunning. Do you see him?"
Sun Quan: "This beast is watching us. He is sinister, playing with his prey."
Zhou Yu: "Is he not like Cao Cao? Though Cao Cao is Prime Minister, he is the real traitor, always ambushing from the darkness."
Shang Xiang: "In the entire world, not one person likes him. Brother, what are you afraid of?"
The Princess spots the tiger and the hunt continues. She also misses him by a hair's breadth with her bow and group stops again.
Sun Quan: "To be honest, I was prepared for war with Cao Cao three years ago."
Zhou Yu: "Cao Cao claims to have an army of eight hundred thousand, yet many are surrendered troops he cannot trust. He can actually use only one hundred thousand of them at most. Our troops have high morale. We have knowledge of the Yangtze River and greater naval expertise. Moreover, Cao Cao has no justifiable reason for his war."
Sun Quan: "But those senior advisors!"
Zhou Yu: "They are only concerned about protecting themselves. You need not listen to them. Your late brother once told you that you are a better administrator, but that he is a better commander. That made you lose confidence."
Shang Xiang: "But he only said that to make you strive to surpass him."
The tiger sneaks up on them from the back and can drag one of the soldiers from his horse. The other help him and the tiger lets go of him.
Shang Xiang spots the tiger again. Zhou gets an arrow and Sun Quan's quiver and tosses it away.
Zhou Yu: "Go. Do not hesitate anymore."
Sun Quan keeps on riding alone.
He looks around and prepares for the shot but the tiger can surprise him and he falls off his horse. He crawls on the ground anxiously and wants the soldiers to interfere. Zhou Yu withholds them, everyone is looking at Quan now. So he grabs his bow and prepares for a shot. Here's a short shot of him sitting in the room, looking at the sword. The tiger's face changes in front of his mind's eye to the face of Cao Cao.
With the noise of the fired bow, the scenary changes to the throne room. Quan chops off the edge of the table and explains that he was going to fight Cao Cao.
Sun Quan: "My decision to fight Cao Cao is final! If anyone dares mention surrender, he will end up like this table. Zhou Yu! Cheng Pu! Lu Su!"
Yu, Pu, Su: "Ay!"
Sun Quan: "I hereby appoint Zhou Yu as the Viceroy in Chief, Cheng Pu the Lieutenant Viceroy, and Lu Su as the Consulting Commander. We will form an alliance with Liu Bei, to stop Cao Cao's invasion."
Yu, Pu, Su: "Understood!"
Zhou gets Sun Quan's sword and Zhu watches everything from outside.
At the end the onversation between Xiao and her husband.
Xiao Qiao: "It seems that war is inevitable."
Zhou Yu: "We cannot stop Cao Cao's invasion. But maybe this one will prevent future wars."
Xiao Qiao: "Just as long as there are no more wars."
Before Xiao gets her husband's head at her belly, Zhou attempts to copy his wife's writing. Xiao also asks here why she wrote "Ping An" so often.
Zhou Yu: "Isn't this one just like yours?"
Xiao Qiao: "You sure know how to replicate my handwriting. Do you know why I wrote so many 'Ping Ans'?"
Zhou Yu: "'Ping An' means peace! So... why so many peaces?"
Xiao Qiao: "'Ping An' is a name...Come, what do you hear? Listen carefully."
Similar to the IV, Zhou starts humming here, followed by a love scene. Xiao wants to know when she ought to leave Red Cliff. The scene ends with the look at the sword.
Xiao Qiao: "I have heard rumours that all the families are leaving Red Cliff. When...When will I leave?"
Zhou Yu: "I won't let you leave. I want you to remain by my side."
total lenght missing footage HKV: 19 min 8 sec