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The 18 Bronzemen

original title: Shao Lin Si shi ba tong ren

Comparison:

  • Recut (HD Version)
  • Reconstructed Original Cut
Release: Apr 13, 2022 - Author: Muck47 - Translator: Muck47 - external link: IMDB

Comparison between the Japanese Recut (HD main version + several previous DVDs in e.g. Hongkong) and the reconstructed original theatrical release, both available on the UK Blu-ray by Eureka!


95 changed scenes, including 16 re-cuts
* 86x additional material in the original version: 31:17 min
* 12x additional material in the recut: 25:20 min
 

 

Mutilated bronzemen and a happy ending in Great Britain

The 18 Bronzemen (Taiwan, 1976) is certainly the magnum opus of budget filmmaker Joseph Kuo, who delivered any number of entertainingly trashy Easterns in the '70s. Carter Wong and Tien Peng fight their way through a typical revenge story with lots of confusing twists and above all: training montages as well as the titular test against "golden" painted actors in cardboard costumes. The film, shortened by 21 minutes in Germany, was a huge success at the time and is still a coveted title among Asia fans today.

Unfortunately, however, availability is a sad case: similar to Chinatown Kid, a massively recut version has replaced the original version of the film. For years, the theatrical release was found primarily only on obscure VHS releases. But as of November 15, 2021, a Blu-ray box set of 8 films from the cult Hong Kong director is available in the UK from Eureka Entertainment.

In addition to the familiar recut version in HD throughout, you'll find a reconstructed original version as a bonus. Here, material from the HD master has been supplemented with a German print in widescreen. As mentioned before, this was heavily cut separately though, so other sources needed to be used as well - some of them only available in heavily zoomed 1.33:1. So the picture quality is variable, but at least it's a very thoroughly done project with surprisingly smooth transitions between the different sources. This kung-fu classic has never looked so well in its legendary uncut original version. We took this highly recommendable UK Blu-ray release as an opportunity to document the massive amount of the changes between these two versions of the film in more detail.

 

The differences in the widely known recut

Of course, the alternative beginning with a completely different frame story is striking. It should be said that the recut originally goes back to the release of this movie in Japan. On the one hand, Kuo was not yet so successful in this market at the time and therefore used the film to present a small "best-of" of his previous works. At the same time, a number of productions had previously been successful in Japan, in which children played an essential role. These two aspects are also cited in the audio commentary of the British Blu-ray as an attempt to explain the rather confusing 20 minutes at the beginning of the film, where the recut includes a kind of prequel to the main plot with other child actors.

The film itself, however, still has approximately the same running time and thus it is self-explanatory that, conversely, extensive cuts to tighten up the pacing were also made. On the one hand, this concerns many dialogues and small filler shots here and there. So the recut sometimes seems a bit more dynamic, but also a bit choppy compared to the original version. However, it is kind of a recurring thing in Kuo's films that some quick plot jumps are not really explained for the viewer. It surely is questionable for genre fans that several fight scenes have been shortened at the same time. This alone is a clear argument for preferring the original version over the recut.

Several changes in the order of scenes (rearrangements) are rather strange. On the one hand, this goes along with the new frame story. On the positive side, the child abduction can be mentioned here, which in the recut was actually woven into the plot a bit more comprehensibly while it feels a bit out of place in the original cut. On the other hand, many things seem rather arbitrary. When there are deviations within scene blocks that were moved to other places in the film, we have highlighted this with a coloured box. Quite often it was rather messy to keep track of some questionable decisions in the editing room.

Last but not least, there are a few moments where the recut is longer. This includes, of course, the alternative beginning with scenes recycled from other films. However, there are also a few instances where seemlingly deleted scenes from the actual film or from the sequel have made it in. Occasionally, therefore, the recut can also be quite interesting after having seen the original version - which, as said, remains the preferred film version in any case.


Runtimes are arranged according to 
Main HD version (Recut) on UK Blu-ray / Reconstructed original cut on UK Blu-ray

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Both versions start with the logo of Mei Ah. The reconstructed original version has a logo of Hohwa Scope afterwards.

17.5 sec




The first text differs.

RecutReconstructed original version




Alternative / Rearranged scene / Additional scene in recut
00:23-19:09 resp. 19:43-22:14 + 22:29-24:37 / 00:40-10:21

Then, however, the versions already deviate seriously. Only during the meeting with the prince does the film run halfway synchronously. For the time being, there is a difference of 545 sec (= 9:05 min) in favor of the recut. However, this is a bit more complicated in detail due to a few cuts. Here, then, is a chronological rundown of what occurs in both versions, starting with the more important original version.

Reconstructed original version


First, the landscape shot is much longer. Then the mother comes to the temple and gives up her son in tears. Afterwards the opening credits take place over fight/training scenes with the bronze men.


Afterwards a training sequence in which Shao is still a bit weak. This part also appears in the recut from 19:43-22:14. Here, deviations within this sequence are highlighted in color:
Rearranged scene
19:56-20:01 / 05:44-05:49

The shots of the monks and of the students with water jugs were reversed in order.

No time difference


Rearranged scene
20:15 resp. 20:27-20:42 / 06:03-06:18

Shots of Shao with the weight and training students were pushed back a bit in the recut.

No time difference


22:14 / 08:02-08:05

At the end of the scene, one monk hits another on the back with a wooden trunk.

3.4 sec


* Various other training shots follow (bronze men recreated with cord + sticks on legs), which appear in the recut from 22:51-23:14.
Rearranged scene
22:51-22:55 / 08:05 resp. 08:14-08:18

One shot (throwing chalk bags) was moved forward a bit.

No time difference

* Then a conversation of the monk with the disciples, which comes unchanged in the recut from 23:57-24:37 (not illustrated).
* A training scene at night, which comes unchanged in the recut from 22:29-22:51 (not illustrated).
* Conversation between Tang and Shao, which comes unchanged in the recut from 23:14-23:57 (not illustrated).

Lastly, the shot of the prince starts a moment earlier.


Japanese Recut


In the Recut you instead get mainly lots of scenes that were simply copied together from other movies.

We start with shots that were taken from The Blazing Temple. You can see various monks training, but of course they don't appear in the rest of the film. Then separate opening credits appear over a shot of a training book. In a monastery something is discussed thereupon.


Then comes the child rescue, which is shown as a flashback in the original version only after about an hour (from 56:27-58:10).
04:21 / 56:27-56:36

To start with, the original version soft-faded from the script to the first fights with the invaders. The recut then begins in the middle of the shot.

8.5 sec




04:54 / 57:08-57:22

After the throwing knife lands in his back, the man with the beard successfully takes care of several masked attackers for a while. The follow-up shot also starts a bit earlier.

14 sec




05:00 / 57:29-57:35

Here, a medium long shot begins much earlier.

6.1 sec




05:04 / 57:39

After jumping out the window, the shot is a few insignificant frames longer.

0.3 sec



Altered speed
05:04-05:26 / 57:39-57:45

A strange decision: The follow-up shot outside was extremely slowed down.

Recut 16.5 sec longer
Image for orientation




05:26 / 57:45-58:10

Instead, the original version offers several more shots of the liberators fighting in the monastery. Finally, the viewer zooms in on the text panel and from there fades back to Shao looking at the document.

25.1 sec


Right after this you get a few scenens from The Unbeaten 28. These offer a little background story for the boy given into the monastery, because a mother separates here in tears from her child. The boy grows up alone in the monastery and has to endure some usual absurd training rituals.


In the forest now follows another swordsplay scene and after that the (now strangely enough completely different looking) boy is trained in the monastery. This material was taken from The Eight Masters.


The following conversation of the four people in the forest was again re-used from Unbeaten 28. Here the child is placed in the Shaolin temple for protection from the pursuers. The longer conversation of the boy with the monk in the forest comes then again from The Eight Masters, although it probably was a deleted scene.


In the following scenes in the monastery, you then have the curiosity that here at the latest, due to two different child actors, it becomes obvious that material from several films has been combined. In any case, the little one is gradually included in the monks' training sessions. Ultimately, this cleverly transitions into a few shots of the now adult boy now portrayed by Carter Wong.

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