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Flag of Iron (Special Edition), The

88 Films // Unrated // February 8, 2022
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted February 25, 2022 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:

Directed by the mighty Chang Cheh and released by Shaw Brothers studios late in the kung-fu boom in 1980, The Flag Of Iron (also released domestically as The Spearman of Death) details the exploits of a clan of fighters known as Iron Flag. The people of their town admire them for being the good men that they are, using their fighting skills to right wrongs and stand against oppressors. When the clan's chief learns of a plan by a rival to take them out, he decides they should strike first and so they attack the rival clan's school.

Things are going just fine for the good guys until Iron Flag member Chow Feng (Lu Feng) hires an assassin known as 'The Man In White' (Lung Tien-Hsiang) to help them out. When the clan leader winds up dead, the assassin is assumed to have done the deed. Lo Hsin (Philip Kwok) intends to look into things but winds up taking the blame for a lot of the violence that stemmed from all of this. To save face, he leaves town and takes a job as a waiter to wait things out. Lo is still very much a wanted man by many bad dudes, however, and when a series of assassins are sent after him, he starts to figure out that there's more to all of this than he originally thought. He attempts to reconnect with Chow only to learn that his former comrade in arms has turned the clan into a commercial endeavor, at which point he teams up with an unlikely ally to try and set things straight again.

The plot of Flag Of Iron may not be the most original tale ever told but the movie is so flashy that it doesn't really matter all that much. The story moves at a pretty good clip and gives us what we want out of a vintage martial arts movie. Depth isn't all that important, as the plot, for the most part, is really just something to hang all of the martial arts set pieces off of, as clearly those are the main draw with a movie like this. And on that level, Flag Of Iron delivers. The fights come frequently enough to keep the action going at a good clip and there's some genuine creativity on display in this area, with Chang Cheh and company bringing some interesting weapons and costumes into the mix to keep things looking good and to keep the action sequences exciting.

If this might be a lesser entry in the filmographies of both its director and The Venom Mob of actors that play most of the main roles in the film, it is still a film very much worth seeing for those with an affinity for the Shaw Brothers kung-fu movies of the era. It's full of colorful characters and sets, it's got a decent amount of heroic bloodshed in it and there's some pretty intense violence in the movie towards the end, all hallmarks of Chang Cheh's output to be sure, but also mandatory ingredients in a good kung-fu movie, period.

Despite the fact that the two most famous Venoms, main Venoms Lo Meng and Sun Chien, are not in the film, we still get solid work from the rest of the team. Kwok in particular is great here, really getting a chance to show off his moves for the camera and impress us with his abilities. He's quite good in the lead and a solid choice for the role.

The Video:

88 Films brings The Flag Of Iron to Blu-ray framed in 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 35.3GBs of space on a 50GB disc. Colors look quite good here and black levels are fine but some digital noise reduction appears to have been applied, some detail is on the soft side and the image is seemingly free or natural looking grain. There's virtually no print damage, however, and the transfer is free of obvious compression artifacts and edge enhancement.

The Audio:

24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono options are provided in both a Chinese language option with English Subtitles and in an English dubbed track with English SDH subtitles. The Chinese track plays best, it suits the film more and it sounds quite clean with no audible issues. The English track is fun in the goofy sort of way that dubbed tracks tend to be for older Shaw Brothers movies.

The Extras:

Extra features begin with another audio commentary by ‘Asian cinema experts' Mike Leeder and Arne Venema. This goes into quite a bit of depth about director Chang Cheh's history and his work with the Shaw Brothers, details on the different cast members that appear in the movie, the look of the film, the different fighting styles that we see on display, what sets this picture apart from other kung-fu movies and quite a bit more. No dead air here at all.

This release also comes packaged with a slipcover, some reversible cover sleeve art (featuring newly created art by "Kung-Fu Bob" O'Brien on one side and the original one-sheet art on the reverse) and, folded up inside the clear Blu-ray keepcase, a nice double-sided replica of two of the film's poster art styles. Also included in the case is an insert booklet containing an essay titled "Red And Black Attack" by Andrew Graves and some nice archival images.


The Flag Of Iron isn't the film that Chang Cheh or the Venoms will be remembered for but it is definitely a rock solid martial arts picture with some really strong action, some memorable set pieces and some fun characters. 88 Films has done a nice job bringing it to Blu-ray, even if it isn't as loaded with extra features as some of their other recent Shaw Brothers releases have been. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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