The Water Margin

The Shaw Brothers made a lot of martial arts films covering Shi Nai-An’s The Water Margin,  the 14th-century Song Dynasty novel, but it is here, with 1972’s Chang Cheh adaptation (covering chapters 64 through 68 of the novel, if memory serves me correctly), where they struck gold.  The film is detailed, highlighting both the pageantry and the brutality of the 14th century as 108 rebels strike fear into the very souls of a corrupt government, and features an unforgettable cast whose performances run the gamut of emotions.

"Full of high drama and solid fight choreography, this is a violently wild and sprawling epic"

Full of high drama and solid fight choreography, this is a violently wild and sprawling epic in which good must stand strong and united against evil.  Clocking in at just about 2-hours, the film’s famous roster of fighting heroes isn't even finished being introduced - with cool title cards - until about halfway through the drama as the ever reliable cast of Shaw Brothers productions find themselves fighting against the powers that be. 

Adapted by Cheh and Ni Kuang, The Water Margin is a script loaded with lots of drama as the Jade Unicorn swears allegiance to the outlaws and sides against the Zeng Family Fortress.  There’s lust, betrayal, imprisonment, and a whole lot of bloodletting in between the drama, too.  Thankfully, there are also a lot of badass action sequences as guts are sprayed all over the faces of our fighters from Liang Shang marshes.The Water Margin

Starring David Chiang, Ti Lung, Yueh Hua, Danny Lee, Chen Kuan-tai, Lily Li, Fan Mei-sheng, Ku Feng, and Tetsuro Tanba, the cast reads as a literal badass list of Kung-Fu greats from Shaw Brothers Studios.  This extends into the story as Yen Ching the Wanderer (Chiang) is recruited by the Outlaws of Mount Liangshan to take down the villain, Shih Wen and his armies.  Seriously, this sect of do-gooders take down everybody standing in their way and they come out spattered with all sorts of innards from the baddies.

While burdened with mixed reviews, The Water Margin is well-shot, plotted in an ideal manner, and full of some cool fight sequences.  It is now on blu-ray as part of Shout Factory’s spectacular box set, which comprises 12 classic martial arts films from the famous Shaw Brothers' library, featuring some of their greatest stars Cheng Pei-pei (Come Drink With Me), Lo Lieh (King Boxer), Sammo Hung (Wheels On Meals), Ti Lung (A Better Tomorrow), and David Chiang (The Boxer From Shantung). Many of these films are debuting for the first time on Blu-ray.

This is a must-see for any movie fan.

3/5 chops


The Water Margin

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- August 15, 2023
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
: English
Mandarin: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; 12-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

The Chang Cheh-directed The Water Margin is the martial arts epic of epics ... of epics. Based on the true legend of how 108 rebel heroes living in the mountains were able to repeatedly defeat invading Sung armies, the film starred just about anyone who was a name at Shaw Brothers at the time, like David Chiang, Chen Kuan-tai and Ti Lung. The primitive battles ultimately end in sharp, visually effective images of death and defeat.


Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, The Water Margin, gets its hands bloody and never once rinses its fists as beauty is birthed in this same blood, all with its audience in mind.  It’s full of great atmosphere thanks to the sprawling script and looks visually eye-popping due to the upgrade.  The visual poetry on display comes through in the city at the center of this meaty martial arts film, the crispness of the interiors and the exteriors in which some rundown locations become a playground full of blood, and the sudden violence which echoes throughout the film, including its big finale.  Black levels are strong throughout, bringing out nice details in both the loud and quiet moments of this epic adventure.  The tracking shots are glorious to behold in 1080p.


The audio is presented with your choice of a clean lossless Mandarin Mono DTS-HD Master Audio With New English Subtitle Translations.


Get ready for some exciting thrills and chills as heroes meet villains in a duel to the death, complete with awesome supplemental items, this release is legit.


  • Brian Bankston (Cool Ass Cinema Blog) provides the film’s commentary.  It is very detailed and helps the casual fan of Shaw Brothers develop more of an appreciation for this film.

Special Features:

  • NEW Audio Commentary with film historian Brian Bankston(Cool Ass Cinema blog)

  • The Master: Chang Cheh

  • Elegant Trails: Ti Lung

  • Elegant Trails: David Chiang

  • Extended Love Scene

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

  • Celestial Trailer

  • TV Spot for the U.S. release SEVEN BLOWS OF THE DRAGON

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 3/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

3/5 stars

 Film Details

The Water Margin

MPAA Rating: PG-13.
121 mins
: Cheh Chang
Cheh Chang; Kuang Ni
Jimmy Wang Yu; Chiao Chiao; Hsiang Chun Li
: Acttion | Drama

Memorable Movie Quote:
Shaw Brothers
Official Site:
Release Date:

DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 13, 2023
Synopsis: Tells the story of the 108 Heroes who stood up against a corrupt government. Each hero has his own unique fighting skill, but they are all willing to die to uphold justice.


The Water Margin