Ba dao lou zi (Seven Man Army) (1976)

 

 

 

Director:    Cheh Chang.

Starring:    David Chiang (Pai Chao-hai), Lung Ti (Wu Chao-cheng), Kuan Tai Chen (Chiang Ming-kun), Sheng Fu (Ho Hung-fa), Kuan-Chun Chi ( Chu Tien-cheng), Ying Bai (Jia Fu-sheng), Yi-min Li ( Private Pan Bing Lin), Hua Chung Ting (Hsiao Hsuen-tsu), Tien Miao (Hsi Yi).

Seven Chinese hold off 20,000 Japanese at a battle at  of the Defense of the Great Wall, January 1 to May 31, 1933.

 

Spoiler Warning:   below is a summary of the entire film.

Japan launched its first attack on China on September 18, 1931. It came to be known as the "September 18th Incident". It was followed by the Japanese occupation of three provinces in China’s northeast. Seven divisions comprising 200,000 well-equipped Japanese troops were massed to attack China Proper after breaching the Great Wall. On New Year’s day of 1933, the invaders marched westwards and occupied Rehe Province in March. The Japanese troops were then mobilized to assault the strategic passes along the Great Wall.

The battles fought there determined the fate of China. The Chinese army pledged in Tongguan go marching towards the front line. Patriotic soldiers filled with righteous indignation join the Chinese forces with high morale. On April 21, 20,000 of the Japanese soldiers supported by 54 armored vehicles, launched a fierce raid on Gubeikou. The fiercest battles were fought in Badao Louzi for five days and five nights.

A Japanese soldier orders artillery fire on a Chinese position. The Japanese push the Chinese soldiers back. Two Chinese soldiers reach a trench. They have to fight a lot of Japanese that jump into the trench with them. The Chinese not only have Japanese troops in back of them, but then run into machine gun nests in front of them. They use their grenades to destroy the machine gun nests.

Three men reach Japanese headquarters in an old fortress which is largely abandoned except for three Japanese soldiers destroying sensitive materials. Two of the Chinese kill the three Japanese. One of the men is Private Pai Sing, second platoon, 40th company. The other is an officer. He tells Pai Sing to muster all the men here so they can regroup.

A Japanese tank is heading down the dirt road. The private waits until after the tank passes to throw a hand grenade into a group of Japanese soldiers following after the tank. Then the private chases after the tank. The officer and another Chinese soldier kill the remaining small group of Japanese.

The private jumps onto the back of the tank and throws a grenade inside. That puts a stop to the huge machine.

When the men muster before the officer, there are only five in line. He says that their regiment got itself very badly mauled. And they can’t contact the commander, so they are on their own. The men say they think just six men will be fine. As long as they are alive, the old fortress will be held. The Japanese kill a Chinese Colonel they capture. A Chinese boy survives and takes some food off the dead to have something to eat.

The Chinese Major remembers the days of his training. He gets injured in the leg, but he keeps going ahead with his unit in the practice.

Chinese Private Pan Bing Lin finds the signals squad all dead. He tells Bai Zhangxing that there’s no way to communicate with them now. They find the young Chinese boy, who tells them that his home was destroyed during a Japanese bombing. His family is all dead. The boy says he wants to be a Chinese soldier and kill Japs. The men take the boy back to the fortress with them.

The Major asks who the boy is. The soldier looking out for him says he can be an orderly. The Major agrees but if the fighting gets rough, the boy will have to leave.

The major tells the men that the fortress is the key to the coming battle. The Second Division are holding their positions to the east. They have to protect their flank.

Chu Tien-cheng thinks about his girl back home. She tells him that the Japanese are nothing but a bunch of braggarts. He replies that he respects the Japanese guns, but he doesn’t think they can beat him man to man because of his mastery of kung-fu. He defeats a number of young Japanese men in a street battle, two of which had swords.

The neighborhood congratulates Tien-cheng on his victory, but another fellow comes running to tell him that the Japanese are at his girlfriend's house. He runs to her house only to find the family dead and his girlfriend with a knife in her chest.

He goes to the Japanese compound to challenge the Japanese fellows who killed his girlfriend. His friend helps out by defeating one of the Japanese, this one in uniform. But the Chinese helper gets shot with a pistol by another Japanese soldier in uniform. Tien-cheng kills the opponent in front of him with a sword and then throws it into the chest of the Japanese man who killed his friend. Now he is seized with a great desire to kill more Japs. He decides to join the Chinese army.

The Major tells his men that he hears the Japanese are using Mongolian bandits in their forces. They are a vicious bunch. At dinner a horse comes their way. It is a Jap and the men start shooting at him. He comes into the fortress from behind the fortress and gets into the place. They find the fellow rummaging through the drawers of the desks. The guys catch the Japanese soldier and he says: "I thought you were all dead." He is actually a Chinese soldier disguised as a Japanese soldier. He gives the Major his orders.

The Major tells the other guys that their orders are to fight to the death. The messenger then says he will go find where Colonel Wong was killed. Along the road he kills a Japanese soldier with his bayonet. The Colonel’s head is hanging on a pole and the messenger runs to cut it down. He tells the orderly to take the head back to the Chinese soldiers.

The soldiers dig a grave to bury the head of the Colonel. One of the soldiers tells his budddy that he once was an actor in theatrical plays. Back stage a couple of Chinese soldiers were bothering the main actress. He rushed backstage to put a stop to it and the two fellows try to beat him up. But they can’t as he uses his kung-fu to best them. He got in trouble for this, got really angry and joined the army.

Mongolian soldiers arrive. They use their binoculars to take a look at the fortress. The Mongolians warm up for the battle by doing various kung-fun maneuvers. Meanwhile, the Chinese practice their use of the bayonet.  Tien-cheng goes through his kung-fu warm up.

The messenger runs back to the Major saying there are a lot of enemy troops heading his way. The men sharpen their bayonets. A lookout tells his compatriot that he sees the Japanese moving out there. The two of them go to have a closer look. Maybe it’s just a Japanese patrol. They don’t see anything at first, but then the whole gang of Mongolian troops descend on them. The other men come to the rescue. It’s sword against bayonet primarily. Some grenade throws come in handy too.

One of the men, Bai Zhangxing, whose parents were killed by Mongol bandits, says that their attackers were all Mongol bandits and their head is named Hu Qi. He remembers how the Mongols killed his two brothers. They then kicked and stomped him. There was a kung-fu school there and the soldier goes to the master of the school. The master teaches him a special technique to counter the Mongolian kung-fu style.

Bai Zhangxing tells his friend Jiang that he used to love to gamble and hit his wife. But now he feels badly about that. He says to his friend that if anything should happen to him, to take these two gold rings and give them to his wife. He also gives Jiang his wife’s address. At dinner one guy after another comes up to Bai to tell him if the other guy doesn’t make it, he will make sure the rings get to his wife.

Japanese machine guns fire at the fortress. The Chinese decide to use some hit and run tactics. For some reason, the Japanese think the defenders must have pulled out. So they rush the fortress. The Chinese are waiting for them with a machine gun and grenades and kill quite a few Japanese and Mongolians.

A group of Mongolians get into the fortress but they are bayoneted on killed with a large sword. All the Mongolians are killed by two Chinese soldiers. Jiang is one of the two soldiers. He remembers attacking the Japanese in a group of men with swords. A lot of his compatriots were killed. His brothers come to get him out of jail, but are killed in the process. Jiang is condemned to be beheaded. But on the way to his beheading, he gets out of his ropes and kills a number of Japanese soldiers. Then he makes his escape.

The Japanese General is getting impatient by being blocked at the fortress. He sends tanks and hundreds of soldier to attack the fortress. After killings hundreds of Japanese, one Chinese soldier is killed by a sword. Another soldier is badly wounded. So that leaves only five fighting men on line.

The Japanese fill a trench with their dead bodies. The Chinese bury their one dead.

A whole line of tanks come in to the attack on the fortress. They shell the fortress. The Japanese soldiers then charge. Jiang gets really badly wounded and has to be carried back. By the time they get him back they realize that he is already dead. Another man is wounded.

The orderly is given the two gold rings and Mrs. Bai’s address and is told to take the rings to Mrs. Bai. Japanese airplanes fly overhead and bomb the fortress, although the men have fought mostly outside the fortress. But in the bombing, the Major is blinded. The orderly’s departure is delayed so he can help the Major.

The tanks and the soldiers attack again. This time there are very few men left to oppose the Japanese. And the one-time Chinese actor is bayoneted this time. And yet he still goes to the attack after throwing two grenades at the enemy. He is stabbed once in each leg, but fights on. But the next time he falls, he is bayoneted by about ten Japanese soldiers.

The Major and the other wounded man are in the fortress awaiting the Japanese. The Major has a number of grenades and a rifle. The last two man fighting outside are still alive. But one man is bayoneted.  (And still he fights on.) Unbelievably, the two fighters keep defeating the Japanese that come against them. Finally, the last two men outside the fortress die.

The two men left in the fortress start firing at the Japanese rushing into the fortress. One of the men is killed, which leaves just the blinded major.

And then the DVD just ends at this point with no ending and no credits..

 

Not really much of a history film except that there was a series of battles or skirmishes known collectively as the Defense of the Great Wall. But the Defense of the Great Wall seems more a pretext to demonstrate kung-fu martial skills than anything else. And do these Chinese ever use kung-fu. It’s one kung-fu fight after another. So if you are a fan of kung-fu or action movies, you might really enjoy it. I just thought it was ridiculous to think the Japanese would fight with swords and bayonets instead of just mowing down the Chinese with automatic weapons, tanks and artillery. But I had to play along.

I may have made some mistakes because of the difficulty of identifying who was who. When the army guys are all running around in uniforms with their caps on, it is pretty hard to tell who is who. I could go back again and try harder, but the movie isn’t worth the extra time.

A funny thing about the movie was that sometimes the Chinese spoke Chinese and subtitles were needed and at other times English was used without subtitles. The sound was another difficulty. In addition, the film just suddenly stopped and that was that.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 


Historical Background:

The Defense of the Great Wall, January 1, 1933 – May 31 1933.

This was a campaign between China and the invading Japanese. It actually happened before the Second Sino-Japanese War, which officially began in 1937.

Japan captured the Inner Mongolian province of Rehe from the Chinese warlord Zhang Xueliang and annexed it to the new state of Manchukuo. Manchukuo’s southern border was now the Great Wall of China.

 

The Chinese fell back from Rehe.

Passes:

1. Lengkou Pass – falling back here was Wan Fulin's 32nd Corps. The 29th Corps of General Song Zheyuan also fell back.

1933 (March 4) – the 139th Division of the KMT 32nd Corps managed to hold the Pass.

2. Xifengkou Pass – Zhang Zuoxiang's 37th Division retreated here.

3. Gubeikou Pass. General Guan Linzheng's 25th Division retreated here.

1933 (March 7) – KMT 67th Corps held the Gubeikou Pass.

1933 (March 9) – Chiang Kai-shek rushes in reinforcements but they were not strong enough to stop the Japanese advance.

1933 (March 11) – Japanese troops pushed up to the Great Wall of China.

1933 (March 12) – He Yingqin becomes the new leader of the Northeastern Army. It was his job to determine the defensive positions along the Great Wall.

The Japanese launched over 20 assaults against the Great Wall. Some of the Chinese troops with swords help push back the Japanese.

1933 (March 21) – the Japanese take Yiyuankou Pass.

1933 (April 8) – the KMT 29th Corps evacuates from Xifengkou Pass.

1933 (April 11) – Japanese troops retake Lengkou Pass after dozens of seesaw fights.

1933 (May 20) – the Chinese army retreats from their remaining Great Wall positions.

 

Some units like the He Zhuguo platoon held off the Japanese for up to 3 days. Some other Chinese units were able to win minor victories in passes like Xifengkuo and Gubeikou.

 

 

 

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