The 101 Action Movies brings another Shaw Brothers classic to my screen. It’s a fairly generic tale, yet for all that, it’s a lot of fun, and the fight sequences are exciting. There are glowing red hands indicating the power of the Iron Fist, there are eyeballs ripped from sockets with a music cue that may be familiar to Tarantino fans, and there’s a lot of fights!
I didn’t get the best version of this film, the picture was kinda fuzzy and it was dubbed, not something I generally like, but it seemed to work for this film, as it put me into the mindset of seeing it as a North American audience at the time.
The story follows a young martial arts student, Chih-Hao (Lieh Lo) who leaves his master’s school to expand his training after his master is beaten by thugs, leaving behind his teacher’s daughter Ying Ying (Ping Wang), whom he has fallen in love with.
All of this is mostly set-up for the introduction of a wide variety of characters, thugs, heroes, and establishing rivalries.
Chih-Hao learns from Sun Hsien-Pei (Mien Fang), who chooses him amongst all of his students, which causes problems with one of the other students, who’s jealous. That jealousy drives him to the rival school of Meng Tung-Shun (Feng Tien) who conspires with the imposing Chen Leng (Chi Chu Chin), who happily, for the hero, has a change of heart after seeing how vicious Meng is.
The fight sequences are well put together, and I found myself enjoying this film more than Come Drink With Me. They’re edited much more tightly, and as sad as it sounds, all the heightened sound effects we’ve come to expect from this genre in this time period are all there. It’s almost a cliché watching some of this film now, but at the time, it must have been pretty amazing.
There is a huge cast of characters, and I love one of the early fights featuring Chen and Pa Tu-er (Bolo Yeung), watching the two of them dodge, strike and kick in a flurry of moves… that to me makes a martial arts film. I want to sit there and be awe-struck at the speed and the moves I’m seeing.
I was a little bummed to realize that 36 Chambers of Shaolin isn’t on the 101 Action Movies list, but I may have to find time to watch it again anyway. It’s a fun one if you haven’t seen it.
That can also be said of this one though as well. Yes, as I said, a lot of it feels clichéd now, but if you can be in the right mood for it, chances are you are gonna sit there and love it, and probably rewatch a couple of the fight sequences.
What are some of your favorite martial arts films from the early 70s? One of the greatest ones of all time is coming up and I’m looking forward to revisiting that, but what are some of the obscure ones I should be hunting down?