9th Annual Old School Kung Fu Film Fest : Joseph Kuo Edition – Return of the 18 Bronzemen (1976)

Screening right after The 18 Bronzemen today at the Museum of the Moving Image, Subway Cinema in conjunction with the Museum present the follow-up film, though it was released first in most countries, Return of the 18 Bronzemen.

This tells a similar story to that of the first film, but from a different perspective, that of the new Qing emperor Yong Zhen, played by Carter Huang, who comes to power through some deviousness on his part, and has heard rumblings of trouble that may be presented by the Shaolin temple.

He sets out on a journey that will lead him to the temple and training ground, where he submits himself as a disciple but first he encounters Polly Shang-kuan, still masquerading as a man, that plants the seed for a later payoff.

Arriving at the temple he is at first refused entry, and training, but eventually the masters relent, and agree to bring him aboard.

Of course that means there will be tons of physical challenges, not to mention the test of the bronzemen, which some disciples train a decade for before they are ready.

Yong believes he can do it in a year, and sets some serious goals for himself, but in the end, the decision will have to be whether he is devoted to Shaolin, or his control of China. And whether or not he’ll be able to sway the monks to join his cause, of subjugating China in his name.

Kuo delivers another entertaining film that makes you realize right from the beginning that Yong Zhen is a villain. He’s killed and schemed to assume the role of Emperor, despite the fact that the people don’t even want the Manchurians in their country, let alone ruling them.

And yet as he trains, and undergoes his tests, you begin to side with him…

But will others? Or will the monks be what stand between him and the rebellious rumblings that are echoing through the country.

The bronzemen (robots? armored men?) and the sequences around them are still very cool. The fight choreography is sharp and well executed, and I love the bits featuring Polly Shang-kuan’s character. The story, itself, almost feels like it ends on a cliffhanger, and you’re left to wonder what happens next, and what price Yong Zhen will pay for his actions.

Both films are best enjoyed back to back, and the new 2k restoration, along with the new sub-titles make for a very entertaining flick. So if you’re in or around Queens this weekend and want to check out some real old school kung fu films, swing by the Museum of the Moving Image, and check out the films that are screening, and buckle up for a fun ride!

You can find the full schedule here.

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