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

The 9th Annual Old School King Fu Film Fest continues in Queens today at the Museum of the Moving Image in conjunction with in Subway Cinema. Screening at 1pm is writer/director Joseph Kuo’s The 18 Bronzemen, a fast-paced film that delivers a story of vengeance and the wishes of the father carried out by the son.

The Manchurian Invasion of China brought the Qing Dynasty to rule over the people who were rebelling under their tyranny, fighting to restore the Ming Dynasty. The young son of one of the leading political and rebelling families is delivered to a Shaolin temple to be raised by the monks there, and learn martial arts, all with the goal of being able to take revenge on the Qing Dynasty for the murder of his father.

He’s not the only one who has been delivered to the temple though, Shao Lung (Peng Tien), is joined by Brother Wan (Carter Huang – who will always be Thunder from Big Trouble in Little China for me), and Ta-Chi (Nan Chiang).

The trio all go through rigorous training to become the best fighters, working their way through thirty-six chambers, confronting eighteen bronzemen (whether painted or in plated armor) to prove their skills. They find an ancient manual which helps with their skills, but also immediately puts their lives in jeopardy, as black-clothed ninjas attack them.

Completing their training, and passing through the bronzemen, they set out into the world, where Shao Lung is joined by Miss Lu (Polly Shang Kuan), masquerading as a man, and reveals, twists, and final conflicts play out on the screen.

The temple sequences dominate the first two thirds of the film, and featured the thirty six chambers before the film of the same name came along a couple of years later. The fight sequences are solid, the choreography incorporates wu xia aspect of the martial arts films, and there’s a touch of wire work, and the showdown at the end of the film features multiple baddies, all dressed the same, to confuse our heroes as to who the real baddie is.

And then, of course, there’s the coup de gras, which sees a brutal finishing move on the Manchu general. Ouch.

It’s a fun ride, I love the training sequences (the bits when our heroes are kids are great!), and all the things in the temple just build a wonderful mythology up around the characters and the universe they exist in.

It’s paired this afternoon with Return of the 18 Bronzemen, which tells the same story from a different point of view, and features a lot of the same cast. Check them out as a double feature at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, presented in conjunction with Subway Cinema!

Check out the full schedule here.

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