The legend of southern Shaolin monk San Te comes alive in this masterful martial arts epic from Shaw Brothers and action director Lau Kar-leung. In his third starring role, Gordon Liu (DIRTY HO) delivers an iconic, career-defining performance as the stoic Liu Yu-de, a Qing-era student caught up in an anti-government rebellion. When ruthless General Tien Ta (Lo Lieh) orders his bloodthirsty lieutenant Tang San-yao (Wilson Tong) to lead a crackdown on rebels operating in Canton, Yu-de’s friends and family are killed and he’s left on the run. With the Manchu authorities maintaining a public ban on martial arts training and weapons, Yu-de vows to learn kung fu by traveling to Shaolin Temple, the last bastion of martial arts expertise among the oppressed Han people. Although the temple is closed to outsiders, he sneaks in and is allowed to become a monk with the new name San Te. In five years he masters all 35 training chambers in the temple and sets out to create a 36th chamber where laymen from outside the temple can learn Shaolin kung fu. While recruiting disciples, San Te encounters his old Manchu enemies and joins his new pupils in fighting back. This is the best known movie from Lau, who emerged from the shadow of his mentor Chang Cheh several years earlier to become one of the genre’s top filmmakers due to his years of experience as an action director and stuntman in Hong Kong in addition to master level proficiency in his own family’s Hung Fist style of kung fu. The film contains exceptional fighting action featuring intricate open-hand forms, double sword and three-section-staff sparring that pits Liu against top genre talents including Lo Lieh, Wilson Tong and Lee Hoi-sang. Yet the main attraction is the many elaborate scenes depicting imaginative body conditioning and martial arts training. Few films apart from the Shaolin-related works of Joseph Kuo delve as thoroughly into the subject of Shaolin kung fu training and none are as well crafted or grand as this. The film also benefits from some of Shaw Brothers’ finest production work including vivid cinematography, their best sets and a large cast of extras.
REVIEW: 36th Chamber of Shaolin, The (1978),
Gordon Liu • Lau Kar-leung • Lau Kar-wing • Lo Lieh • Norman Chu • Shaw Brothers • The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978) • training