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Sammo Hung makes his film directing debut in this violent and impressive kung fu action/drama that also sees Sammo in one of his first starring roles as a Shaolin-trained fighter joining forces with Shaolin monk San Te (Chen Sing) to avenge the rape and murder of friends and family by evil Manchu overlords. After his uncle is killed by Manchu bullies, a humble street vendor named Husker (Hung) is aided by San Te who encourages him to enter Shaolin Temple to learn how to defend himself. Eager to get back at the Manchus, he sneaks out and finds work at a cloth dye factory that becomes the target of more Manchu bullies led by an official (played by Fung Hark-on) who also happens to be a serial rapist. Eager to control the wealth of the Han people they govern, the Manchu concoct a plan to legally take over the dye factory with a fixed contractual agreement. When it fails, they attack the factory outright in a literal hostile takeover. In response, Husker and San Te take on the Manchus responsible in a vicious fight to the death. While not discussed onscreen, the film provides an excellent showcase of specific animal forms from both classical northern and southern kung fu schools. This includes the Tiger, Crane and Snake techniques of the south as performed by Hung and Chen and northern Mantis and Eagle Claw as performed by Fung and Chiao Hsiung respectively. This shapes action is expertly combined with an array of what were at the time advanced screen fighting techniques to creatively enhance the action. In the film’s finale, Sammo makes extensive use of acrobatic doubles, undercranking to speed up the fighting, wires, breakaway props, and a pro blend of camera angles and shots that show a level of sophistication rarely seen in Hong Kong at the time. Sammo has a solid cast of screen fighters with the powerful Chen Sing standing out in his fierce fighting performance as San Te, the same character more famously portrayed by Gordon Liu in THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN. While there is a small measure of kung fu comedy, of which Sammo would become famous for in subsequent films, the general tone of this feature is dark and about as bleak as any kung fu movie has ever been. This is largely due to the unnecessarily brutal and distasteful depiction of rape in two specific instances that may be a turn off for viewers accustomed to Sammo’s more popular films. There is also brief nudity and considerable, bloody violence on par with Chang Cheh’s films.

REVIEW: Iron-Fisted Monk, The (1977), 8.0 out of 10 based on 4 ratings Related Topics:
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  • Kevin27

    Here is my full review. I have posted this elsewhere:

    The Iron-Fisted Monk (1977) is Sammo Hung's brilliant directorial debut. Though the revenge plot is average for kung fu films of the time, the martial arts action and choreography are extraordinary. Iron-Fisted Monk marked the beginning of Hung's movie making prime. In the late 70's and early 80's Hung stared in and directed some of his best films including: Warriors Two, The Magnificent Butcher, The Prodigal Son, Knockabout and The Victim. The Iron-Fisted Monk was the film that got his directorial career rolling.

    In the Iron-Fisted Monk, Sammo Hung plays “Husker,” a young civilian who is taken in and trained by Shaolin monks after his uncle was killed by the Manchus. Seeking vengeance he eventually leaves the temple. After a group of Manchu officials make trouble in a small town, Husker teams up with a local man named Liang and the “iron fisted monk” Brother Tak (Chan Sing) to finally bring justice to the evil Manchu officials.

    The martial arts action and choreography in this film are unbelievable. The film features some of the “hardest” kung fu you will ever see in a Sammo Hung film. Sammo does a great job playing to his strengths, providing a good mixture of martial arts and acrobatics. When this film was made Sammo was young and very near his physical prime. He is very fast and powerful and gives one of his better physical performances. Chan Sing also gives one of the most inspired physical performances of his career. Along with kung fu, the film features a lot of weapon fighting including: swords, spears, knifes and staffs.

    The film was made by Golden Harvest studios, which means high production values and a talented stable of actors to work with. Notable appearances in the film include: James Tien as a Shaolin instructor, Casanova Wong as a young monk and Lam Ching-ying as an extra. Fung Hak-on (Warriors Two, Magnificent Butcher) plays the villain yet again and does a very convincing job.

    Unlike many of Hung's films, Iron-Fisted Monk has a very serious tone. There are some comedic touches but they are overpowered by the intense drama. The Iron-Fisted Monk is one of Hung's more violent films, featuring very aggressive fight sequences and lots of bloodshed. The movie also includes a few brutal rape scenes. The rape scenes are very graphic and intense and, in my opinion, should have been toned down or left out completely. There is also a ridiculous nude scene in a brothel featuring Wu Ma. The scene was meant for comic relief but should have been left out also. The rape and nude scenes are the only detractions to this otherwise brilliant martial arts film.

    The Iron-Fisted Monk was Sammo Hung's first effort as a filmmaker, but it is hard to tell. The martial arts action in the film is superb and outshines most other films made at the time. There are a few weak spots but overall it is a top notch genre film. The Iron-Fisted Monk is one of Sammo Hung's best works and is definitely in the top 30 best martial arts films of all time. The film is definitely not a family friendly Sammo movie but it is highly recommended for hard core kung fu genre buffs.

    Martial Arts Genre Rating: 8/10

    - “You're a Shaolin monk. How dare you kill indiscriminately!”

    - “We're here to rid this world of a rapist and a murderer!”

  • Andrewsun73

    I,ve been watching kung fu movies since the early 80's. I saw this over a year ago and was a little shocked at the rape scene, I like Sammo but won't be revisiting this movie any time soon if ever.

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  • Anonymous

    The Odd Couple is a product of it’s culture and time and in my opinion it would be short sighted to dismiss it’s importance as an example of Martial Arts cinema.