This is director Chang Cheh’s second, lesser entry in his Shaolin Cycle of Shaw Brothers films covering the exploits of southern Shaolin’s famous folk heroes. It follows HEROES TWO with a fast-paced, scattershot tale of martial heroism taking place before and after the events depicted in the previous entry. The film is split into three acts with the first focused on kung fu prodigy Fong Sai-yuk (Alexander Fu Sheng). It follows his emergence from Shaolin Temple training before having a duel atop wooden piles with sharpened bamboo stakes set to cushion the fall of the loser. Act two sees Sai-yuk coming to the aid of Hu Hui-chien (Chi Kuan-chun), a young man out to avenge the death of his father. In order to defeat the men responsible, Hui-chien masters Weng Chun (not to be confused with Wing Chun) at Shaolin Temple and returns to break up the baddies’ criminal enterprise. Act three follows the burning of Shaolin Temple as Sai-yuk and Hui-chien join Hung Fist master Hung Hei-gun (Chen Kuan-tai) in fighting against the Manchus responsible. Led by two skilled fighters (Chiang Tao and Lu Ti), the Qing forces track down the three heroes and a small band of fellow Ming patriots for a final battle. Structurally and dramatically, the film is a mess with three separate and highly compressed plots poorly strung together by the fighting action of the film’s three main stars. There is no character development on the heroes apart from very brief and uninvolved training sequences at Shaolin Temple. Villains in the film are practically an afterthought with little personality, presence or fighting style. The film’s main selling point is its generous, if dramatically deficient fighting action. While Fu Sheng and Chen Kuan-tai are physically impressive throughout, the main highlight is newcomer Chi Kuan-chun who dominates the final 12-minute fight scene with an intense and skillful display of martial artistry against all comers. Chang Cheh later retold the same origin story of Fong Sai-yuk and Hu Hui-chien in greater detail in the superior kung fu film THE SHAOLIN AVENGERS.
Alexander Fu Sheng • Chang Cheh • Chen Kuan-tai • Chi Kuan-chun • Chiang Tao • Fong Sai-yuk • Genre: Kung Fu • Genre: Shapes • Hu Hei-chien • Hung Hei-gun • Men from the Monastery (1974) • Shaolin Cycle • Shaw Brothers