Filmmaker Chang Cheh takes a final stab at southern Shaolin folklore and the related conflict between Wudang and Shaolin with this convoluted and mediocre kung fu actioner made palatable only by the dependable showmanship of the Venoms Mob. Tung Chien-chen (Lo Meng) is a Shaolin fighter who comes into conflict with a Wudang knife throwing specialist (Yu Tai-ping). After being wounded, Tung encounters fellow Ming loyalists Chin Tai-lei (Sun Chien) and his sister Pi-erh (Yeung Ching-ching). Being knife throwers themselves they train him to defend himself against the attack and Tung is able to kill the Wudang knife thrower upon their next meeting. In response, Wudang fighters challenge Tung and his new Shaolin friend Hu Wei-chen (Chiang Sheng) to a public duel. After Hu delivers a killing blow that rips the testicles off of a Wudang fighter, the victim’s brother Li Pa-shan (Wang Li) and his sister Li De (Candy Wen) seek revenge by crashing the wedding celebration of Tung and his bride to be Pi-erh. This results in the tragic murder of Pi-erh and the kidnapping of Tung who is brought before the Wudang clansmen to be executed. Tung ends up rescued by Wei Sing-hung (Chin Siu-hou), a Wudang fighter of Han descent who questions his clan’s loyalty to the Qing. Late in the story, a Wudang master named Kao Ching-chung (Lu Feng) shows up with a band of Monkey Fist experts. Posing as a traveling scholar, Kao lures the Shaolin men into a trap that Tung falls victim to when he’s immobilized by Kao’s needles. As other top fighters from Shaolin arrive Wei steps in to aid Tung and join the Shaolin rebels in battling Wudang to the finish. Chang recycles material from his previous Shaolin films including INVINCIBLE SHAOLIN and SHAOLIN AVENGERS to seemingly rush together a poorly structured and tiresome narrative populated by too much uninvolved chatter, played out genre conventions and not enough distinctive fighting action to stand out from other superior Venoms Mob films. Underrated kung fu star Chin Siu-hou (THE TAI CHI MASTER) makes his debut in this film with a potentially great role with meaty drama and fighting action that is woefully undermined by the inept script that cannot decide which plotline or protagonist to stick with. The film’s climatic fight sequence should be an epic one an certainly has plenty of classic Venoms action but feels too rushed. It’s also extremely grim, more so than most of Chang’s other martial arts films where heroes kill opponents casually and frequently die at the end.
TWO CHAMPIONS OF SHAOLIN is available on DVD from Well Go USA. Includes English and Mandarin audio tracks and optional English subtitles.
Chang Cheh • Genre: Kung Fu • Genre: Shapes • Shaw Brothers • Two Champions of Shaolin (1980) • Venoms Mob