Review: Heroes of the East (1978)

Starring Gordon Liu, Yasuaki Kurata

Fight Choreography by Liu Chia-Liang

Directed by Lar Kar-Leung

Gordon Liu, a legend of the martial arts world, decided it was time to try his hand at serious marital drama, the likes of which could challenge the greatest actors of the day, a film of heart, pathos, melodrama, and emotions run rampant. After he recovered from whatever head injury led to this thought, he decided to take marital arguing to a whole new level, by throwing kung-fu fighting into it, and thus we have Heroes of the East.

Liu plays Ah To, whom we first meet on his wedding day, and to say the least the poor guy has a major case of the jitters. He is to marry Kung Zi, a japanese woman, in an arranged marriage to unite their family’s two companies, making their fathers powerful businessmen in the process. He reluctantly goes through with it, partly because his Dad would probably kick his ass, and also because Kung Zi turns out to be an extremely beautiful woman. Early on we can see there’s going to be cultural problems, as some of the chinese women at the wedding(we’ll nickname them “Triflin’ Bitches”, which every culture in the history of the world seems to have) start talking shit about the Japanese wedding dress Kung Zi is wearing.

A few days later the trouble starts when the servants mistake hearing Kung Zi practicing Karate in the courtyard for Ah To beating her, and inform his father, who is about to go to Japan to visit her father, now convinced that Ah To is kicking her ass every day. Ah To learns of her Karate practice, and at first seems okay with it, until he goes to his own school, where of course some single asshole has to make a joke about him being whipped, but Ah To doesn’t stand for that, and nearly kicks the dude’s ass, which serves him right.

Soon Kung Zi’s weapons arrive from Japan, and Ah To is unimpressed, preferring Chinese weapons to Japanese ones, but once again seems okay with it-until a servant tells him that she’s made room for her stuff in his person training hall by tossing his weapons out. Of course he gets pissed, and goes back home to end that shit, not realizing that this is the destiny of all husbands since time immortal. Now, in what also always happens, he argues with her about this, but they take that newlywed bickering to a whole new level as they whip out equivalent weapons and start fighting in a game of one-upmanship that would kill most of us. After he insults ninjitsu, she’s had enough of his shit, ’cause you can call her a bitch and whatever, but insult the Ninja arts and it’s adios, asshole! Still pissed she goes back to Japan.

Ah To could have lived a peaceful next few days if he had left well enough alone, but she was pretty hot, so he felt he needed to get her back, and on the advice of someone he really shouldn’t listen to, writes her a letter, challenging her to a fight. Once again unaware of what this means to the Japanese culture, and her fighting school, particularly Takeno (Kurata) a dude who wanted to marry Kung Zi, and happens to be a ninja, take this to mean he wants to challenge all Japanese arts, so he gets his posse of Karate masters and mosey their way to Ah To’s house to challenge him to a series of duels.

Ah To finds himself having to learn even more elaborate Kung-Fu as the opponents get harder and harder, and even Kung Zi comes back to him, not really wanting to see him get pwned by these guys (but I bet she would admit that she kinda does) and advises him in the fights, leading him to the last fight versus Takeno, taking place over a day and night! Can Ah To defeat them and show them that Kung-fu is King? It’s either that or have his wife harp on his ass over it for the rest of his life…

Heroes of the East is a classic Shaw Brothers film, filled with elaborate fights and great cinematography, of course shot in ShawScope(TM). Gordon brings the goods as always, even bringing a bit of comedy to the proceedings. Yasuaki Kurata is dependable as always as Takeno, and for once there was really no real “villian” of the film, just two cultures who misinterpret each others’ intentions, Although it is funny that the Japanese masters go over there to prove that Kung-Fu isn’t better than Karate, but gets their butts kicked by it, and Ah To even tells them that he respects their style even as he beats them down the whole film. The fights are second to none, the hallmark of director Lar Kar-Leung. Also, and I have to point this guy out-look for the Japanese Sai Master, a dude who can only be described as the Shaw Brothers version of Prince. He wears purple, with makeup, and all you need to convince you is to see how he shows up to fight Ah To. It was either fight or sing Purple Rain, and you couldn’t be sure as to which one he was going to do.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Liu Chia-Liang came to work, and it shows, as every fight was different and exciting, showing off great forms and made understanding the strategies of each fighter completely make sense. Each fight gets better and better, with the fight versus Kurata the best of them all, as it should be!

STUNTS: (8) The fighters really made the most of it, and everyone did a great job. Nothing spectacular, but what falls, hits, and kicks were there were done exceptionally well.

STAR POWER: (10) Gordon Liu and Yasauki Kurata. What more do you need? Answer: nothing.

FINAL GRADE: (10) Without a doubt one of Gordon’ s best, and a crown jewel in the crown of the Shaw Brothers. If you love old school kung-fu then you’d do yourself a favor by picking this one up!



  1. I have seen this film and enjoyed it very much. Kurata San and Gordon Liu are always great to watch. I laughed at your comments about the guy like Prince – I very much agree! Lau Kar leung’s turn as the drunken boxer is an interesting high point to the film for me.


  2. This is one of the first movies I watched when I started to take a serious interest in martial arts films. Over here it was called Shoalin Challenges Ninja and released by Warner Brothers. Been years since I’ve seen it though.


  3. Ah man, I’ve been wanting to check this one out for years and it sounds like it won’t disappoint! These late 70s and early 80s Shaw Bros. films are some of the best they ever did.


  4. […] Casey’s final fight with Masazuka featured a bit more wirework than I would have liked, but fits the comic book nature of the film. Tsuyoshi Ihara is great as the slimy villain, and arguably does a better acting job than Adkins. It should be noted that Ihara is the star pupil of legendary martial arts screen fighter Yasuaki Kurata (Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, Heroes of the East) […]


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