Review: Shaolin Martial Arts (1974)


Shaolin Martial 3

Starring: Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan Chun, Gordon Liu, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Wang Lung Wei, Fung Hark-On, Simon Yuen

Fight Choreography by: Chia Tang and Beardy

Directed by Chang Cheh

Here we have yet another film that proves that Alexander Fu Sheng was taken from us far too young. his onscreen demeanor made him an instant star, and he kept getting better with each film, and I think this film sits high on his small filmography…

At the Temple of the God of Chivalry, both Shaolin and Manchus are having a annual ceremony paying tribute, but things go south as the leader of the Manchu’s, Master Yu, complains that he should lead the tribute rather than the representative from Shaolin, younger master Cheng, who is there because the Shaolin leader has taken ill.  Of course you know the Manchus want to start crap just to start crap, and one of their men obliges, taking a perceived insult as a reason to gut one of the Shaolin. This begins a brawl that ends with the authorities showing up and for all intents and purposes taking the side of the Manchus. We soon find out that the General of the Manchus wants to wipe out the Shaolin permanently, and brings in two men to do it, both of them with seemingly invincible marital arts.

As their numbers dwindle, it’s up to a small group of Shaolin fighters to defeat the two invincible fighters by learning new styles of kung fu, but time is running out, and the bodies of the Shaolin are piling up…

shaolin Martial 2

For anyone who is a fan of Shaw Brothers films, this plot line is repeated again and again in many of their films albeit with a tweak here and there. That doesn’t mean the film isn’t entertaining, though. The film does manage to be suspenseful as they are not afraid to kill off a slew of good guy characters. Fu Sheng is his normal playful onscreen persona, and as per usual in the these films (Gordon Liu isn’t The Greatness Yet) Gordon doesn’t stick around as much as I’d like. Of course Simon Yuen makes anything he’s in a better film, and the Old Dirty Bastard once again arrives to raise the film up in the middle before things slow down too much, even though he’s more subdued here as a cantankerous kung fu master.

The fight scenes are really good here, comparable with some of the best moments from Chang Cheh’s many films, particularly the final fight between Beardy and Fu Sheng, which seemed to move faster than the typical Shaw Brothers fights,  but the Mortal Kombat-style finishing moves here are something special, from a disembowelment to eye gouging to absolute testicle destruction that just looked painful as hell. Actually kudos to every actor for making their death scenes look so painful I think I’d rather be eaten by a wild animal than die by kung-fu move.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8.5

Alexander Fu Sheng leads an All Star cast of badasses in a fun but familiar kung fu tale, with a ton of action scenes and memorably bloody deaths.

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