Foreign Film February: Five Shaolin Masters (1979)

five shaolin masters poster

I’ve watched enough Shaw Brothers kungfu flicks at this point to recognize that their plots are all mostly the same. There is usually a good clan and an evil clan. The evil clan picks a fight for one reason or another which leads to lots of drama and even more fight scenes and it all ends in a climactic big final battle. There is sometimes a love interest, usually a training montage, and often the Master is killed. There are variations on this, but more or less that’s what happens in all of them.

Sometimes they are funny or really goofy, and sometimes they are deadly serious. Mostly the scenes between fights is utterly pointless, but the best ones at least keep them interesting. But the real reason to watch is the fight sequences. When they are good, there is nothing better, when they aren’t so good they are at least entertaining.

Five Shaolin Master’s fights are just ok. The story is worse.

Some Qing soldiers burn down the Shaolin Temple. Five dudes survive and vow their revenge. They work out a series of secret codes to tell each other apart. This makes sense once they start enlisting other people who are sick of the Qing soldier’s evil deeds. They also learn that there is a traitor in their midst and suss him out.

Our heroes are no match for the Qing fighters and get their collective arses handed to them. They regroup, train heavily for several months, and come back for a final showdown. It is all mostly dull with the fight scenes being merely adequate. The final, big battle is pretty fun with eyes getting snatched, testicles being destroyed, and lots of jumping and flying about.

But other than that this one is utterly skippable.

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