Foreign Film February: Five Shaolin Masters (1979)

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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.

The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter (1984)

8 diagram pole fighter blu-ray

As you’ve probably guessed by now I’m a huge film of genre cinema. I love horror movies, detective movies, film noir, kung fu movies, and many more. What I love about a genre is that you know what to expect coming in. Genres have conventions. There is something comforting about watching an old western and knowing John Wayne is going to win in the end.

What I love about great genre movies is how they can subvert those conventions. It is really fun to watch a movie where you think you know what is going to happen, only to find out that what happens is completely unexpected.

I don’t know that The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter subverts any of the conventions found in kung fu movie, but I do know that it is a really great kung fu movie with fight scenes that will blow your mind. Sometimes that’s all I really want in a genre movie. You can read my review of it here.

Flying Guillotine Part II (1978)

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I’ve recently started getting into old kung fu movies again. I loved them as a kid, but then grew out of the genre for a while. But boutique Blu-ray labels such as Arrow Video and 88 Films have been releasing some really terrific sets of all the Shaw Brothers films and I am here for it. I reviewed Flying Guillotine II (also known as Palace Carnage) over at Cinema Sentries. You can read it here if you like.