|Producer:||Mona Fong, Chia-Hsi Huang, Run Run Shaw|
A pure old-school martial arts movie, beloved by aficionados, that also appeals to nonfans simply as a rousing action film. The often-imitated fact-based plot (see "The Karate Kid") centers upon the rigorous training process undergone in the mid-19th century by the anti-Manchu Chinese patriot San Te (Gordon Liu). It's depicted as a grueling voyage into the unknown. Cast out of his home village when he stands up to the cruel warlord (Lo Lieh) who slaughtered his parents, the refugee seeks out the martial monks of the Shaolin Temple, who steer him through a torturous series of "chambers"--horrendous ordeals designed to build strength and agility--before he's even allowed to study boxing or swordfighting. Finally he defeats a rival by inventing a brand-new weapon, the three-section chain-linked staff. But innovation can be carried only so far; when San Te suggests opening a "36th chamber" in the temple that would teach Shaolin techniques to the populace at large (so that they can fight the nasty Manchus) he is drummed out of the corps. Naturally he returns to his home village, slaughters the baddies, and prepares to open China's first public Shaolin-style kung fu school. Many of the pupils San Te recruits in the final reel became legendary martial artists in their own right, the "Fathers of the Church" of the Chinese kung fu tradition. This is strong action entertainment with real historical resonance. --"David Chute"