By Al Kratina
July 11, 2008 - 21:35
It’s hard not to enjoy a Shaw Brothers film, because so much effort goes into each and every frame. While this does give some of their lesser films a sense of desperation that would put a bad improv troupe to shame, there’s more than enough elbow grease to keep Disciples of the 36th Chamber moving.
The famed Hong Kong studio, master of the martial arts genre, made a slew of successful films in the 70s and 80s, creating a long-lasting legacy of classic kung fu movies and blaringly retarded rap albums. In this entry, Hsiao Ho plays Fong Sai Yuk, an uppity Han Chinese bridling at his oppression at the hands of his Manchu masters. Unfortunately, as he’s a teenager stuck in the fourth grade, he can’t even spell ‘oppression’, let alone act upon it, which fills him with undirected rage. If this were the 1980s, he would no doubt find refuge playing bass in a hardcore band and manhandling coeds. But as the film is set in the Ming dynasty, he has no recourse but kung fu. In between various violent outbursts, he comes across monk San Te, played by the inimitable Gordon Liu, and soon takes refuge in a Shaolin Temple.
For a Shaw Brothers film, the action is, for the most part, surprisingly unimpressive. However, broad comedy equally inspired by silent film and concussive brain damage fills the gaps left by the action scenes. Things pick up by the end, when Hsiao leads a rebellion against the Manchu, and the film’s hard work ethic ultimately makes the film entertaining, if not memorable.
- Al Kratina
ADDITIONAL BONUS REVIEW BY ALISON ANDERSON
Disciples of the 36th Chamber
Kung fu is awesome. I think kung fu is even more awesome when I get to laugh while I watch people break. This movie had Gordon Liu kicking some major butt and people falling and other stuff to make me laugh. I really enjoyed this screening and print. It was wonderful a melding of major butt kicking and physical comedy. I wish there had been more Wu Tang though.
On a scale of one to suck, this movie gets a Gordon Liu, which is awesome!
- Alison Anderson
Rating: 6 /10