Disciples Of The 36th Chamber (HK 1984)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 9/11/05
Director: Liu Chia Liang (Lau Kar Leung)
Cast: Hsiao Ho, Liu Chia Hui (Gordon Liu), Chen Kwan Tai, Lily Li, Liu Chia Liang

Another masterpiece from kung fu legend Liu Chia Liang, and an amazing physical showcase for underrated actor Hsiao Ho. Legendary folk hero Fong Sai Yuk (nimble Hsiao Ho) is an arrogant and hot-tempered kid who gets into so much trouble the Manchus want him dead. Having nowhere left to turn, his mother (lovely Lily Li) begs the abbot at Shaolin Temple to hide her sons. Fong Sai Yuk is still indignant, but master monk San Te (Gordon Liu, reprising his role from "36th Chamber Of Shaolin" (1978) ), finally agrees to take him on as a secular pupil. Fong Sai Yuk continues to make trouble for everyone and eventually sneaks out of the temple, only to catch the attention of a devious Manchu governor (stately Chen Kwan Tai). He plots to kill all of the students of the 36th chamber, but San Te and Fong Sai Yuk's mother come to the rescue.

The kung fu is fast and furious, and ranks among the best that Liu Chia Liang has ever directed. All of the players are in top form, and their performances are blistering. Liang only has a couple of brief bouts, but they're wonderfully delightful. Hsiao Ho is an incredible athlete, and his speed and grace are utterly astonishing. In fact, the movie is perfect apart from one small detail - Fong Sai Yuk's character is a total asshole. He's a despicable jerk throughout the entire film, which makes it hard to watch and undermines the impact of Ho's incredible performance. If his character were even remotely likable, I would have given this film a four star rating, but alas, no. What a shame.