Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (HK 1983)

Rating: ****
Alternate Title: Invincible Pole Fighter
Director: Liu Chia Liang (Lau Kar Leung)
Cast: Gordon Liu (Liu Chia Hui), Liu Chia Liang (Lau Kar Leung), Alexander Fu Sheng, Philip Ko, Wei Ying Hung, Wang Lung Wei, Lily Li, Yuen Tak

This fantastic martial arts epic was director Liu Chia Liang's last film for Shaw Brothers and probably his best. After a string of dreadful studio imposed kung fu comedies, he strikes back with this dark and brooding violent tale of betrayal and revenge. When Gordon Liu's father and brothers are betrayed and butchered by the Mongols, he becomes a Buddhist monk and waits to exact his revenge. He excels at spear fighting, and adopts additional pole fighting techniques at the temple. When his younger sister (cute and spunky Wei Ying Hung) gets captured by the Mongols, Liu finally heads out to deliver justice. The martial arts sequences are superb and Gordon Liu's patented warrior monk persona never looked better. Surprisingly, Philip Ko delivers an amazing physical performance as a Buddhist reverend, and his pole fighting exchanges with Liu are spectacular. Master Liu Chia Liang has a cameo in the beginning of the film and he fights like a son of a bitch. Great stuff. Kung fu diva Wei Ying Hung sees a fair amount of action herself, and delivers quite possibly her finest martial arts performance. Sadly, rising star Alexander Fu Sheng died in a car accident during the making of the film, causing much of it to be rewritten. Classic kung fu doesn't get much better than this.