Executioners Of Shaolin (HK 1976)

Rating: **
Alternate Titles: Shaolin Executioner, Executioners Of Death
Director: Liu Chia Liang (Lau Kar Leung)
Martial Arts Direction: Liu Chia Liang (Lau Kar Leung)
Cast: Yung Wang Yu, Chen Kwan Tai, Lily Li, Lo Lieh, cameo by Gordon Liu, walk-ons by Lam Ching Ying, Liu Chia Liang (Lau Kar Leung)

"Dreadful" is the first word that comes to mind for this early effort from legendary kung fu master Liu Chia Liang, but the excellent combat sequences at the end of the film help to redeem itself. Shaolin Temple is burned and its disciples flee, but they continue to undermine the Manchu rule by disguising themselves as travelling theater performers. The first half of the film follows one such troupe led by tiger claw fighter Hung Sei Kwan (Chen Kwan Tai), who takes kung fu babe Lily Li as his wife. After the group disbands, they have a son (Yung Wang Yu, not to be confused with Jimmy Wang Yu) who dresses as a girl and learns his mother's crane style kung fu. Ten years pass and Hung decides it's time to avenge his Shaolin brothers by killing the evil Lo Lieh. Although defeated, Hung manages to escape and refines his tiger claw kung fu so that he can challenge Lo Lieh again seven years later. This time, however, he's not so lucky, and ends up getting killed. Next, it's up to Wang Yu to avenge his father by learning tiger claw style mixed with crane style, and the unorthodox combination of the two manages to beat Lo Lieh. (I've read that this is the basis of Hung Gar, the fighting system that legendary Wong Fei Hung developed) The kung fu sequences are nice, but the weak plot and awkward humor throughout the film are tedious. Definitely an endurance test, but it does finally pay off - if you're a kung fu fan, that is.