Invincible Shaolin (HK 1978)

Rating: **
Review Date: 8/7/11
Director: Chang Cheh
Cast: Sun Chien, Philip Kwok, Lo Meng, Wei Pai, Wang Lung, Wei Ying Hung, cameo by Dick Wei

An evil Manchu general (Wang Lung) invites members from both North Shaolin and South Shaolin to be martial arts instructors for his soldiers, and then tricks the two schools into fighting each other. This leads to an escalating feud of revenge as members of the Southern school relentlessly train to defeat their Northern rivals. All too late they realize that they're all just pawns in a much larger game.

The vast majority of the film consists of gruelling training sessions, which allow Philip Kwok, Lo Meng, and Wei Pai to show off their physicality and impressive athletic skills. It's a pretty slow starter that focuses on training and exposition right up until the end, and then the final twenty minutes explode into an incredible kung fu free-for-all. The fight scenes are very well staged and the players are all in top form. It's classic Chang Cheh, with the same themes, annoying characters, and shocking display of blood that he's known for. Overall it's an entertaining outing, but a little too long and a little too talky for my tastes. I was also disappointed that Wei Ying Hung only got a tiny and pointless window dressing role. It wouldn't be until she started working with Liu Chia Liang that she would get a chance to show off her talents.