Siu lam saam sap luk fong
Mandarin: Shao lin san shi liu fang
English: Shaolin 36th Chamber
Title: Master Killer, Shaolin Master Killer
Boasting outstanding martial arts and fascinating training sequences, this
Lau Kar-leung favorite is often cited as the greatest kung fu movie produced
to date, a reputation that is well-deserved. After his family and friends
are massacred by Manchu soldiers (under the command of General Tien, played
by Lo Lieh), ethics student Liu Yu-te (Gordon Lau Kar-fai, aka Gordon Liu)
journeys to Shaolin Temple and becomes a monk, so that he may learn kung fu
and get revenge. Re-named San Te, he spends the next year doing menial tasks
before beginning his martial training. He must pass through 35 chambers in
which he will be instructed, via torturous tests of endurance, on how to increase
speed and improve his balance. After a year of instruction in these areas,
he progresses on to weapons training. The most proficient and talented student
in the history of Shaolin Temple, San Te masters every technique in only five
years and even invents a new weapon: the three-section staff. Ejected from
the temple because he wished to teach Shaolin techniques to the people (the
36th chamber of the title), San Te proceeds to recruit a group of students
(including Wong Yue and Norman Tsui Siu-keung) and take revenge on those who
murdered his family.
While it does not fully dispense with the vengeance theme found in far too
many period kung fu yarns, the emphasis on training here is a welcome departure.
The exercises are quite ingenious in form and function and the director presents
each new challenge with enough visual flair and gentle humor to engender and
maintain viewer interest, as San Te gradually makes his way through each consecutive
chamber. With his angelic face, expressive eyes, and superb skills, Gordon
Lau proved himself one of the greatest kung fu stars of the 70s and, thanks
to this film's international success, all but found himself typecast as a
monk from then on. Hsiao Hou and Peter Chan Lung can be glimpsed among the
monks and the latter also plays one of San Te's teachers; Lee Hoi-sang, Simon
Yuen Siu-tien, Chan Shen, and Wilson Tong Wai-shing also appear. A marginally
related and predominantly comic sequel, RETURN TO THE 36TH CHAMBER, followed
in 1980. The director's brother, Lau Kar-wing, appears briefly as a doomed
Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.
#612480 (Hong Kong label)
Dolby Digital 5.1
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synced)
Optional Subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese,
Malaysian, and Indonesian
12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips
Enhanced for 16:9 Displays
Coded for Region 3 Only
111 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)
Contains moderate violence
menu courtesy Intercontinental.
BOARD RATINGS AND CONSUMER ADVICE
Australia: M 15+ (Moderate Violence)
Great Britain: 18
Hong Kong: IIB
Nova Scotia: 14
United States: R
Colors look far more accurate and attractive than
the unauthorized, squeezeboxed Crash Cinema DVD, and print imperfections have
been digitally removed. Detail levels are also improved significantly. A pair
of scenes in the final reel look a bit pale and washed out but, overall, the
disc offers a satisfying presentation. That said, the image is not as sharp
as it should be, particularly when compared with the company's previous 4:3
letterbox titles. I've only seen two other 16:9 Celestial titles thus far
(THE LIZARD and THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO) and they are also softer than usual.
While some DVD players' downconversion can be responsible for this change
in image quality, my Jaton is not among them, leading one to wonder whether
these are actually true 16:9 transfers or has Celestial simply altered 4:3
letterbox masters, as Columbia Tristar did with ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA
I-III? In any event, the disc remains the best option for this title by far.The
stereo re-mix is generally unobtrusive, as are some minor imperfections in
the original sound source. The Cantonese audio master was either damaged or
missing a brief section; from 1:28:24 to 1:28:43, new voice artists have added
in the lost dialogue.
Considering the stature this movie has attained over the years, the supplementary
materials are pretty underwhelming. No HK trailer is included, just the one
produced for international English markets. Aside from the usual promo spots,
photo gallery, HK poster, and skimpy bios/filmographies, the only noteworthy
extra is a 16 minute documentary. "Shaolin -- A Hero Birthplace"
(sic) provides some decent background on Shaolin Temple and a few interesting
comments from Gordon Lau. However, much of the brief running time is wasted
with clips and filler. Let us hope that Celestial can come up with something
better when they issue the other Lau classics, particularly THE LEGENDARY
WEAPONS OF CHINA and EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER.
THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN is
available at Poker Industries.
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© John Charles 2000 - 2003. All Rights Reserved.