The Shaolin Temple
starring Fu Sheng, Ti Lung, David Chiang, Chi Kuan Chun, Shih Szu, Yueh Hua, Lu Feng, Kuo Chui, Li I Min, Wang Lung Wei, Ku Feng
Director: Chang Che
One of the most told stories in the kung fu movie world is the Manchu destruction of the Shaolin Temple and the escape of a handful of survivors. None stand above Chang Che’s masterpiece The Shaolin Temple. Director Chang manages to assemble several of his “super teams” together for one grand production. The Shaolin Temple tells the story of several key Shaolin disciples, their arduous training, and their fight against the corrupt Ching (Manchu) government.
The Shaolin Abbot is in retreat while steadfast would be disciples Hung Shi Kwan, Hu Wei Chen( Chi Kuan Chun), and Fang Shih Yu ( Fu Sheng)wait patiently for admittance into Shaolin. The abbot is given a sign and thinks it’s time Shaolin accepts lay students due to the growing hostility of the Manchu Court. Hung Shi Kwan, Hu Wei Chen, and Fang Shih Yu are accepted and given menial tasks to perform. Fang Shih Yu and Hu Wei Chen are assigned to the kitchen. Since Hu is more adept (and less lazy) than Fang he is openly trained in the Ten Fist style, while Fang is secretly coached in Tiger-Crane while perfecting his tiger claw at the kitchen stove.
To make matters more imperative for the Temple, Lord Zhen’s pro-Ming soldiers Hu Dedi(David Chiang), Li Shi Kai, Ma Cao Shin, Ma Fu Yi ( Wang Lung Wei), and Deng Zhong (Ti Lung) arrive at Shaolin to seek refuge and are immediately given an audience with the Abbot. At the same time another group of disciples Huang Chung Yau(Li I Min), Lin Guang Rau(Kuo Chui), and Zhu Dao are accepted as well. Huang is taught Shaolin pole technique in the kitchen, while Zhu and Lin are taught bodylifting in the library.
While the students adjust to life at the Temple, Manchu spy Monk Hei Shien shows the skill of Shaolin martial arts to Manchu General Shin and General Gu (Lu Feng). The Manchu Prince ( Ku Feng), after seeing the ease in which Hei Shien handles General Shin, decrees that Shaolin martial arts are too dangerous and The Shaolin Temple must be dealt with. Monk Hei promises to poison the water at Shaolin to neutralize the Abbot and the other senior monks and searches for an ally in Shaolin to help him execute the plan. Traitorous monk Hei Shen recruits Ma Fu Yi and teaches him a special kung fu and wait for the right time to execute their scheme.
Hu Dedi and Deng Zhong suspect something is amiss with Monk Hei and Ma Fu Yi and seek advice from Abbess Wu Mei who is in retreat at Shaolin. She agrees to teach Deng a short range fighting style (Wing Chun) and Hu Dedi the three section chain whip if they look after Fang Shih Yu. Deng and Hu agree and they also agree to keep an eye on Ma Fu Yi and Monk Hei Shien. To complicate matters Fang Shih Yu and Hu Wei Chen decide to leave the temple and get revenge but they must first brave the Wooden Man Hall. Ma Fu Yi and Monk Hei Shien try to kill Fang and Hu who escape with the help of other Shaolin disciples. The Abbot punishes the disciples for helping Fang and Hu and Monk Hei and Ma Fu Yi see this as an excellent opportunity to accomplish their plan.
On the way back from taking their revenge, Fang and Hu see thousands of Manchu troops headed toward the Temple and arrive at Shaolin to warn the Abbot and the senior monks, who are feeling the effects of the poison. The Abbot and the senior monks decide to die with the Temple while the lay students fight the Manchu troops. Hopelessly outnumbered, some Shaolin students make the ultimate sacrifice and give their lives in defense of the Temple. A handful of disciples escape Shaolin; Fang Shih Yu and Hu Wei Chen go south toward Guandong while Hu Dedi, Deng Zhong and the others go north to rally other anti-Ching rebels. Before they go, however, they watch Shaolin burn to the ground!
Kung Fu Content:
The Shaolin Temple is a movie ripe with Kung Fu! The viewer gets training sequences ( my favorites), seemingly uncharacteristic and eccentric teaching methods, and great fight scenes! Chi Kuan Chun is at his best playing the strong but silent Hu Wei Chen and his Hung Gar Ten Fist Style is excellent. Fang Hih Yu’s Tiger-Crane is impeccable while Deng Zhong’s ( Ti Lung) Wing Chun is effective and deadly! Additionally, we get treated to the Shaolin Pole, Bodylifting, and the various styles of the Manchu Generals. Action choreographers Hsin Yi Chen and Hsin Chieh do an excellent job of fight direction and we get a variety of styles and clashes. If you liker training and fight sequences then this is the movie for you!!!
Chang Che’s The Shaolin Temple is an epic of a mpovie!!! It is one of the best of Chang’s Shaolin cycle of movies! It boasts an all star cast, has great kung fu, and an emotional ending. Years before Jet Li put his stamp on the Shaolin legend, Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan Chun, Ti Lung, and a host of others led by Director Chang told an excellent story of the destruction of Shaolin and the beginning of the dissemination of the Shaolin legacy! If you don’t own this film, go get it! By the way, the subtitled version makes alot more sense than the English dub ( just sayin’)!