The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

1978 martial arts classic

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Rebels have set up headquarters in a small town and await their chance to take out the regime. There's a violent attack and most of the rebels get sliced or arrested. Chia Hui Lui (which translates in English as "Huey Lewis's Chia Pet") evades and runs off to the Shaolin temple where he hopes to be trained. "I should have learned kung-fu instead of ethics," he says. After five grueling years, he becomes a master kicker and puncher and weapons-swinger and runs off to take care of business.

This started as pretty standard kung-fu fare with some quality early fight scenes and a plot that really didn't seem to matter, but it eventually turned into something a little more beautiful and interesting. The bulk of the film, as a matter of fact, isn't about fighting or revenge at all; it's got more to do with the training the kid has to go through (the 35 chambers). We see the protagonist learning about balance, sight, quickness, stamina, strength, concern for his fellow man, etc. as he carries buckets of water, rings bells, jumps on logs, punches giant logs with mirrors on them, headbutts giant sacks, and impresses his Shaolin masters. Although other kung-fu movies have shown extended scenes of training (lots of Jackie Chan's earlier movies), they've been more montages while the training in this one, as well as the interwoven Shaolin philosophies, seem to be a lot more important. The fight choreography is exciting and poetic, and the weapon variety keeps those fights from getting samey. Good flick.

Note: Dylan watched most of this with me and gave it a 12/20. His main problem was that he couldn't understand why characters would die from being poked in the chest. Abbey, as seen below, watched a chunk of this and told me that she'd give it only a 1/20.

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