Saturday, November 14, 2015

Shaolin Goofball

Disciples Of The 36th Chamber (1985) is a sort-of sequel to The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, but goofy. In the first movie, Shaolin monk San Te starts training lay Chinese to resist the Manchu overlords. The mood is serious, not so much Disciples.

It stars Hou Hsaio as Fong Sai-Yuk, son of a kung fu mistress. With his brothers, he spends his time making trouble, mostly aimed at the Manchu. His kung fu is so strong that he can't be hurt, but when he angers the governor, his mother makes him seek protection of the Shaolin Temple, and monk San Te.

Like any classic Shaw Bros. movie, this is full of classic martial arts fights and stunts. There is a great pre-credits scene of acrobatic duels against a black-out background - just abstract martial arts. So, you might be annoyed by Hou Hsaio's obnoxious pranking, but you will love the fights.

One question, though - is the unrelenting hatred of Manchus racist? I suppose they were in some ways invaders, although the history is complicated. But the insistence on the superiority of the pure Han race, it's creepy. Chinese social historians please comment.

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