Chia Yung Liu
Unlike some of the other fu flicks from the 70s, 36th CHAMBER is not just some cheesy chop socky movie. It actually has a decent story and historical plot behind it, as trivial as that may be in a film like this. Itís also remarkable for focusing on the actual art of kung fu and the skills behind the Shaolin style. The majority of the movie is not comprised of random fight sequences; instead spending a good hour centered on how the main character trains to become a badass fighter. That may not sound like much fun, but the training is entertaining and itís also quite cool seeing in the final fight sequences how he uses each skill he learned.
Gordon Liu, recently seen as Pai Mei in KILL BILL, rocks all manners of ass as San Te. Once he becomes a Shaolin master he utterly dominates anyone within a fifteen feet radius. (Example: beating up people using only his head.) Itís a shame Liu was never able to achieve greater fame; the man definitely has the goods and 36th CHAMBER is the perfect vehicle to showcase his skills. I only counted one shot in the film where he used a wireóthe rest was just straight hand-to-hand, foot-to-ass combat. And the best part is, as with most Shaw Bros. movies, the fights are filmed in mostly long takes. Thereís none of the quick cut style thatís prevalent in recent Hong Kong and Hollywood movies, allowing you to really see the intricacy of the choreography. When Liu fights off ten guys with spears in a single take, I dare you to take your eyes off the screen.
Commentary by critic Andy Klein and The RZA: This is the odd couple of DVD commentary. Klein brings some industry knowledge and legitimacy to the table, but heís completely outshone by the ďkung fu fiendĒ rapper from the Wu-Tang Clan. The RZA is obviously passionate about the genre, dropping obscure actor names and calling out specific martial art styles, which left me impressed and entertained. Bong bong!
Shaolin: A Hero Birthplace (16:41): A subtitled Chinese documentary on the making of the film, as well as the Shaolin lifestyle in general. It also features a nice (and current) interview with Gordon Liu.
Gordon Liu (17:00): Another chat with the martial arts star.
Critic Andy Klein and David Chute (7:55): The two ďscholarsĒ speak about the wushu genre and 36th CHAMBERís place within the universe.
The RZA (10:13): The rapper recounts his personal experience growing up with kung fu movies and why they resonate with the African American community and his music.
Wu Tang Concert Video (2:07): A quick clip from a live performance of ďGravel PitĒ.
A Photo Gallery from the film, as well as a Trailer Gallery of classic kung fu movies.
Extra Tidbit: 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN was previously released in the United States under the title MASTER KILLER, which makes absolutely no sense considering Shaolin monks donít kill people.