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The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
DVD disk
07.10.2007 By: Jason Adams
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin order
Director:
Lau Kar-Leung

Actors:
Gordon Liu
Lieh Lo
Chia Yung Liu

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After enemies invade his hometown, killing his friends and family, a young student escapes to a monastery and trains with Shaolin masters until heís ready to exact his revenge.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
One of the perks of having an Asian parent, aside from the kickass food, is an early indoctrination in the glory of kung fu movies. I remember catching part of FIVE DEADLY VENOMS at age five and not long after that, THE 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN. 36th CHAMBER is a classic of the genre, with as high a pedigree as you can hope for in a martial arts film: a Shaw Brothers production directed by Lau Kar-Leung (DRUNKEN MASTER II) and starring Gordon Liu (EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER).

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.
THE EXTRAS
When I heard the Weinsteins were starting a new Asian-centric DVD line called Dragon Dynasty, I naturally assumed they were going to rape and pillage each release like Miramax did with their foreign films. So Iím shocked to report that 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN actually received a respectable treatment.

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.

Interviews:
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.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
If youíre a fan of the fu flicks, or you just want to see some real martial arts mastery not co-starring Chris Tucker and DMX, I suggest you start with 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN and then check out the rest of the classics recently put out by the Dragon Dynasty line (FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH and THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN).

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.
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