This Months Screening

Sunday, 5 January 2014

36th Chamber of Shaolin

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin film poster

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin is widely considered one of the greatest Kung Fu films ever produced. 

Arriving at the pinnacle of America’s love for everything martial arts related, the film exploded into American screens in 1979. It’s interesting to note that by 1979 films generally mixed both material arts and comedy into a financially lucrative hybrid (one of the best being ‘Drunken Master’). Even broadly popular American films such as the James Bond or Pink Panther series got in on the act. In essence, the genre had scuppered to self parody and only makes viewing of this purist action film all the more praise worthy…



The set-up for the storyline is straight-forward and the usual basics are covered. Liu Yu-de (Gordon Lui) is a young student for Mr. Ho, a teacher with sentiments of revolution against a band of Tartar invaders. After his family and friends are slaughtered by the imperial guard, a vengeful Yu-de finds refuge at a secretive Shaolin temple. Over the next seven years Yu-de, gradually known as San Te, hones his strength, dexterity and endurance through the thirty five chambers of the temple. With his training now complete, San Te brings his skills to the people in hope of overthrowing the invaders and setting up the thirty sixth chamber of Shaolin…

36th Chamber of Shaolin is a brilliant piece of filmmaking, which has survived the ravages of time and a plethora of lesser imitators. The pacing to the piece never lets up and, thought the storyline is slender; it never dulls during its near two hour length. The training scenes which take up the bulk of the screen-time are very enjoyable to watch and never feel like an extended montage; Yu-de/San Te learns from his mistakes and grows as a character. Admittedly the final showdown between San Te and Lo Lieh feels somewhat less epic than the initial set-up suggests, but it still manages to satisfy as a showcase for excellent martial arts action. Put simply, the film lives up to its hype.

36th Chamber of Shaolin is a true classic which any self respecting genre fan should own. For everyone else it’s an eye opener which is a terrific introduction to the world of martial arts.

Starring: Gordon Liu, Lieh Lo, Chia Yung Liu
Director: Liu Chia-Liang
Screenplay by: Kuang Ni
Date released: Hong Kong 2 February 1978
Genre: Kung Fu, Martial Arts
Duration: 115 min
Official URL: N/A
Reviewed by: Conor Flynn