The Shaolin Avengers -1976
Another Shaw's classic reviewed in our Spring of Shaw Season 2020 , Yes Spring may have passed and where into summer but like many things in 2020 due to the Pandemic , articles are running a bit later then planned , mainly due to contracting the virus myself.
Anyway on with this overview and review of the 1976 classic film from Shaw Brothers and once again directed by the formidable Chang Cheh.
The film focuses on the telling of the betrayal of Shaolin by the White Browed Hermit (Pai Mei).
Our hero Fang Shiyu (More Commonly Known in Modern culture as Fong Sai Yuk) has been portrayed in many films and series before and after this feature was made. Famous portayal as far as Western fans are concerned would be the two Fong Sai Yuk films starring Jet Li , both filmed in 1993.
Fang Shiyu's mother was a expert martial artist while his father was a wealthy merchant. The portayal of Fang Shiyu has more often then not been one of a wealthy rich kid who often gets up to mischief . But not one that shirks his honour in the process and abides by a set of principles.
Now who better to play such a role then the late great Alexander Fu Sheng ? Who here plays the role perfectly .
Some may find the film at odds with itself as you watch these films less for the historical value of these legendary characters and more for the build up to the climatic battle that always happens at the end.
This is where Chang Cheh decided he would throw that out of the window , went forward in time to view some Quentin Tarentiono films , go back and start the film with the climatic battle at the beginning of the film where our hero joined by his adoptive brother Fang Hsaio Yu ( Yen Tsan Tang) and fellow brother in arms Hu Hui Chien ( Kuan Chun Chi) .
It's here we see the end result where the White Browed Hermit and his cohorts who have been helping the Manchu take hold and anyone connected with Shaolin is not welcome.
So the action is under way and our heroes have flashbacks as they fight (they often say your life flashes by your eyes when in danger or near death) and this is how the film continues , we see Fang Shiyu indure the hardships of training and some very unorthodox methods of strenthing his body to become like steel. Often with quite comical scenes along with his adoptive brother who is given the task of making sure he follows through.
We also see flashbacks of his meeting with Hu Hui Chien ( Kuan Chun Chi) whose story is more gritty and basically is out for revenge after his father is killed. Now I like Kuan Chun Chi ,he has starred in many films , not just Shaw Brothers and has great form in Martial arts having trained since the age of twelve, he also has a standout muscular physique which he shows of to good sted in most of his films.
Combined with his Martial artistry Kuan Chun Chi exudes power and presence on screen when he performs. I often feel he never really got the limelight he deserved compared to the bigger name Shaw Stars.
In a number of confrontations in Shaloin Avengers the character of Hu Hui Chien is given some really explosive scenes as he pits himself against the rogues working for the Manchu. One of whom is played by Johnny Wang Lung Wei .
Many of the fatel scenes in the movie are reminiscent of Men from the Monestry if I remember correctly , the screen will convert to a red filter to depict the death of a character.
And here lies the problem with the film , although a small one in my theory . This climatic battle with our heroes goes on in fits and starts as your taken back time and time again throughout the films running time . So that when you finally get to the ending the build up is lost to a extent.
The excitement you often hold out for in these films is watered down and the climatic ending comes and goes without fulfilling what you expect from watching a classic Shaw's fighter.
Another point to the film is like they had a story and some of the film finished , with all of the flashback scenes all filmed on the Shaw's lot with the town folk and mills which gives authenticity to the film. It's as if they ran out of money and thought , you know what where go and film this big fight scene in this baron field and you know what where do ?
Hey lets splice it altogether out of context input these bits all over the place.
It's one of those film if you leave the room for a couple of minutes that your swear a different film has been put on and if you leave again , the original has returned.
That's not to say Shaolin Avengers is a bad film , what comes before in the flashback sequences are well choreographed action scenes , even with a few surprises in the various artists who crop up on scene . From Leung Ka Yan , Lung Fei and Shan Mao making appearances in the action stakes.
I be honest here , I am not a fan of films that throw you back and forth constantly and I think it detracts from a build up in a story. It might work in a TV series but when time is limited I want a beginning and a end. It's one of the reasons I have never liked Quentin Tarantino's films , I feel to much impact is lost for the final blow .
But in the end if your Kung Fu film fan then if you have nothing else to watch and want to pass 90 minutes then Shaolin Avengers will deliver some good action scenes , but it won't truly satisfy the reason you started to watch a classic Shaw Brothers film to begin with.
Advise : Don't Leave the Room for a tea break – your never know whats going on when you return.
Review Date : 04-08-2020
Review By : Sertes Nake
Viewed via Amazon Prime in HD
English Language Dubbed Version
(c) Image Copyright 1976 Shaw Brothers / Celestial Pictures 2002
Alexnader Fu Sheng – Fang Shi-Yu aka Fong Sai Yuk
Kuan Chun Chi – Hu Hui Chien
Leung KA-Yan – Peng Bu Yun
Johnny Wang Lung Wei – Lu Yin Bu
Chen Huo Lu – Pai Mei
Bruce Tong Yim Chaan – Fang XiaoYu
Weng Hsiao Hu – Fang Ji Heng
Direction -Chang Cheh
Year : 1976
Country : British Hong Kong
Studios : Shaw Brothers
Chang's Film Company
Filming Location : Taiwan