The 36th Chamber of Shaolin Review
The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin holds a special place in movie history and is regarded as one of the most influential Kung Fu movies ever made. Although I appreciate these sentiments I am of the “movies don't stand still” brigade, which for me means all movies become dated over time - even those modern epics hailed as the very greatest - Jaws, Star Wars etc. Having said that, I'm still able to enjoy older movies as long as they have that something, whether it's solid acting, a well told story or simply beautiful visuals. The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin doesn't really fit any of those... but I still enjoyed this classic Kung Fu tale! You see, it has a heart of gold.
When San Te's (Gordon Liu) father is killed by General Tien (Lieh Lo) and his oppressors the student decides that his days as a scholar are over - now is the time for action. Injured and close to death, San Te makes his way to the legendary Shaolin Temple determined to learn the disciplines of martial arts. The monks regard San Te with suspicion, but his determination eventually wins them over and he is accepted as a trainee.
This is where the movie really comes alive - the training sequences are alive with spiritualism and eastern energy even though, by modern standards they may appear simplistic and even a little dull at times. In a way I'm reminded of those early Walt Disney movies, which by today's standards probably seem simplistically moralistic. The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin has similar hallmarks - honour is regarded as all-important, truthfulness is aspired to and these attributes finally lead to the required selflessness so necessary to make it through the training. Of course, all this has been done a hundred times since and the movie definitely feels dated, but Master Killer, as it is also known, still works, and I found myself being effortlessly pulled in to a classic tale of revenge, justice and one man's efforts to become as great an exponent of the martial arts as possible.