Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

  There's much to love in this Shaw Bros. classic. For one, it's really really well made. The story may be threadbare simple, but that's better for this type of movie than over-complicating the hell out of it. You can follow what's going on and why. Which is a big plus for an old kung-fu flick. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin is truly fun. But it's not one huge long fight scene. Nor is it one big fight after the next. It's really about  one man's quest to learn kung-fu to help others defend themselves and fight against a cruel and sadistic military regime.

  The training sequences are the heart of this movie, much like the Rocky franchise. Except, in this movie, they're also the entire main focus. Most of the screen-time is devoted to his learning Shaolin martial arts. Which is incredibly entertaining anyways. Watching him persevere through insanely trying tests and rigorous exercises is more fun than one might think. Even if it already sounds fun. It's very creative and inventive. It's also clear where so many films copied from it. But this is truly the granddaddy Shaolin flick of em all. In a movie clocking in at nearly two solid hours, there's not one moment of boredom.

 The movie zips along at a brisk pace, delivering impressively choreographed fights and duels that wouldn't even look outdated by today's standard. Also worth noting is the suberb editing clever scene transitions. They're never more than hard cuts, but they're synchronized using neat placement of sound effects and camera framing. This links the two scenes in a really cool way that keeps the momentum moving forward.

Unfortunately, the very last act seems rushed and is rather choppy. Also, at some points in the movie, the acting can be face-palmingly melodramatic, even for the era. Then, there is some occasional spotty acting regardless, but overall, the acting is good and I have no serious complaints. The movie is infectiously entertaining and irresistibly fun.

  It's definitely a genre classic, and a damn good flick in it's own right. I can't recommend it enough.

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