Shaolin Temple (AKA: Death Chamber 1976)


This Shaw Brothers Studio classic was directed by super director, Chang Cheh. Chang Cheh was most notable for creating some of the best kung-fu buddy films or ‘Super Team-Up’ movies. This one was a ‘Super Team-up’ movie. The kung-fu power team in the mid-’70s was David Chang and Ti Lung. These two would star in over a dozen movies together with Chang Cheh at the helm. Cheh would experiment by adding other up and coming stars with Lung and Chang. The precursor Jackie Chan as the mischievous hero was Alexander Fu Sheng. Fu Sheng was originally teamed up with Lung and Chang until he developed a following of his own. Fu Sheng would also get paired up with Kuan Chun Chi and Tang Yen-Tsan for several movies. If you remember from The 36 Chamber of Shaolin review from last week, director and action choreographer, Lau Kar Leung, Fu Sheng would eventually become the second leading man in his films, up until his death from a car accident in 1983. He died at the height of his film career.

One of my all-time favorite Hong Kong stars, right up there with Gordon Liu is Philip Kwok, also known as Kuo Chiu. Kuo would get paired up with different variations of these guys until 1978, when Chang Cheh would put Kuo Chiu with 4 other breakout stars that appear in Shaolin Temple as bit players or background actors, to form the super team that would go on to be known as the Venoms Mob. More on the Venoms mob in a letter blog post.

(Ti Lung and David Chang)    

(Fu Sheng and Kuan Chun Chi)  

 (Tang Yen-Tsan)
(Philip Kwok)


Shaolin Temple is a historical period piece, documenting Shaolin Temple history as well as a sort of origins story for such historical and legendary Kung-fu figures, Hu Hui Chien, Hung See Kwan, Fong Sai Yu, and the famous traitor of Shaolin, Ma Fu Yi.

At the beginning of the movie, several head monks at the Shaolin Temple agree to begin teaching non-religious students to learn Shaolin Kung-fu for the purpose of teaching the oppressed Chinese born men to fight off the Manchu ruling class during the Qing Dynasty. As a result of the Shaolin Temple getting involved with the politics of the country, it was attacked and destroyed.

If you are familiar with the TV series KUNG-FU, many of the flashbacks of David Caradine’s character, growing up and training at the Shaolin Temple, comes from the history, methods, and training showcased in this movie. As each of the cast makes their way to Shaolin and eventually excepted as students, they all have their own unique experiences, learning and training with different master monks learning unique styles of kung-fu specifically for the individual, based on their body type or temperament.  In addition to the training sequences and fight scenes, the legendary Shaolin Wooden Men hall, a death path full of traps created to test a monk’s skill before making his way out of the temple to face the dangers that lie ahead. This hall has been the subject of many Shaolin temple movies from the ’70s and ’80s.

Shaolin Temple, the 1976 movie was made as a prequel to one of the first of Chang Cheh’s 5 man team-up movies, The Five Shaolin Masters, which stars Ti-Lung, David Chang, Fu Sheng,  Kuan Chun Chi, and Tang Yen-Tsan. Although the Shaolin Temple was made two years after the success of Five Shaolin Masters, The Shaolin Temple gives the back story to what leads up to the story in Five Shaolin Masters. If you love this movie, be sure to check out Five Shaolin Master next for the next chapter in Chinese Shaolin Kung-fu history. It would be like watching Star Wars Episode 1 before Star Wars Episode 4, even though Episodes 4, 5, and 6 were filmed 22 years earlier than Episodes 1, 2, and 3.

Sex & Nudity: None
Violence & Gore: Some fighting scenes, including weapons fight scenes. Bright red paint is used for blood. Doesn’t resemble blood used in movies of today.
Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking: None
Frightening & Intense Scenes: Some intense training and fight scenes by 1976’s standards. This movie is not rated in the US.


You can watch Shaolin Temple on Amazon Prime at the following link: