The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (AKA: The Master Killer)
Master Ron’s KFMR:
This movie was released in 1978, starring Gordon Liu. You may recognize Gordon Liu from Quentin Tarantino’s KILL BILL: Vol 2.
(Gordon Liu as the evil Kung-fu Master Pai Mei in Kill Bill v2)
The movie starts off with Gordon Liu playing a student named Liu Yude. His school teacher belongs to a local rebellious group that opposes the violent Manchu government. When the local rebels are killed for opposing the government, Liu barely escapes with his life and seeks refuge at the famous SHAOLIN TEMPLE. Liu is allowed to stay at the temple but after much time there he begs to be taught the famous martial arts of Shaolin. This is where the movie really gets fun!!!
The middle third of the movie follows young Liu, now renamed San Te, as he progresses through the famous 35 chambers of Shaolin. Each chamber focuses on developing different skills and strength development needed for the rigorous training of Shaolin Kung-fu. The 36 Chamber is what San Te later creates as a means to take the martial arts of Shaolin to the oppressed Chinese people in his home town, to help them overcome the oppressive Manchus.
This was the movie that started my love for Chinese martial arts. I remember my mom putting this movie on when I was 6 years old. I had stayed home from school for being ‘sick’. The truth was, I was afraid to go to school because of bullies. As the week ended and it was now Saturday, for some unknown reason, my mom sat me down to watch a movie on what we discovered was Saturday afternoon’s ‘Black Belt Theater’, the home of weekly kung-fu movies on Philadelphia’s Channel 48. From this point forward, I would discover a new Kung-fu movie every week. It just so happened that this was the very first movie I saw as a kid.I would then spend all week practicing the moves and training I witnessed on Saturday until I would discover new styles of kung-fu when a new movie would premiere.
What was original about this movie was the training sequences. This was one of the first movies that showed a young, bullied kid go from being weak and unable to defend himself to becoming a Kung-fu Master.
This movie was directed and choreographed by the famous Lau Kar Leung. Master Lau always featured authentic kung-fu styles in his movies. He is a martial arts student with a direct lineage to the famous master Wong Fei Hung (who’s been featured in many great kung-fu movies that I will be reviewing) Some of his best movies also told the history and folklore about Shaolin Kung-fu. Master Lau’s younger brother, Lau Kar Wing often would portray a hero or villain opposite his older brother in most of his movies. Brother Wing is the rebel hero that is killed at the beginning of this movie who inspires Gordon Liu’s character to take up the rebels’ cause. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Gordon Liu, who was the adopted brother of Master Lau, would be cast in the leading roles of many of his Lau’s films.
Gordon Liu is my all-time favorite Kung-fu movie actor. So you can be sure to see more of his movies reviewed in the months to come. He became most famous for his portrayal of different Shaolin Monks throughout his film career.
This is one of the best kung-fu movies ever made and I highly recommend it as a family movie night. The following rating is from the IMDB parental guide:
Sex & Nudity: None
Violence & Gore: Some fighting scenes, including weapons fight scenes. Bright red paint 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 1978’s standards. The US gave this movie a rated R in 1978. I watched it on TV with none of the violence edited out at 6 years old. If you watch the movie trailer you will see what the blood looks like and can determine if this would be suitable for your child.
* Note on Chinese actor’s names. In the 1960s, 70’s and 80’s, it was quite common for a Chinese actor or actress to have different versions of his or her name. They would have a Simplified Chinese version, a PinYin version, a Wade-Giles version, and an English name that they often were given for western audiences. The simplified Chinese version was a way to use the English alphabet for the pronunciation of Chinese words. Wade-Giles was a romanization style that was used to attempt to phonetically spell Chinese words. Here are the different versions of the Lau names to help in your search for more movies by these famous actors and directors.
San Te – portrayed by Gordon Liu (Westernized Name), Liu Chia-Hui (Wade Guiles), Lau Ka-Fei (Simplified Chinese)
Director -Lau Kar Leung (Simplified Chinese), Liu Chia Liang (Wade Guiles). He did not use a Western name.
Rebel Hero – Lau Kar Wing (Simplified Chinese), Liu Chia Yung (Wade Guiles). He also did not use a Western name.
This movie is available to buy or rent on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDMJIi13u28
You can also find this movie on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/70062784