Originally released in Hong Kong in 1984 under various titles including “Wu Seng”, “Ninja vs Shaolin Guards” and “Guards of Shaolin” it was directed by William Chang Kee and produced by Alan Ng Yuk-Lun. It’s now been re-released by Terracotta Distribution as “Hero of Shaolin” and it’s a rare gem of a movie just waiting for you to discover it! You will be glad that you did as this film has some fantastic traditional Kung Fu going on with a sprinkling of Ninjas and a generous dose of weapons.
With Alexander Lo Rei heading the bill as First Brother we have our born leader who is ready to put his life at stake to safeguard the future of the Shaolin Temple’s Secret Golden Sutra book. His deadly nemesis is his former Uncle within the Shaolin Temple, Hung Ching, played by Eagle Han Ying who is himself a veteran of over 20 action flicks of the era including “The 36th Chamber: The Final Encounter” (1982) and “The Fearless Hyena” (1979). When these two clash you are treated to some first class action. They are by no means the only source of talent represented within the cast. First Brother has three equally talented siblings in the guise of Mike Wong Lung, Kim Fan and Gam Yuen Chit. Representing the forces of evil this time around were the awesome assistant action director Lee Hoi Hing, Robert Tai and the surprising Jin Nu Ri who all have mad skills and complimented each other’s performances making the whole movie flow.
The story follows a troop of Shaolin Monks who embark on a mission to get the Golden Sutra of Da Mor to Tibet after the Shaolin Abbott is killed by their treacherous teacher who has his own ambitions of ruling the Shaolin Temple. In a plot not unlike that of the cult classic “The Warriors” (1979) the Monks are framed for the murder of the Abbott and the theft of the Golden Sutra and are charged with the task of “hoofing it” on their way to Tibet.
Accompanying them on their epic quest is a beautiful female warrior who seeks the revenge of her own father’s murder. They battle through the wilderness fighting their way past an almost never ending supply of ninja assassins, vicious gangsters, and even the undead.
Thankfully the plot is hammered out fairly rapidly in this ambitious offering allowing a healthy emphasis to be placed on the immense array of fighting talent. The story moves along nicely and has plenty of substance to keep you hooked until the end. Be prepared for some laugh out loud slapstick comedy with the calamitous Fourth Brother who, besides acting like a clown is also madly in love with his very own cousin. Unfortunately for him she has other plans and is in love with First Brother owing somewhat to the fact that he is the only one with hair. Who says women aren’t shallow… Anyhow, mix all these elements together and you have a recipe for a wild, wacky and highly entertaining Kung Fu classic!
Straight from the get go this movie is packed full of hard hitting action. In an awesome opening scene the teacher practices with some ninja students setting the bar to a high standard that is equalled throughout the duration of this hidden classic.
Our heroes come in the guise of four brother monks who are all highly skilled and look great in their countless battles on the road to Tibet.
Whilst you could argue that all fight scenes are different I have yet to experience one as unique as when the magistrate’s bodyguards take on the Abbott. Without giving the game away the Abbott’s morals are tested and even he can’t resist a second glance of the fairer sex.
The main villains are of superb quality with an excellent swordsman in the form of Yip Yung who has many fine swordplay scenes and his co-conspirator Jin Nu-Ri who shows her mastery in a number of fighting styles including her double knife discipline.
There are some great fight sequences amidst the snow particularly when Alexander Lo Rei takes on a bizarre quartet of what can only be described as Mexican Morris Dancers who then magically come back for more minus their sombreros but this time with Halloween style masks! He then fends off Robert Tai who was also on the team of action directors for this movie armed with his deadly Pudao (half stick half sword) in equally ferocious style.
There are some elements of exaggerated stunts and but you really have to expect that with this genre of Hong Kong cinema and along with the soundtrack, sound effects and special effects these should be regarded by the viewer as part of the overall magic.
The other action director Lee Hoi Hing also gets his chance to turn on the action when he appears as the Mongolian style archer who is also handy with two short swords. His fight choreography with Alexander Lo Rei is a real treat as well as an example of how traditional martial arts fight scenes should look. Their confrontation has great continuity and looks superb.
There are many other great action scenes to look forward to including fights with the undead and ninja assassins but the main event is the showdown with their teacher played by Eagle Han Ying who has a formidable set of skills. He needs not a sword or a staff but gets by with his deadly beaded necklace and bracelet. Make sure you ask before you borrow them!
All in all this movie deserves lots of praise as it really goes to town by providing us a quality non-stop action extravaganza.
“Hero of Shaolin” doesn’t pull any punches. It cuts straight to the action and maintains the hundred mile per hour pace all the way from Shaolin to Tibet as the Monks battle to deliver the Shaolin Golden Sutra in a journey to remember. While it may not be a title that jumps off the shelf at you “Hero of Shaolin” is a hidden gem of a movie with loads of great action scenes and hilarious comedy moments.
Shake this all up with some original stunts and one off classic Kung Fu moves this is one movie cocktail you can’t fail to enjoy, so get the boys and girls round and crack open the green tea!
This is the first time that this film has been released on DVD and in widescreen. Look out for the extras including original trailers and a stills gallery.
- Alexander Lo rei was the Taekwondo Champion of Taiwan in 1978. He still works in the film Industry and has recently been directing a local drama series for a public TV station.