Disciples of Shaolin review by Bobby Blakey
I love all things martial arts and grew up with the iconic Kung-Fu Theater on TV that often times featured films from The Shaw Brothers. In 1975 they debuted the film Disciples of Shaolin aka Hong Quan Xiao Zi starring Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan-Chun, Ming Li Chen, Ching-Ping Wang, Tu Liu, Tao Chang, and Hark-On Fung. This film not only looked to bring the marital arts action, but also to shine a light on the underlining abuse of workers and the corruption of cruel bosses. Now Disciples of Shaolin is getting the Blu-ray treatment from 88 Films.
Disciples of Shaolin follows a typically power-packed Hong Kong tale of enemy gangs and super cool fight scenes. When shaolin disciple Kuan Fung Yi takes a job at a textile factory he soon becomes embroiled in a bitter and violent clash with the rival Manchu clan who run a neighboring mill.
I love these flicks and while I did enjoy this one it isn’t one of my favorites. It offers up a deeper story than most of these so does elevate the film in regards to quality and the performances are great across the board. As a martial arts flick it tends to drag and never brings quite enough for it to stand out with the others of its kind.
Make no mistake there is plenty of action with most of the early fights not very well executed, but the last half makes up of it and goes all in. Director Chang Cheh really does bring some violence to the action with plenty of broken bones and some mild gore that is only toned down by its shift into black and white. You might find this familiar as Quentin Tarantino used the same tactic in Kill Bill to save the rating and no doubt homage this movie.
Even when not the best, I still love these old school fights. I know they aren’t the fast paced flashy fights we have today, but there is just something just pure about these old school ones. They aren’t overly impressive or fast, but like a well-choreographed dance that is beautiful and violent in the best possible way.
Sure there are some sloppy techniques and botched moments, but that is also part of the charm.
In addition to the beautiful transfer of the film from the original 35mm negative, this release offers up bonus content including commentary, interviews, and more as well as brand new artwork for the slipcase, double-sided foldout poster and booklet.
Grab your copy of the martial arts classic Disciples of Shaolin when it hits Blu-ray on December 14th from 88 Films.