36th Chamber of Shaolin Review
The FilmThe training sequences in kung fu films are a staple of the genre, and for the best example of such look no further than The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Liu-chia Liang, along with his "brother" Gordon Liu, delivered up the best example of a martial arts apprenticeship by combining the physical endurance of the trials faced by Yiu-de(Liu) with the spiritual lesson of Buddhism. Liu's journey from leaf sweeper to kung fu hi-flier is the core of the film which is bookended by a standard story of the poor Han people fighting back against the evil Chings.
And that is why the film works. Many action films have used Buddhism as spiritual window dressing and justification for righteous bloodshed, or they have used this apparent sense of conscience to show a hero's development as he goes from non-violent abstainer to avenging angel. This rather superficial approach is a tad insulting to the basic belief in temperateness, and revenge doesn't sit easily with such a faith. In 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Yiu's revenge is actually enlightened by his education and his eventual actions are based on self defence rather than the violation of others.
I suppose though that it is just a kung fu film rather than a holy text and the time spent on Yiu's growing spiritual discipline far outweighs his later fisticuffs. Gordon Liu's athleticism and convincing appeal as both novice and hero are strengths of the film and his "brother"'s excellent action direction and capable dramatic work ensure that this one man show is compelling and still rather original after all these years.
Transfer and SoundPresented with non of the usual standards conversions issues we've all got too used to with Shaw Brother re-issues, this transfer is often a thing of beauty. Detail away from the centre of the screen is as good as could be expected given the mode of shooting of the original movie. Some sequences look better than others with variance in vibrancy and contrast, but for 70% of the time the quality is largely excellent. This is sharp with surprising detail and with a very natural appearance, Momentum have done a terrific job.
Discs and Special FeaturesThis is a region 2 coded, dual layer disc with the majority of the extras ported from the Dragon Dynasty release. Those extras involve RZA and Andy Klein in a rather obvious commentary track which follows the DD tradition of using a celebrity and a film buff and is a bit like those clip shows that monopolise Channel 4 schedules where famous people tell you what you should think and superficiality reigns. If that wasn't enough, we are then treated to interviews with the two men which are high on enthusiasm but less intriguing for people already aware of the film and the genre.
Much better is the interview with Gordon Liu where he talks about his career, his work with the director, and how he got his start in movies. His interview is intercut with clips from the film and much more interesting than the other interviews included here. The picture gallery mixes stills, posters, and photos and has to be flicked through rather than being animated. Two trailers for the film are included, along with some forced trailers for other Momentum releases when the disc is inserted into your player.
SummaryThis a really impressive disc at an ace price, the film is one of the best of its type and you now have an excellent reason to own it.
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Last updated: 15/05/2018 05:32:49