Ok so I sat through this English dub version of 36 Chambers of Shaolin. The dub is just horrible with the awful voiceovers and shit but there is like no way in hell you can deny the awesome fight choreography or the spirit of the film. Heralded by white people like Quentin Tarantino, 36 Chambers has also inspired the Wu-Tang Clan, which is pretty awesome.

Gordon Liu is great as the lead character San De who goes to Shaolin after his family is wiped by Manchu dogs. There he spends years mastering Shaolin kung fu in the 35 chambers. When he sort of graduates, the head abbot offers him to take charge of one of the chambers but he wants to start a 36th chamber instead, one in the secular world, where he can spread Shaolin techniques to the world at large.

It’s this really Chinese ethical spirit behind the idea of the film that is marvellous. The kind of honorable and pure chivalry that I’d always associated with old timey China where people read Li Bai, drank loads of tea, cooked good food and painted washed out landscapes. Occasionally, when assholes appear, they’d kick ass. It’s that Chinese kung fu spirit/pride thing y’know.

All that Buddhist kung fu training mellowed San De’s anger and you really root for him when he does all that training in the chambers, like manipulating a bamboo stick with a weight to hit a bell or carrying buckets of water for practice. The weapon scenes are also great and perhaps the best part is the constant moulding of the character beyond his abilities improving. His life view was also changing. When he’d first got to Shaolin, he was just pent up and had nowhere else to go. When he’d leave, he was calm and had his path laid out for him. Of course, even if his anger and desire for vengeance had been tempered by his 7 years spent at Shaolin, San De still manages to drop all that and murder some people in the name of justice. This is after all, a kungfu action film.

Like he says to the baddie, “We must put down evil. And you’re evil.”.

It is a classic. Superb fighting and technique. Definitely not a crappy hollywood production, just old school kung fu film choreography, good simple cinematography and pacing. A must for kungfu fans.

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