Solid Shaolin kung fu action with Fu Sheng as Fong Si Yu
THE INVINCIBLE KUNG FU BROTHERS (aka SHAOLIN AVENGERS, 1976) retells the stories of legendary Shaolin fighters Fong Si Yu and Hu Wei Chien, played by Fu Sheng and Chi Kuan-Chun, who played these parts in previous movies. Unlike the other films in Chang Cheh's Shaolin/Fong Si Yu series, this one tells the whole story of Fong, from the killing of his father, his early kung fu training by his mother, and his immersion in the wine baths which make him invulnerable (except for one crucial weak point) to his fight with Tiger Li on the standing log posts to his ultimate battle to the death with the Manchus who burned down Shaolin Temple. (Many of these incidents have turned up in other films, but not all in one sweeping arc as they are here.)
The film also relates the story of Hu Wei Chien, who sought revenge for the death of his father and was sent by Fong Si Yu to Shaolin Temple to improve his kung fu skills first. This entire section had already been staged, scene-for-scene, with the same stars two years earlier in MEN FROM THE MONASTERY (aka DISCIPLES OF DEATH), also directed by Chang Cheh. This version actually plays a bit better. The characters are a little more fleshed-out, the production values stronger and the all-important training scenes longer.
The film adopts a flashback structure in which the three heroes, Fong, Hu, and Fong's younger brother Sai Yi (played by Billy Tang), confront the Manchu troops and the notorious white-browed priest Pai Mei and engage in a pitched battle, with flashbacks to the characters' pasts intercut at regular intervals. This allows a more seamless interweaving of the two main characters' stories. It's a well-made film and features an abundance of good fights in which the stars take on such formidable villains as Wang Lung-Wei, Leung Kar Yan, Lung Fei and Tsai Hung. It's not in the same class as SHAOLIN MARTIAL ARTS, FIVE MASTERS OF DEATH and DEATH CHAMBER, but it's marginally better than its three predecessors, HEROES TWO, MEN FROM THE MONASTERY and THE INVINCIBLE ONE, neither of which had adequate villains. The entire series remains, of course, required viewing for all serious kung fu buffs.
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