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Shaolin Temple (1976)

Shao Lin si (original title)
The Shaolin Temple is the last place to resist defeat by the Manchu Dynasty, mostly because of their unique fighting style. Men from far and wide come to wait outside the temple, hoping ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Sheng Fu ...
Kuan-Chun Chi ...
Hu Hui Chien
Lung Ti ...
Tsai Te-cheng
David Chiang ...
Phillip Chung-Fung Kwok ...
Lin Kwong-yao (as Kuo Chui)
Lung Wei Wang ...
Szu Shih ...
Yen Yung-chun
Sheng Chiang ...
Men Yu
Feng Lu ...
Prince Hu (as Chao Kuo-sheng)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Hsi Chang ...
Kitchen Abbot
Shih-Ou Chang
Wei Chao
Nan Chiang
Li Jen Ho
Po Wei Hou
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Storyline

The Shaolin Temple is the last place to resist defeat by the Manchu Dynasty, mostly because of their unique fighting style. Men from far and wide come to wait outside the temple, hoping that they will be admitted as pupils. As the Abbot becomes older, he realizes that the Manchus are determined to destroy the temple and eradicate the Shaolin fighting techniques. To this end, he decides that it is time at last to admit worthy men into the temple as students, to learn the way of Shaolin. Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>

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They endure every savage torture known to mankind. See more »

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22 December 1976 (Hong Kong)  »

Also Known As:

Death Chamber  »

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2.35 : 1
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Referenced in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

All-Star Kung Fu Epic about the final days of Shaolin Temple
6 May 2001 | by (Bronx, NY) – See all my reviews

DEATH CHAMBER (aka SHAOLIN TEMPLE, 1976) is the closest Chang Cheh came to making a true kung fu epic. It tells the story of the final months of the Shaolin Temple, culminating in a raid by Manchu warriors and the burning of the temple. Previously, Chang had made several films about the aftermath of the burning of the temple, in which Fong Si Yu and the other fugitives flee the Manchus and regroup (HEROES TWO, MEN FROM THE MONASTERY, FIVE MASTERS OF DEATH, etc.), but this is the only one that actually includes the final battle and the burning of the temple. It's two hours long and boasts more Shaw Bros. kung fu stars in one cast than any other film, with the possible exception of Chang's later SHANGHAI 13 (1983).

The film focuses on the training of an impressive group of heroes, each in a different style or specialty, all while the ruling Manchurian forces contrive to undermine the stability of Shaolin Temple. The training scenes themselves are remarkable for the cleverness and scope of the techniques employed, from leaping up with weights on one's legs and balancing on jagged rocks to stoking fires and stirring huge vats of rice to learn pole fighting. The students are all chosen on the basis of their willingness to kneel outside on the temple steps for days at a time, without eating, drinking or resting, to show their dedication.

Alexander Fu Sheng plays Fong Si Yu (spelled as Fong Sai Yuk when Jet Li played the part in 1993) and Chi Kuan-Chun plays Hu Wei Chen, both characters they'd played in earlier movies. David Chiang and Ti Lung, co-stars of many of Chang Cheh's early 1970s kung fu films, play soldiers who seek refuge in Shaolin after a disastrous loss on the battlefield. Relative newcomers Billy Tang, Lee Yi Min (MYSTERY OF CHESS BOXING) and Kuo Chui (Philip Kwok, one of the 5 Venoms) play additional students. Two other Venoms are in the cast--Chiang Sheng as a good guy, and Lu Feng as a bad guy. Additional villains include Wang Lung Wei, Wang Ching, and Ku Feng.

After lots of training scenes and assorted betrayal and intrigue, the action leads to a massive battle involving all of the cast and filmed amidst the sprawling Shaw Bros. backlot with its fortress, temple, and bridge overlooking Clearwater Bay. An earlier film, FIVE MASTERS OF DEATH (aka FIVE SHAOLIN MASTERS, 1975), charts the activities of the surviving characters following the burning of Shaolin.

This film and SHAOLIN MARTIAL ARTS (1974), another all-star kung fu film of epic length (listed on IMDb as SHAO LIN MARTIAL ARTS), are arguably Chang Cheh's two most significant masterworks from his entire career. A trilogy of sorts is formed with the addition of FIVE MASTERS OF DEATH (1975), which takes place after the burning of Shaolin and includes many of the same actors as DEATH CHAMBER. All three films circulate on poor quality bootleg VHS tapes. If there was ever a crying need for restored prints on letter-boxed DVDs, this is it.

ADDENDUM (Feb. 10, 2008): In April 2003, this film was released under its original title, SHAOLIN TEMPLE, on Region 3 DVD in a new, restored, remastered edition, letter-boxed, in Mandarin and with English subtitles, by Celestial Pictures/IVL as part of its then-new line of Shaw Bros. restorations. The other films in Chang Cheh's Shaolin cycle, listed above, have all been released by Celestial as well. No need to keep those bootleg tapes anymore.


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