A couple unite - she is fluent in the crane style of kung fu, he in tiger style. They have a son, but the boy's father is killed by the evil eunuch Bai Mei. Disguised as a girl, his mom ... See full summary »
A couple unite - she is fluent in the crane style of kung fu, he in tiger style. They have a son, but the boy's father is killed by the evil eunuch Bai Mei. Disguised as a girl, his mom trains him in crane style while he secretly learns tiger style from his father's training manual. Written by
Inspired "revisionist" addition to the Shaolin temple series begun by Chang Cheh
EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN is director LIU CHIA-LIANG (LAU KAR-LEUNG) very different contribution to the Shaolin Temple series, begun by CHANG CHEH. Unlike CHANG who seems to have a strong dislike for women, and actresses, LIU provides LILY LI the opportunity to portray a strong, complex female role.
From her very first scenes as a travelling street entertainer who defends her turf in a duel with the famous Shaolin fighter HONG XIOGUAN (aka HUNG SZE KUAN); marries him but keeps him at bay on their wedding night using her martial arts, FANG YUNG is a match for her vengeance obsessed husband.
HONG is one of the few Shaolin monks to survive the earlier massacre. In fact he and his men escaped an ambush only because one of his friends - Brother Tong - sacrifices himself to give them all time to escape.
And the same thing happens again, when he challenges ABBOT PAI MEI (aka "White Brows"), even though he is clearly no match for him. He rejects his wife's advice, seemingly because she is a woman. And using the same pigheaded logic, he makes the terrible decision not to learn her crane style.
Thankfully the son stands up to his father, and learns from his mother. When Hong returns to fight White Brows a second time, there is a sense of inevitability. The son fights to stop his father, who dissuades him with empty rhetoric, and then goes to his death.
In this film this is very significant because the filmmakers have gone to great trouble to establish a strong family unit, only to have it torn asunder because the father is too set in his ways to change. Thus the audience really does feel a sense of loss, and are saddened that the wife and son cannot put the love they have for Hong into words. The need to seek vengeance has become very personal.
The film itself has a wonderful mix of combat and training sequences; sizeable dollops of romance and humour (Cantonese style), and enough plot to hang everything together.
Best of all, it actually has something to say: the film ends, abruptly, leaving you with very mixed emotions.
I first saw this on a Southgate video. The new 2004 Celestial Pictures Region 3 DVD in 2.35 widescreen with rich saturated colours makes you want to watch the film over and over (it also has some very intriguing extras). And it does help to hear the film in its original Mandarin, rather than dubbed!
8.5/10 * a 4 star martial arts classic.
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