In an attempt to eliminate all possible nationalist fractions, the Ching Emperor (Wong) orders the destruction of the Shaolin Temple - considered the focus of anti-Manchurian resistance. As... See full summary »
In an attempt to eliminate all possible nationalist fractions, the Ching Emperor (Wong) orders the destruction of the Shaolin Temple - considered the focus of anti-Manchurian resistance. As the temple burns, the surviving 106 Shaolin disciples vow to penetrate the Imperial Palace and take ultimate revenge on the tyrant. Written by
BLAZING TEMPLE (1976) is another film in producer/director Joseph Kuo's series of Shaolin Temple-themed films, starting with EIGHTEEN BRONZEMEN (1976), which showcase the 18 Bronze Men who offer kung fu challenges to graduating Shaolin monks. Carter Wong stars in each film, but plays a different character each time. Here he is one of a group of about 20 Shaolin student-monks who escape after the temple is burned to the ground following an assault by the forces of Emperor Yungzheng in the early stages of the Manchurian-backed Qing Dynasty. Some of the students try to escape by fighting their way through the Bronze Men, who, instead of escaping themselves, presumably burn up in the fire. Before the temple's Abbot dies, he bestows on Carter the honor of safekeeping the sacred scroll containing the 18 Lessons of Buddha and being the only one to learn the lessons. While on the run, Carter and his brother monks make it their goal to attempt the assassination of the Emperor, all while trying to find suitable hiding places from the ever-vigilant pursuing Qing troops. At the same time, a beautiful female fighter named Outlaw Lui (played by Chia Ling/aka Judy Lee) has her own plans to assassinate the emperor. It all culminates in a massive raid by the Shaolin men on the Emperor's lakeside vacation pavilion.
The film is beautifully photographed, with lavish sets and stunning costumes. This is one of the few Shaolin Temple films to stage the burning of the temple on elaborate miniature sets. The fights, though few in number, are well-staged, with Carter and some of the other performers given an opportunity to show their swordplay techniques rather than their kung fu. The action consists mostly of running, hiding, and running again.
The chief problem is an awkward plot structure made worse by disjointed editing that never quite shows everything that needs to be seen. Judy Lee's character, Outlaw Lui, dominates the action at the very beginning and then disappears for most of the film, which subsequently has little, if any, connection to her plot thread. And since Judy is such a dynamic, striking performer, her absence is sorely missed. Carter Wong is very good, as usual, except that he's not really the main character among the Shaolin men, who function as a group with no one character dominating the action. As a result, Carter doesn't get the screen time he gets in the other Kuo/Shaolin films. Also, even though he's charged with learning the 18 Lessons, we never actually see him in his secret training, so when he finally unleashes his newly acquired power, it comes as a big surprise to us. One of the inviolable rules of the kung fu genre is to always show us the training.
None of the films in this Shaolin/Bronzemen series are exactly related, plotwise, although a case can be made that BLAZING TEMPLE is, in fact, a direct sequel to RETURN OF THE EIGHTEEN BRONZEMEN (aka 18 BRONZEMEN 2), which had ended with the corrupt Qing Emperor (played in that film by Carter Wong) ordering the burning of Shaolin. The films mainly serve as an opportunity to revisit the same material and come up with variations on a theme. The other films in the series include THE 18 BRONZEMEN (listed on IMDB as EIGHTEEN BRONZEMEN) and EIGHT MASTERS (aka 18 BRONZEMEN 3).
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