This lesser-known 8-Diagran flick is still worthwhile
Also known as "Eight Diagram Fighter," this movie came out two years after Liu Chia Liang's enormously popular "Eight Diagram Pole Fighter," and unfortunately suffers by comparison. Still, "Eight Diagram Cudgel" is quite satisfying and is worth renting or even purchasing as one of the Black Belt Theatre's Double Feature DVDs (along with "Magnificent Natural Fist").
"Eight Diagram Cudgel" covers most of the same narrative and philosophical territory as "Eight Diagram Fighter," having to do with the Yiang family's betrayal by the government and the fifth son's retreat to the Shaolin temple. Like Liu Chia Liang's entrant, "Cudgel" is almost purely a drama with little or no inappropriate humor.
It's not hard to see why "Cudgel" has passed out of the public's consciousness. There are few recognizable stars, the main character lacks charisma, there are probably too few kung fu scenes by most fan's standards, and the overall quality of the kung fu doesn't compare to "Eight Diagram Pole Fighter." However, "Cudgel" has the following points in its favor:
as a drama it is more effective than "Eight Diagram Pole Fighter,"
not being marred by Alexander Fu Sheng's over-the-top performance and the general incoherence of LCL's version (caused largely in part by Fu Sheng's untimely death during filming)
the kung fu is still more than adequate. There are quite a few worthy
pole fighters in this movie, and the choreography, editing and camera-work/lighting are more than competent
while not being as over-the-top as, say, ZU or Hero, "Cudgel" does
drift over into the world of "magic kung fu", and I would say effectively so. There are a few moments of balletic wire fu that really are quite sublime, and many of the other "magic kung fu" special-effects are simplistic but charming.
Kung fu fans would be well-served to check out this alternate interpretation of the Yiang family story. Overall I would rate it somewhere around 6.5 or 7 stars out of 10.
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