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After an Abbot Monk is injured and taken into the home of two young men, they find themselves targets of the Ching Army and its evil leader Wong Wu Ti. Wong is set out to destroy the underground rebels but once they hurt the sexy Mrs. Sheng the two friends (played by Tung Wei and Shih Tien)seek revenge after learning kung-fu from their new guest the infamous monk, Wen Hung. Written by
So today, I'm putting pixels on the internet about this obscure kung-fu movie from 1978. This one is pretty much a testament to that year being something of a golden year for the genre--randomly choose a movie made then and it will deliver in some way or another. If this one's notable for anything, it's its two stars: the kid Bruce Lee smacked in the head at the beginning of Enter the Dragon, and DEAN SHEK in a non-weasel role. You know, that skinny hunchback guy with the fake hair mole in Drunken Master who was identically casted in a million other movies. They play brothers (although with his pointy, bulbous features, Shek couldn't any less resemble the other guy), they undergo the tutelage of a Shaolin rebel, there's an evil white haired guy after them, stuff happens, yadda yadda training and revenge. Shek is as difficult to watch as ever, but the kid Bruce Lee smacked has surprising screen presence.
Unlike a lot of independent MA flicks, this one really shines from a filmmaking perspective. The camera isn't just a passive spectator; some dynamic angles give a sense of energy to even the weakest choreograpy. Which is good, because the fight scenes are very hit & miss--the early comedic fights are just plain bad with weak non-strikes, flabby kicks, actors aiming nowhere near their opponents, etc. However, near the second half, there's an incredible upward turn: the choreo finally finds a sense of force, some cool shapes are applied, and it becomes much more spacially interesting; what happens when actors are getting up, falling down, landing on their backs, knees, and so forth isn't just treated as a transition between stationary striking, it's fluid, worked into the flow of things.
The thing most people remember about this movie is the ultra-camp villain, a white haired babyfaced practitioner of "shakey eagle style" who wiggles his limbs around with exaggerated flapping sounds as he makes high pitched "weeeee aaaa woooo" Bruce Lee noises. At one point he slides along the ground on his belly, mechanically striking with his claws as he slides, slicing grass like a human lawnmower. An overlooked goofy antagonist who can stand up to the villains in Born Invincible and Master of the Flying Guillotine in terms of sheer ridiculousness.
Flaws? Flaws! Flaws in an old kung-fu movie? No. The conveyor belt production shows: the two main characters get an unusual amount of characterization, but everyone else gets none. The film makes a big deal out of one character's tragic (sorta?) death despite the fact they get less than two minutes of screen time altogether! The title of the movie is also mysterious: the protagonist overcomes the odds only knowing six (or some low number) of the eponymous 18 strikes. His obligatory training is never really applied to the final fight, and he relies on some sneaky traps. Oh well.
As a bonus, the crew seemed to wait for really nice days to film. It's one of those kung-fu movies where characters are saying stuff like "huh! You are going to die now!" on a bright, sunny afternoon with happy cotton candy clouds floating around in the sky. There's one scene near the end where the villain's trash-talking in a field while hundreds of dragonflies are buzzing around him, it's pretty cool. Stuff like that can make the cheapest movies ever look amazing.
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