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Return to the 36th Chamber (1980)

Shao Lin da peng da shi (original title)
R | | Action, Comedy | August 1982 (USA)
When thugs prey upon innocent factory workers, a small-time scammer trains for revenge by studying the moves of Shaolin temple monks.


Chia-Liang Liu


Kuang Ni


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Chia-Hui Liu ... Chao Jen-Cheh
Lung Wei Wang ... Boss Wang Kao-feng
Hou Hsiao Hou Hsiao ... Ho Chiao
Lun Hua ... Chen Hsi-sheng
Yeong-Mun Kwon Yeong-Mun Kwon ... Yuan Li-hao (as Yung-Wen Kuan)
Kara Wai ... Hsiao Hung (as Kara Hui)
Szu-Chia Chen ... Mai Yin
Tsui Ling Yu ... Hsiao Ling
Wei Hao Teng Wei Hao Teng
Kang Shih Kang Shih
Tao Chiang ... Ma Hui
Yi Tao Chang ... Erh Kun
King Chu Lee ... Monk San Te (as Ching Chia)
Ching-Ching Yeung ... Hsiao-Ching
Sae Ok Kim Sae Ok Kim ... Laborer (as Hsi-Yu Chin)


The workers of a dye factory have their pay cut by 20% when the factory owner brings in some Manchu thugs to try and increase production. Desperate to reclaim their full wages, the workers hire an actor to impersonate a priest and kung-fu expert from the temple of Shaolin. The factory owner proves the actor a fraud, and punishes all those involved. The young actor feels he has let the workers down, and promises to atone. He sets out for Shaolin, determined to be accepted as a kung-fu pupil at the elite temple. Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Action | Comedy


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Hong Kong


Cantonese | Mandarin

Release Date:

August 1982 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Return of the Master Killer See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Shaw Brothers See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Wu-Tang Clan member Ol' Dirty Bastard's debut album was titled after this movie, with adding "The Dirty Version" to the end. Ol' Dirty Bastard's album is titled "Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version". See more »


Boss Wang: What style of Kung Fu is this?
Chao Yen-Cheh: Roof-top Kung Fu!
See more »


Followed by Disciples of the 36th Chamber (1985) See more »

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User Reviews

A Nutshell Review: Return to the 36th Chamber
25 June 2005 | by DICK STEELSee all my reviews

Return to the 36th Chamber is one of those classic Kung-Fu movies which Shaw produces back in the 70s and 80s, whose genre is equivalent to the spaghetti westerns of Hollywood, and the protagonist Gordon Liu, the counterpart to the western's Clint Eastwood. Digitally remastered and a new print made for the Fantastic Film Fest, this is "Presented in Shaw Scope", just like the good old days.

This film is a simple story of good versus evil, told in 3 acts, which more or less sums up the narrative of martial arts films in that era.

Act One sets up the premise. Workers in a dye-mill of a small village are unhappy with their lot, having their wages cut by 20% by incoming manchu gangsters. They can't do much about their exploitation because none of them are martial arts skilled to take on the gangsters, and their boss. At first they had a minor success in getting Liu to impersonate a highly skilled Shaolin monk (one of the best comedy sequences), but their rouse got exposed when they pushed the limit of credibility by impersonating one too many times.

Act Two shows the protagonist wanting to get back at the mob. However, without real martial arts, he embarks on a journey to Shaolin Temple, to try and infiltrate and learn martial arts on the sly. After some slapstick moments, he finally gets accepted by the abbot (whom he impersonated!) but is disappointed at the teaching methods - kinda like Mr Miyagi's style in Karate Kid, but instead of painting fences, he gets to erect scaffoldings all around the temple. Nothing can keep a good man down, and he unwittingly builds strength, endurance and learns kung-fu the unorthodox way.

Act Three is where the fight fest begins. With cheesy sound effects, each obvious non-contact on film is given the maximum impact treatment. But it is rather refreshing watching the fight scenes here, with its wide angled shots to highlight clarity and detail between the sparring partners, and the use of slow-motion only to showcase stunts in different angles. You may find the speed of fights a tad too slow, with some pause in between moves, but with Yuen Wo Ping and his style being used ad-nausem in Hollywood flicks, they sure don't make fight scenes like they used to! Return to the 36th chamber gets a repeat screening on Monday, so, if you're game for a nostalgic trip down memory lane, what are you waiting for?

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