Gordon Liu seeks refuge at the infamous Shaolin Temple after the Manchus kill off his family. Starting at the bottom cleaning the temple, he progresses through all of the 35 chambers of martial arts training, eventually mastering them all…and how!
Synopsis: Revered Hong Kong director Chia Liang Liu (AKA Kar Leung Lau) and martial artist Gordon Liu are half brothers, who worked together on several Shaw Brothers’ classics. Chia Liang Liu cast Gordon as the lead in the 1978 epic, SHAO LIN SAN SHIH LIU FANG, which translates roughly to THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN. This phenomenal Shaw Bros. film was even a bigger hit than FIVE DEADLY VENOMS, and is a reference point for the hundreds of martial arts film that followed. You notice how nearly every martial arts film (American ones included) include a sequence about a student learning the martial arts through a rigorous training regimen? Well, all those movies can be traced back to this classic. In 1979, A distribution company called World Northal released the film in America as MASTER KILLER. Crash Cinema took it one step further and released it as SHAOLIN MASTER KILLER for the widescreen DVD release.
Chia Lang Lui’s inspired direction makes SHAOLIN MASTER KILLER truly special. He imbues the film with a sense of realism not normally associated with the genre. For instance, most plots of these films are revenge motivated. The lead character usually learns Kung Fu in a very short time and then searches out the evil opponent who killed their parent/sibling/spouse/children, etc. Though San Te eventually gets his revenge, he is motivated by his desire to bring Shaolin Kung Fu to the common man. Chia Lang Lui takes his time and films the training sequences in a convincing manner. Gordon Liu is a genuinely good actor on top of being a great martial artist. His performance does not get lost in the translation. His character is overcome by despair, anger, and sadness and you can see it clearly in his eyes and facial expressions. Liu evokes laughter from the audience one minute, then uplifts them the next. Lo Lieh plays his usual evil character, this time Manchu enforcer Lo Tang. Except for the beginning of SHAOLIN MASTER KILLER, where action fans may become restless, Liu Chia Liang produces one engrossing period film that is far more than just a Kung Fu movie.