Day 3 of Ronin on Empty’s unplanned retrospective on The 36th Chamber of Shaolin franchise comes to an end with Disciples of the 36th Chamber, the third and final installment in the series. In comparison to the previous two films, Disciples turned out to be an extremely disappointing way to close the trilogy, as star Gordon Liu was relegated to a mere supporting role as the monk San Te in favor of Shaw regular Hsiao Hou, who plays quite possibly the most annoying Fong Sai-Yuk in the history of Hong Kong cinema. Looking back, I was probably a little too hard on the film and perhaps somewhat misguided in my criticism of the film’s portrayal of Fong Sai-Yuk. While I’m fairly certain Sai-Yuk’s annoying hypocrisy was intentional, I have to say that it didn’t make for a very enjoyable film. Sure, Sai-Yuk’s utter repugnancy makes the film “interesting” and perhaps worthy of further discussion, but I think my review was written from the point of view of a martial arts film fan, and the film just didn’t measure up to its intensely fun predecessors.
However, I will say that the movie is cool to look at, particularly if you’re a fan of the “heightened” period realities of these Shaw Brothers productions. And the fights, as always, are pretty nifty, too, thanks to director Lau Kar-Leung. Perhaps even worth the price of admission (aka DVD price) It’s not a great way to end the series, but it is an end, of sorts. For interested parties, you can read my review here. And I’ve embedded a trailer, which shows so much, you probably don’t even have to watch the movie:
Snazzy Spanish Language Poster to Return to the 36th Chamber
I wasn’t planning on running three retro reviews in a row this week, but I’ve been pretty busy with my dissertation work, and since I’d already started with The 36th Chamber of Shaolinyesterday, I figured I might as well continue spotlighting the second and third entries in the series for today’s post and tomorrow’s follow-up.
This winning, but entirely unconventional sequel recasts the first film’s star, Gordon Liu, as a down-on-his-luck con artist learning the ropes from the very same character he played in the original movie: the venerable Shaolin monk San Te. That may sound confusing, but the role switcheroo actually turns out to actually be a casting masterstroke as it successfully solves the problem of trying to follow up a film like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, which has a beginning, middle, and end to San Te’s arc with very little room for a sequel. By having Gordon Liu play a different character, one gets to a) experience the “journey”all over again in a way that wouldn’t make sense using the same character or a different actor as the rascally pupil.
In a follow-up of sorts to yesterday’s post about NECA’s Shaw Bros. action figure line, I did some additional digging and found out that a series 2 has been planned. According to the website TOYSREVIL, Series 2 actually dates all the way back to New York Comic Con 2008! Characters in this wave include one of the Abbots (Lee Hoi-Sang) fromThe 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Short Axe (Chiang Sheng) from The Kid with the Golden Arm, and To Sheng (Lu Feng) from The Crippled Avengers. According to online toy wholesaler BBCW Distibutors, Inc., both Series 1 and Series 2 may be available for August/TBD 2010 pre-order, although I’ve not received any confirmation from NECA on an actual release date. Here are some NYCC 2008 photos courtesy of Figures.com via the aforementioned TOYSREVIL (go here for uncropped full-length shots):
Abbot (Lee Hoi-Sang)
Short Axe (Chiang Sheng)
To Sheng (Lu Feng)
So which one will you be buying? And what about a Series 3 wish-list? In addition to Super Inframan, here’s hoping for a Dirty Ho two-pack! (Newbie note: If you’re not familiar with that very entertaining Shaw Bros movie, you probably just think I’m being gross. I’m not.)
I used to collect action figures, but I honestly cannot remember the last time I bought one. Now, don’t get me wrong, my lack of toy purchases has little to do with “maturity,” and more to do with the need to conserve personal finances. Oddly enough, collecting toys has become an oddly expensive proposition. Not only is the collector-centered “cool stuff” usually higher-priced, but even the mass-produced products that are actually intended for kids has increased considerably in the last few years. Yesterday, I saw that Target was selling DC Comics’ JLU line for $8.99.In fact, suggested retail price on these figures — no bigger than four inches tall — is $9.99. That’s highway robbery, if I ever saw it.
But money issues aside, the fact is, it might be fun to display a toy on my desk or bookshelf, but let’s face it, the dang thing inevitably ends up in a drawer or a box somewhere, so what’s the point? But I digress…