A decade ago, I was an undergraduate at Oklahoma State University. During the weekends, Aaron Jones — my roommate, best friend, and president of the Oklahoma chapter of the Jaymee Ong Fan Club — and I would watch all kinds of films during our free time — Hong Kong action flicks, Japanese samurai movies, American cult classics, you name it. I don’t know how we stumbled upon Dirty Ho, but upon seeing the title for the first time, we knew that one of us was going to have to buy it. That person turned out to be Aaron, and the version he purchased was this grainy, English dubbed copy:
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.