Posted June 19, 2009 by Greg Dragon in Kung Fu Theater

36th Chamber of Shaolin

The Shaolin Master KillerAlso Known as Shaolin Master Killer (Which is weird given the monk’s philosophy on killing) 36th Chamber of Shaolin is one of my favorite Kung Fu movies. The reason behind this is the likeability of the main character and the dialogue he has with the elder monks. It is the ultimate story of hero vs villain as we watch a boy witness his village ravaged by bullies, only to leave and become powerful in order to return to teach the villagers how to fight back.

Plot: Lo Lieh the Manchurian warlord has moved unto a quiet village in order to crush the rising rebellion there. Two innocent young students are seduced into joining the rebellion by their teacher and the peer pressure of opposing the government. After joining and doing seemingly harmless tasks, like sneaking notes back and forth, the boys along with every other rebel are hunted down to be killed. One of the young men sees his family and friend massacred by the soldiers and is forced to flee into the sanctuary of the Shaolin Temple. The Temple has closed the books on new recruits however and the boy is forced to sneak inside which causes an annoyance with the head monks, who decide to only keep him in order to cure his wounds.

Once the dust has settled and his wounds cured, the young man petitions the monks to take him in and they reluctantly agree dubbing him San Te (Gordon Liu). What soon evolves within the walls of the temple is the prominence of arguably the greatest martial student to Shaolin Kung Fu. San Te quickly impresses his masters and advances through the 35 chambers (rooms of martial study) quicker than any other monk ever had. With each promotion he is given more responsibilities and he ultimately asks to open his own chamber, a 36th Chamber which would be the training of outsiders in the discipline of Kung Fu.

It is hard to put in words the little moments of greatness that this film offers every minute or so with San Te. I recall especially his master’s reverance when he would join a new chamber and bypass all his brothers into mastery. One monk, after squaring off with him actually steps back, impressed, points at him and says his name. The acting is compelling enough to make you believe that San Te is beyond any other and this is a credit to everyone involved and of course the writing.

If you add one Kung-Fu movie to your collection, it should be this one. One of the only two that I can consider perfect due to the martial arts, the dialogue and the convincing story. This is the movie to make you a Gordon Liu fan and you should pick it up as soon as possible.


Greg Dragon

Cinephile and opinion writer, Greg Dragon has been a fan of movies since the 80's when Kung Fu theater was all the rage and Roger Moore was James Bond. Greg is the founder and lead critic of Spicy Movie Dogs. You can follow him on Twitter @Rafacus or on his Google+ account.