Posted April 20, 2010 by Greg Dragon in Kung Fu Theater

Shaolin Temple Strikes Back (1972)

If there’s any movie to exemplify the honor and selflessness of the Shaolin monks it would be Shaolin Temple Strikes Back. In this epic, monk Ce Ling starts off as a humble warrior whose job it is to protect an 11 yr old princess from the Manchu horde. When the Manchus kill her father and slaughter his kingdom, they attempt to kidnap her in order to force her hand into marriage with a Manchu king. Ce Ling is a loyal retainer to his whiny princess and even goes so far as to join the Shaolin Temple when they seek refuge there and she commands him to do so.

The Manchurian horde is led by a master of Kung Fu who goes by the name Wang Ye (Chen Shan). Wang Ye poses as a simple spice merchant in order to get intel on the princess’s whereabouts and is good friends with Shaolin’s renegade drunken monk – himself a skillful martial arts master. When Wang Ye suspects that the princess is being held by Shaolin, the polite friendship between he and the drunken monk turns violent and it soon turns into an all out war pitting Shaolin against the Manchu invaders.

While Ce Ling is behind the temple walls, he learns their martial arts, even the deadly bo staff techniques of the drunken monk himself. Already a dangerous fighter, Ce Ling becomes even stronger and when the Manchus finally break the truce by killing innocent monks, he is ready to fight alongside his brothers to protect the princess.

Hosting one of the most bad-ass Kung Fu bosses in a movie – Wang Ye is the epitome of stylish evil, wearing silk robes, sleeping with refined women and clean to a fault. The only thing more impressive than his appearance is his dangerous Kung Fu fighting. Played by  my favorite Kung Fu actor Chen Shan, the man is a spectacle to watch in this movie. I will promise you that if you have never heard of him before seeing this, you will become a fan immediately after.

One of of the most notable things in Shaolin Temple Strikes Back is the use of the legendary one finger strike which is depicted in the very beginning by a monk standing inverted with his feet supported by a wall balancing only on his two pointing fingers. This strike is so precise that it can be used to burrow a hole through flesh, damaging your vitals and instantly killing you. The Kung Fu in Shaolin Temple Strikes Back is probably the best that I have seen and I have seen plenty. The movie has just about everything for the kung fu fanboi; you have a drunken monk, you have staffs, swords, bare knuckle boxing, you name it and Shaolin Temple Strikes Back has it.

If you’re going to start off a newcomer to Kung-Fu theater, this is the movie to do it with. Fighting femmes, lordly bad guys, brave heroes, self sacrifice… it’s all here folks. Shaolin Temple Strikes Back is one of my favorite movies in the genre. If you have never had the pleasure of seeing Chen Shan fight on film, that is if you haven’t seen other great movies by him such as Shaolin versus Lama or Wutang versus Ninja then this movie will make you want to see more of him. Chen Shan has a Tae Kwon Do background unlike most other actors, so you get a variety of kicks that you will not see anywhere else.

So go and purchase Shaolin Temple Strikes Back back right now if you don’t already have it in your collection. It is a guaranteed must-see; while the dubbing leaves room for improvement at times, the action has no equal and the story is great. If that isn’t enough, then pick it up to witness the legendary one finger strike in action!


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.