DRUNK PUNCH LOVE: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
Internet, people who love me keep trying to make me watch things like Game of Thrones and Schindler’s List. Internet, I can’t do this, because it asks me to stop doing what I’ve been doing more or less to the exclusion of all else for a couple of years now, which is mainlining martial arts films like I’m being paid to do so.
Internet, I’m not being paid to watch martial arts films. It’s nice work if you can get it, so if you know someone who would like to pay me the same amount I make at my job (which I do love, for what it's worth) to do nothing but loop Mr. Vampire over and over while drinking beer in my underpants (which I would love EVEN MORE than my job), please have them contact me IMMEDIATELY.
“But Queequeg, the internet is full of losers who do this, and they don’t write about it.”
IDGAF what those people do, Internet. I’m writing this because there are millions of humans on the planet who for some reason don’t understand that combining practical effects and mad physical prowess with an earnest willingness to break every bone in your own body is the best path to true entertainment since man first oopsed onto the fart joke.
I'm here to enlighten the gat dang masses.
Recaps are boring so I ain't gonna do that. I am going to attempt to lay out to you, movie by movie, why these cinema classics are way more worth your time than some boring-ass Oscar bait.
On which note. Why start with a peashooter when you can start with the Paris Gun.
Oh what's this? A MOVIE SO INCREDIBLY BADASS that Wu-Tang named an album in its honor? Yes. That's correct. Bring the motherfuckin' ruckus, y'all.
Liu, aka Liu Yu-De, aka San Te. He's gotta lotta names. Don't make it a thing. Starting out as a student, Liu/San Te voices some anti-Qing (this is the same as Manchu) sentiment, falls in with Ming rebels, and gets his family straight murdered more-or-less right away.
CRUSH THE MANCHU OLIGARCHY! Uh, yeah, so pretty much it's the Manchu rulers, embodied by General Tien Ta and General Yin. This is kind of important, guys, if you don’t want to be confused: Yin is the younger guy who does most of the Bad Guy Fighting Shit. General Tien Ta doesn't get off his ass until the very end. So if you're confused about the bad guys, remember that Yin is the clean-shaven guy with the stone-cold murderface, and General Tien Ta is Evil Moustache And Sideburns dude.
10 Reasons You Better Watch This Shit Immediately:
- One training chamber is basically "put your head between these two spliffs and don't blink," which is magical.
- There is at least one death by genitals-headbutting.
- You know the Crazy 88's scene from Kill Bill? San Te takes on like 20+ soldiers by himself. WITHOUT a sword. And Lau Kar-leung (the director) didn't have to fancy-edit to make it seem like Gordon Liu could actually fuck some dudes up (sorry Uma), because he definitely could.
- Excellent practical effects and prosthetics work means the wounds look extra gruesome. San Te’s wounded leg is gross as hell.
- The chief monk of the head chamber is a super short dude who wields a hand on a stick. Seriously. A hand on a stick. He will slap you with it. He will not feel bad. In fact, he slaps the living shit out of San Te over and over and it is amazing. I’m not sure what this trains you for other than being a great professional football player. My favourite part of this chamber though? The same abbot sports massive prosthetic callouses/scar tissue on his head. He is the kung fu master of head fighting. I want to see this fighting in practice so badly. So. Badly. He’s like an ankylosaur in the body of a man. Why doesn’t this dude get a fight scene devoted to him? It’s unfair.
- The intro to this movie is basically a Bond movie intro, but instead of Bond girls, it's just Gordon Liu practicing kung fu without a shirt on a sound stage, which is both awesome and impressive.
- Gordon Liu was hella fuckable.
- At one point there's a scene where a guy pretends to be willing to talk to avoid torture. JUST KIDDING he violently impales himself so he can't be interrogated. CRUSH THE MANCHU OLIGARCHY!
- I have been told that some, if not all, of the swords used in this movie were real. Because why the fuck not.
- No subsequent feat of film has ever training montaged as hard as this movie training montages. Not only that, a lot of the training that he does is LEGITIMATELY VERY DIFFICULT. In the wrist chamber, San Te needs to strengthen his wrists by lifting a hammer attached to a super long pole and gently ringing a giant bell with it. This seems like it would suck A Lot. (Although maybe he’s already got a wrist up, as it were, since these dudes are not boning down. One has to assume their wrists get a lot of exercise tuggin’ it in the outhouse.) In the arm chamber their whole training is just to tie actual-facts daggers to your upper arms and haul water up a cement incline. If your arms drop you stab yourself. I would be dead in ten minutes, guys. “What happened to Queequeg?" "Exercise-related double lung puncture.”
- Illest Fight Scene Moments: I think a nod has got to go to the intro fight here, where Yin cuts the rebel leader's arm and then says "I'll fight one-handed!" and proceeds to tuck his own sword under his armpit and kill the guy without any weapons at all. However, my personal favourite is when San Te goes head-to-head with one of the chief monks in the temple, to earn his place as a master. The whole fight is insanely fast and well-executed. The length of various takes in this movie is baaananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
WAIT A MINUTE Moments:
San Te gets to learn actual boxing and shit eventually, and part of this practice involves studying images in books. So they’re doing arm exercises while looking at the arm exercises. Kiddos, I know what the weather is like around Guangzhou, and can I say, if you are in an open temple with no aircon, and you are practicing arm exercises around books of arm exercises? Those books are going to look like wet tissue paper from armpit sweat. I do not want to touch those books.
Most Baffling/Best Subtitle:
"Good kung fu!" (It's funny because it's true. Also because it's said by San Te when another guy PUNCHES A BOX OPEN. You don't gotta punch that box, guy! It's just a box!)
Best Facial Hair:
Surprisingly, there isn't a lot of goofy-ass facial hair to be had in this movie. The monk in charge of the pole fighting room does have a wacky-time fake white beard and hair, and he does brutally smack down like eight apprentices at once. That's cool. But Tung, the blacksmith at the end, is slaying with the historical Chinese wig equivalent of John Travolta's hair in Pulp Fiction, so he wins.
Gordon Liu plays Pai Mei and Johnny Mo in Kill Bill. He's also been in a LOT of kung fu movies, like Dirty Ho, Legendary Weapons of China, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter... Moustache and Sideburns Bad Guy is the good guy in Five Fingers of Death. This whole crew has been in a lot of other Shaw films, so you may recognize faces from Kid with the Golden Arm, Duel to the Death, etc. Oh? You ain't know those? THAT'S WHAT I'M HERE FOR.