Well, it’s been a week now since Shawgust ended, and I think it’s time to give my wrap-up thoughts on the films. But first, I want to thank everyone who participated, including Nolahn (Mighty Peking Man & Super Inframan), Will, and Todd. (And I guess Jason, too, for joining in on the final joint review!)
So, not having seen any Shaw films before, what did I think? My main surprise was how similar they all are to each other. Of course they’re all different, but they all have similar themes and whatnot. A lot of them had an element of revenge (if it didn’t drive the whole story). And a lot of them had a plot element where the main character had to join a Buddhist Temple to learn martial arts, including a training montage (which, in the case of 36th Chamber of Shaolin, was about an hour long and totally awesome). These two things were even included in the non-kung-fu horror movie we reviewed.
Oh, and I gained a newfound love for both Gordon Liu and director Chia-Liang Liu (who directed what basically compromised my Top 4… all starring or co-starring Gordon Liu).
And speaking of that, how about we get into my favorites? First, let’s dive into just what my favorite films were, ranked. You read the full reviews (hopefully), so I won’t go into extreme detail here. So from worst to best, here are my Top 8 all-around favorites and what I rated them (as well as links to the original reviews):
Just all-around dull. The action wasn’t very good until the very end, and I didn’t care much for the story. Though the Tarantino connections were insane.
Honestly surprised I didn’t like this one more with all the constant praise it gets. Action was decent, and the story was OK, leading to just an OK film for me.
It was so weird, crazy, and out-there that it at least stuck in my memory for better or worse. I think Nolahn and I liked this one a bit more than poor Jason. It’s definitely not something I’d re-watch often, if at all (unless with friends). But it was at least bizarrely entertaining.
The action saved this otherwise ridiculously terrible movie. Definite camp cult classic. Mostly bad everything, but truly awesome and fun action sequences.
I liked the story, though it is a flawed one in how they lay it out (and that ending…). But the action scenes in the middle of the film are mind-blowingly amazing. I still can’t get over how stunningly choreographed they were.
The film falls apart in its third act, but boy is it hella entertaining prior to that. And even during the third act it’s entertaining, but the pacing nearly ruins the whole thing. And the moral conundrums the film brings up are both excellent and dismaying.
This film easily has some of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen on film. If for nothing else, see this film for those–primarily those of its third act. The story and characters are good, too, but definitely come for the action.
This film was perfectly balanced, which is why it hits the top spot. It’s action isn’t better than the previous film, but it’s still pretty dang good. But what really scores high is how it actually has a really good story, a fun premise, and entertaining characters. The pacing is perfect, and everything just melds together. There was very little to detract from this film for me, as it had no major flaw (just very minor nitpicks or annoyances).
OK, but what if you don’t care about a balanced film and just want to see some awesome action scenes. This is the Shaw brothers, after all. Who comes to Shaw for Oscar-calibre films? You want to see some crazy kung-fu and mind-blowing choreography. That’s why I put together this second list. This list is for those who want to know how I rank the films if I only judged them on their action sequences and nothing else. Well, here you go (along with a clip from the film):
8) The Boxer’s Omen
There’s very little action in this film… it’s a horror film, not a kung-fu movie. You get a couple Muay Thai fight scenes, but it’s nothing really that amazing. So of course this gets the bottom spot.
7) King Boxer
Again, I was not impressed. Yes this was the film that exploded the kung-fu craze in the west, but so many other, much better films came out after. (Warning: The following clip is the final fight.)
6) 5 Deadly Venoms
The ceiling and wall fighting was the best part… otherwise, nothing too special to see here.
5) The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
The main draw of this film is the famous training sequence that is basically the entire middle of the film. It’s incredibly entertaining. The action outside of that is good, too, but it’s the training stuff that’s the real thing to see here.
4) Five Element Ninjas
This movie is wacky as Hell, but the action is outstanding. At the time, I said it was ranked third thus far in the month. But I hadn’t gotten to the next film yet… (Warning: The following clip is the final fight.)
3) Heroes of the East
Yes, my favorite film of the month is just at #3 on the list. But don’t let that deceive you. That just means the next two are just that dang good. This has some fantastic weapons fighting, as well as some fun hand-to-hand combat. The whole premise of the film centers around finding out which is better–Chinese Kung-Fu or Japanese Martial Arts. So it’s almost non-stop action from beginning to end, all in different styles (including Drunken Master!).
2) Dirty Ho
I already said it in the last list, but this has some outstanding choreography. The draw to the fights here, at least in the middle of the film, is that Gordon Liu doesn’t want his apprentice to know he’s a Kung-Fu master. So all the fights are made to look like everyday movements. It becomes more like a flowing dance, and it’s just brilliant to watch.
1) 8 Diagram Pole Fighter
Still, nothing beats this one for me. The whole movie is amazing in its action, but the third act is really where it shines. From one of the greatest pole battles you will ever see to the most insane climactic kung-fu battle ever filmed… it’s really a sight to behold. (Warning: The following clip is the final fight.)
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed Shawgust!