Shaolin Kung Fu (1974)

Directed by
Solid basher-style kung fu movie
Reviewed by Simon on 2024-05-26

The rickshaw drivers in a small town are bullied and beaten when a rival business sets up and starts stealing their customers. One of them knows Shaolin Kung Fu, but promised his blind wife never to fight after her father was killed by a rival. The bullies aren't about to spontaneously see the error of their ways though, and when things escalate he gets drawn into a fight with one of them, leading to a cycle of violent revenge.

Despite being one of the first films in the 1970's to reference Shaolin by name, the famous Temple does not make an appearance - we're told we're seeing Shaolin Kung Fu but there is no evidence to suggest it is true - certainly none of the famous animal forms are used.

The fights are good though, and plentiful. Most are one against many, or a few against several - they get bigger and longer as the film goes on. The choreography is straightforward basher-style but quite sophisticated and at least gives a general impression of being plausible - aside from the occasional trampoline assist.

The credits list the director as Liu Shou-Hua, who has a handful of credits to his name but mostly as an assistant director. There seems to be agreement that it was actually directed by Joseph Kuo though, even though he is listed as "supervisor" - not sure on what basis, but it does fit alongside other Kuo films like Triangular Duel so it's plausible.

This film also shares a lead actor with that film and Chinese Iron Man, Wen Chiang-Long. He's a solid lead, good looking and seems skilled at martial arts - he doesn't have Bruce Lee's graceful athleticism (or magnetic charisma) but he handles himself well enough.

The film seems to want to deliver the message that "violence begets violence", with reprisals taking an increasingly bloody toll on both sides. However, it's obvious that the bad guys were not going to be reasoned with or get bored any time soon, so ignoring them probably wouldn't have worked out well either. It could be therefore be argued that the message is really "strike back early and decisively"... or perhaps "you should ditch your possessive wife for your boss's hot daughter, she clearly fancies you".