Shaolin Temple (1976)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Run Time - 122 min.  |   Countries - Hong Kong  |  
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Shaolin Temple is epic in both story content and directorial approach. The screenplay boasts a large number of characters and subplots and director Chang Cheh develops them at a deliberate pace, allowing tensions to build in a leisurely but surefooted style. As a result, Shaolin Temple is not for martial arts film fans who expect to have a blast of chop socky every five to ten minutes. That said, those fans who can appreciate the film's intricate, plot-driven style will find themselves amply rewarded. The cast is uniformly solid: reliable stalwarts like Ti Lung and David Chiang turn in solid work, but Fu Sheng does the most attention-getting work as Fong Siyu, fleshing out his character's naïveté with an impish charm and a knack for physical comedy. The script does an excellent job drawing the viewer into Shaolin training, laying out its training methods in an engrossing manner. Best of all, Shaolin Temple is capped with a stunning 30-minute fight finale that cuts back and forth between various individual brawls with deft skill. Chang Cheh directs it all with style, making effective use of some opulent Shaw Brothers backlot sets. In short, Shaolin Temple is a solid, surprisingly thoughtful example of the kung fu genre that is worth the time for the genre's fans.