Chang Cheh had a boom period as a director in the 1970s and worked with a lot of the same troupe of actors such as Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan Chun, David Chiang, and Ti Lung and in this movie he decided to concentrate a bit more on the story as opposed to an excuse for one fight scene to follow another.
Disciples of Shaolin made in 1975 stars Fu Sheng as Kuan a poor man looking for work, but he is also a skilled fighter, and when one of his oldest friends (Chi Kuan Chun) gets him a job at a mill he finds his combat skills will quickly give him power and money, much to the dismay of his close colleague.
He has many run-ins with the other mill in the district, run by the Machu’s and after defeating the boss of that mill gets double-crossed with tragic consequences.
This is probably Fu Sheng’s finest film he did for director Chang Cheh as he is given time to develop his character fully, a man who only at first wants the simple things in life, like a new pair of shoes but becomes hypnotised by what power can give him and refuses to take the advice of a friend who can see where this is all leading. The action is sparse in the first half of the film, just enough to show how much more skillful Kuan is compared to everyone else, but it switches up a gear for the all-out bloody finale.
Speaking of which, during the final battle the image switches to black and white giving it a unique atmosphere but was also done to appease the censors at the time as they were clamping down on extreme gory violence. A tragic and enjoyable slice of 1970s kung fu cinema, and worth watching for Fu Sheng’s performance alone.
This has just been released on Blu-ray by 88 Films and has a solid remastered 1080p transfer, with a great image with little or no damage. Audio gives you a choice of Mandarin mono with English subtitles or an English dubbed track, both clear and easy on the ear, even if the English dub track is a little flat.
Extras are a very good audio commentary by Film journalist and Author Samm Deighan and a fun commentary by regulars Mike Leeder and Arne Venema. Also, you get an interview with actor Jamie Luk as well as an original trailer. Also, with the first pressing, you get –
- LIMITED EDITION Slipcase with brand-new artwork from R.P. “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien
- Double-Sided A3 Fold-out Poster
- Extensive Booklet Notes ‘The Visceral Martial Arts Cinema of Chang Cheh’ by Matthew Edwards, ‘International Bright Young Thing A look back on The Disciples of Shaolin and its charismatic star Alexander Fu Sheng’ by Andrew Graves and An article By Kung Fu Bob!
A great Shaw Brothers production with a really great finale, all fans of the genre should pick this release up.
FILM – 8 PICTURE – 8 AUDIO – 7.5 EXTRAS – 7.5