88 Films in the UK have continued to support classic Hong Kong action movies and recently released the Shaw Brothers masterpiece Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, starring Gordon Lui and directed by Lau Kar Leung.
The film is set during the Sung Dynasty and concerns the Yang Family Clan, famous patriots but also bitterly hated by general Pang Mei who with the help of the Tartars, sets an ambush for the Yang Warriors at Jinsha Beach.
All but two are killed at the battle, Brother 6 (Alexander Fu Sheng) and Brother 5 (Gordon Liu). Brother 6 manages to get back home but has been driven mad by the carnage he witnessed and Brother 5 manages to escape with the help of a friendly hunter (a great cameo by the director Lau Kar Leung). He manages to find his way to a Buddhist Temple and becomes intent on becoming a monk.
At the temple, the monks are disturbed by Brother 5’s anger and hatred and ask him to leave as this is not the way of life as a Buddhist. He refuses to go and is determined to find his new path in life. When word reaches the Yang family survivors that no 5 is still alive, they send sister 6th Yang to find him, bring him back and to testify against the traitor Pang Mei. But the sister is ambushed and now Yang No 5 sets out to help rescue her, even if it is a trap.
Now the stage is set for one of the most brilliant showdowns in the history of the Shaw Brothers studio.
It is well known that co-star Alexander Fu Sheng tragically died midway through production and the filming was halted for a number of months due to the sadness and shock. The last third was re-written and explains why he disappears halfway through the movie. The director was devastated by the loss but was determined to honour the late actor by finishing the project. What turns out is an angry and at times dark film, you will find none of the usual comic elements normally associated with other movies from this period.
Gordon Liu shines in the lead role, extremely well-acted with anger and bitterness showing through in many scenes and you can sense his thirst for revenge for the death of his family. Martial arts wise, the choreography is among the best you will see, with brilliant weapons work from all the cast, especially the pole duel between Gordon Liu and Philip Ko Fei.
The new Blu Ray from 88 Films has a super transfer, the 1080p HD picture is bold and very colourful, the best it has looked on any home format. Audio has original mono in Cantonese and remastered English subtitles (nice to see signs and banners translated also.)
Not many extras just an audio commentary by fan Scott Harrison and you also get a slipcover and fold-out poster done by the talented artist Kung Fu Bob Obrien.
This is an all-time classic Kung Fu movie by a great director and all-star cast, totally RECOMMENDED!
FILM – 10 PICTURE – 9 AUDIO – 8 EXTRAS – 5