Retro Review – Men From the Monastery (1974)


Director Chang Cheh was always the pioneer at Shaw Brothers studios, especially during the 1960s and 70s and Men From the Monastery was one of his first in what was called his “Shaolin Cycle” of films.

The film stars Fu Sheng as Fong Sai Yuk, Chen Kuan Tai as Hung Hsi Kwan and Chi Kuan Chun as Wu Wei-kin and the film follows the development of each character and how they ended up at Shaolin.

The film starts with Fong Sai Yuk battling his way out of the temple after 3 years of training and goes back to battle the Wu-Tang master, ‘Tiger’ Lei on the wooden pole structure. After his friend is killed trying to help him he defeats Tiger Lei in a bloody battle and gets revenge for his friend.

Next Wu Wei-kin wants desperately to avenge the death of his father who was brutally murdered by corrupt officials at a local textile factory. After almost dying after one encounter he meets Fong Sai Yuk who tells him to go and train at Shaolin to get the skills to win.

After training hard he indeed goes back and gets vengeance and tells the rest of the corrupt officials to change their ways.

Finally, we have Hung Tsi Kwan who is running a war against the Chings, but realizes he’s just one man, and can’t kill them all. He then joins up with Fong Sai-Yuk and Hu Wei-Chien, and the three of them manage to get rid of some Ching spies. Then they discover that Shaolin has been burned to the ground. and the stage is set for one final brutal battle.


While the film builds slowly and takes time to introduce the main characters it builds well. We find out that Fong Sai Yuk was soaked in oil from childhood to make him invincible to blades apart from one weak spot which becomes fatal in the final battle.

The fight scenes are well choreographed by Lau Kar Leung and Tong Gai and are a step above what was seen before in Shaw productions, using real kung fu techniques.

The director used some new techniques during filming and editing, the death of some of the heroes switches the screen to black and white giving it an eerie feel. This was also due no doubt to the ongoing censorship of violence in films at that time. The battle scenes are still very bloody and gruesome and the death of one of the main heroes is still one of the most painful in kung fu movie history!

The film was released by Celestial in Hong Kong on a remastered Region 3 DVD and is now out of print and hard to find. It has yet to be released on Blu ray but hopefully, it will be released by Arrow or 88 Films in the future.

A Classic Chang Cheh Shaolin movie which is well worth seeking out and has stood the test of time well.


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