Return to the 36th Chamber (1980) – Disciples of the 36th Chamber (1985)
Disc 2 of the Shawscope Volume 2 Blu-ray box set contains 2 classic movies directed by Lau Kar Leung, Return to the 36th Chamber and Disciples of the 36th Chamber, both are from new 2K remasters.
Return to the 36th Chamber was made 2 years after the classic 36th Chamber of Shaolin and was a sequel that the director initially did not want to do. This time Gordon Liu plays Chi, a con artist who pretends to be a Shaolin monk expert at kung fu, San De, whom the actor played in the first film. When he tries to stop a group of Manchu from bullying a local dye factory where his friends work he is discovered to be a fraud and badly beaten. Frustrated and angry he goes to Shaolin wanting to learn real kung fu but is rejected by the monks and given the task of building the bamboo scaffolding to repair the temple. after many months he leaves in disgust and returns to his friends. But he did not realise that he has been learning kung fu all along and uses his new skills to defeat the enemies.
This film was much lighter in tone than the previous one, which disappointed some fans but the martial arts choreography on display is excellent, especially the final battle with the main villain played by Wang Lung Wei.
It wasn’t until 1985 that the director made the third entry in the series, Disciples of the 36th Chamber. This time it starred Hsiao Ho as cocky fighter Fong Sai Yuk who comes into conflict with the Shaolin Temple and Manchu oppressors. While deemed the worst of the trilogy the film still has some great moments and the martial arts on display is top-notch. Hsiao Ho plays a very annoying character but shows fantastic fighting and acrobatic skill. It is nice to see Gordon Liu back playing monk San De and Lau Kar Leung has a great role as a Manchu general. The plot is all over the place and the ending a bit flat but still a good addition to the trilogy.
The remasters on both films are very good, the 2K remasters show great detail and bold colours. Audio gives you the choice of Mandarin, Cantonese or English dubbed in original lossless mono, all sound fine and clear. Subtitles are redone and are clear and understandable. other extras include –
- Interview with star Gordon Liu, filmed in 2003 – very interesting interview where he discusses his career and his co-stars.
- Citizen Shaw, a French TV documentary from 1980 directed by Maurice Frydland, in which Sir Run Run Shaw gives an all-access tour of the Shaw Brothers backlot (including behind-the-scenes footage from Return to the 36th Chamber), remastered in high definition. Geat rare vintage documentary giving some great behind-the-scenes footage as well as brief interviews with director Chor Yuen and actor Yueh Hua.
- Hero on the Scaffolding, an archive featurette produced by Celestial Pictures in 2003
- Alternate opening credits sequences for both films
- Hong Kong theatrical trailers for both films
- Image galleries for both films
Another great disc from Shawscope Volume 2 and this set is a must-buy for any fans of these movies.
FILMS – 7.5 and 7 PICTURE – 8 and 8 AUDIO – 8 and 8 Extras – 9