Director: Joseph Kuo
Notable Cast: Wen Chiang-Long, Yi Yuan, Lu Ping, Liu Hsiu-Yun, Yee Hung, Yuan Shen, Yeung San-San, Tseng Chao, Yen Chung, Hu Chiu-Ping
While the phrase “never judge a book by its cover” can easily be translated to cinema, it’s not the poster that’s the initial obstacle for Shaolin Kung Fu. On the contrary, the original artwork (as seen at the top of this review) is quite incredible in its own right. What is the speed bump in getting audiences to watch this Joseph Kuo underground classic is the title?
It’s fairly easy to play the “kung fu movie name generator” game by just remixing some generic words like ‘sword,’ ‘ninja,’ ‘Shaolin,’ or ‘kung fu.’ In the case of Shaolin Kung Fu, it’s a shock that they couldn’t at least think of one more word to tack on there to make it slightly more distinct. It’s a film about a rickshaw company, maybe throw that in there somehow? Hell, I’d even take Shaolin Kung Fu Vengeance to designate the tone of the latter half.
Nonetheless, we are left with Shaolin Kung Fu and in spite of its forgettable title, the film is surprisingly one of Joseph Kuo’s best. It’s fairly straightforward with its plotting and characters, but a breakneck sense of pacing, a sweet marriage at the center, and some visceral fight sequences make this a hidden gem in the martial arts world. If anything, it’s perhaps the biggest surprise for fans in the Cinematic Vengeance box set from Eureka.