Five Fingers of DeathShaw Brothers’ 5 Fingers of Death – a Hong Kong Martial Arts film from 1972 that helped create the Kung Fu movie craze in the US during the early 70’s (before Enter the Dragon hit the scene).

The movie tells the tale of a practicing martial artist named Chi Hao.  Chi Hao lives with his master, training diligently whilst spending a lot of time with his master’s daughter Yin Yin, who he has fallen in love with.

When an old friend visits who trains at another school run by Shen Chin-Pei.  The two have a friendly sparring match for old times sake, a match that sees Chi Hao break even with his old friend. Chi Hao’s master begins to question whether the best path for Chi Hao is study under him or Shen Chin Pei.  It seems that of the two  fighters Chi Hao used to be the strongest of the two, but now they are merely even showing a lack of advancement in Chi Hao’s skills in comparison to his old friend.

From there Chi Hao’s master sends him off to train under Shen Chin-Pei and instructs him to do his best and enter the tournament, upon winning he can marry his daughter and prevent some of the more thuggish clans from winning and making a name for themselves.

Along the way he encounters trouble from opposing clans and is initially not allowed to train at Shen Chin-Pei’s school.  But after showing great patience and character he is taught the Iron Fist technique and is chosen to enter the tournament and fulfil his master’s wish.

Chi Hao  – not initially the hero you hope for…

In the beginning of the film Chi Hao comes across as a strong fighter, but once he gets to Shen Chin-Pei’s school, he becomes the bitch.

He gets into multiple fights and loses quite convincingly to begin with, until he skill starts to develop.  Although I do like the idea of the underdog training himself to a level of superior skill – Chi Hao loses just so badly for most of the film.

Chi Hao

He doesn’t just get ‘defeated’ – he is beaten down beyond any doubt. Like I said – he’s like the bitch of the town (almost).

But luckily things get better and we see Chi Hao turn into the onscreen hero we’d expect.  His values and personality as a good person, which are strong even in his weaker times, strengthens him and his resolve as he develops his skill.  This seems to be what separates him from the other fighters in the movie – his good character.

Action and Martial Arts.

The fights and choreography of this movie are very dated.  The movie was made in 1972 and it shows.

At the time of release I can see that these would have been exciting in comparison to other movies out and with nothing like it in the United States I can also understand it’s impact over there.

You’ll see lots of big jumping flips, and attacks where both fighters leap 3 meters into the air and stroke at each other half way.  The big looping punches and kicks are all there and really allow the viewer to se exactly what’s going on in each fight.

This style precedes the movies where a lot of the techniques were more recognized and shortened (straight punches and faster kicks, etc) and serves it’s part as a good milestone in the choreography of kung fu films.

Bolo Yeung

A Piece of Trivia: There was also an appearance by Bolo Yeung (Bolo from Enter the Dragon) earlier in the film!

The Verdict?

A classic which demonstrates very clearly the styles and methods of the day (1972), it’s an interesting enough story but may not be suitable for audiences who don’t appreciate the classics.  If you like adrenaline fueled fights – it’s not for you.  Enthusiasts of the classics, especially Hong Kong cinema, will appreciate it.

On DVD –

Region 1 (US & Canada)
5 Fingers of Death on DVD

More info on Movie Regions here.

25 Martial Arts Movies All Fans Must See - FREE

Subscribe to our Newsletter to Download this FREE Ebook. You'll also receive the latest updates and info on Martial Arts and action movies!

Thank You, please check your email to confirm your subscription :)