This is another Shaw Brothers Classic fro 1977 – Executioners from Shaolin. This story revolves around the revenge plot of a young man against Pai Mei, after he kills his master and many of his Shaolin Brothers.
The movie opens showing off a pretty cool battle between Pai Mei and the head Shaolin Master, leading up to his death. We are then introduced to Hung Hsi-Kuan as he leads Shaolin’s men to safety, right after a rather heroic last stand made by Tung Chin Chin (played by Gordon Liu). The men flee and join a travelling opera group.
When they arrive in a small town, Hung Hsi-Kuan meets a young woman named Ying Chun. Ying Chun is the master of a Crane style, while Hung Hsi-Kuan is a master of Tiger style, they have a light sparring match and become good friends. Months later they get married (and goes through some strange stuff to consumate his marriage) and start a new life and have a son named Wen-Ding.
10 years later, Hung Hsi-Kuan is training hard for his fight against Pai Mei, and decides to finally face him. When he does he is beaten quite easily he still manages to escape. Upon his return home he trains again, this time for 7 years, before going back and this time being killed by Pai Mei.
It is then left up to his son, Wen Ding, to find a way to defeat Pei Mei. So Wen Ding uses his knowledge of Crane style and his fathers book on Tiger style to create a combination of the two and face Pei Mei.
A Real Kung Fu Classic
First of all you’ve got a movie based around the legendary Chinese figure Pei Mei. Pei Mei is a Chinese Priest and one of the Five Elders who historically survived the attack on the Shaolin Temple by the Qing Dynasty Imperial regime. He then sold out his brothers and betrayed them to the imperial government.
No evidence actually suggests he existed in reality, but the legend speaks for itself as he is known as ‘White Eyebrows’.
Whether or not he was actually real, Shaw Brothers brought to life a colorful and entertaining character that has since been paid tribute to in top movies like Kill Bill vol. 2. He is Kung Fu master with a special trait – he can suck his genitalia up into his groin and protect it from attack – a skill I always thought was hilarious and somewhat fictional ( apparently it really exists! Don’t take my word for it though ). On top of that, earlier in the film Pei Mei’s weakness is to attack his vital points between 1pm and 3pm in the afternoon. He manages to develop himself past this schedule however.
What’s really cool is how the Tiger style of Hung Ksi Kuan seems to be ineffective against Pei Mei in this movie, and it his Wen Ding who combines both styles to create a fighter Pai Mei cannot deal with. The old story of style against style is used pretty well here, and the evolution of the new style from both Crane and Tiger is an interesting idea and is used well in the story.
The Action and Martial Arts
As mentioned above, there is a strong presence of solid Kung Fu styles in this movie, and the movements of each is performs technically, in a really entertaining fashion. The authenticity of the Shaw Brothers leading men are always shown off well, but this movie I think is a bit of a step up as the choreography is well thought out including many different elements of these styles.
In terms of the entertainment you see much of the same – even paced rhythm which has the Shaw Brothers name all over it – not a bad thing. The Shaw Brothers action and storytelling has a gained a cult following all over the world, and it’s a movie like this one that helps that reputation.
All in all a decent display of traditional martial arts in an entertaining movie that’s backed by a decent story line. Another movie for the lovers of the classics!
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Executioner from Shaolin
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