Return to the 46th Chamber is another Shaw Brothers film with Gordon Liu in the forefront, but it is in no way a sequel to the 36th Chamber of Shaolin! It does share some common events (eg, going to the 36th Chamber of Shaolin to learn Kung Fu) but the edvents and characters are entirely new!
The movie starts off by introducing us to a dye factory which has decided to give it’s workers a 20% pay cut, to pay some new workers – some violent Manchurians who are taking charge of their workplace.
Fed up with the pay cut and new problems they face with their new superiors, the get a young man named Chao Jen Cheh (Gordon Liu) to pretend to be an Abbot from Shaolin, who steps in and sorts out the problem.
After a faked fight, the Manchurians run back to their boss and tell him of this Shaolin Monk and his incredible abilities. But the boss is sharp, he asks the monk to fight his men, and he ends up losing before the Machurians beat up the rest of the workers.
Depressed the workers and Chao Jen Cheh argue and bicker of the situation before Chao decides to take his role as the monk to the real Shaolin temple in order to attempt to break in and learn their martial arts. So he heads off to Shaolin, but faces a lot of obstacles set in front of him by the monks in charge.
A Parody of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin?
I don’t know if this was the intention, but this movie almost seems to parody the origina 36th Chamber of Shaolin. The events and the training are similar only Chao seems to bumble his way around and try to deceive the monks.
One big difference in this film however is how the monks get Chao to perform certain duties before training him. Unknowingly though, Chao is being trained by the very work he is performing, and learns the skills he needs to look after himself through hard labor and the body conditioning it requires.
It has some pretty funny moments but it offers some good insight into training in general. I like the way they used similar methods and principles to condition Chao’s body and movements to match that of Kung Fu, since all martial arts is (initially) practice and repetitive movement to program a natural instinct or reflex movement that requires little to no thought behind it – otherwise known as muscle memory.
It makes a nice little statement toward this approach of combat training, all while delivering some funny moments and light hearted story.
The Martial Arts and Action
The message mentioned in the last couple of paragraphs is perhaps the biggest martial arts them in this movie, but it does deliver some action also – mainly when Chao returns to his friends and family.
We see some nice martial arts choreography as Chao discovers his movements and realizes that he does indeed know some Kung Fu. The fights have the usual Shaw Brothers quality to them with some acrobatic moves and fast paced exchanges.
It’s a classic for sure, but not a list topper. I definitely recommend that fans of old skool martial arts films and kung fu comedies check it out – it’s pretty entertaining.
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Return To The 36th Chamber
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)