Heroes of the East (1978)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2005-07-23
Summary: One of the best ever...
I had the great honor of attending a demonstration and talk by Gordon Liu a few years ago in Brooklyn, and I was able to ask him a question. I wanted to know, with the multitude of classics he was in, what was the favorite film of his career? He thought for a just a second before saying "Shaolin Challenges Ninja." An audible murmuring agreement came from the crowd and he smiled. He went on to say that he loved the way the film was able to show the multitude of styles Chinese martial arts encompasses and their effectiveness against other fighting arts. Shaolin Challenges Ninja (Heroes of the East) certainly accomplishes that and could be one of the finest Shaw Brothers films produced during the 70s.

Gordon Liu plays Ah To, a young man from a rich family who is in an arranged marriage with Kung Zi, a Japanese girl. After the ceremony, they find out that they are both well versed in the martial arts, Ah To in Chinese wu shu and Kung Zi in karate, judo and ninjitsu. They start to constantly challenge each other with different weapons and styles, as well as verbal barbs attacking the history and effectiveness of the opposing countries' martial arts. After losing every challenge, a frustrated Kung Zi returns to Japan. At a loss for how to get his wife back, Ah To decides to use Kung's pride against her and offer her a fighting challenge. Her friend Takeno (Yasuaki Kurata) reads the letter and gathers masters from each Japanese discipline, feeling the challenge was an insult to all Japanese martial arts. They arrive in China looking to even the score with Ah To with a series of duels designed to show the superiority of Japan's martial arts.

This film is a dream come true for the kung fu fan. The story is simple enough to not get in the way of the fights while still moving the plot along. There is a good blend of humor, drama and of course, furious fighting. Liu Chia Liang's choreography is top-notch and provides Gordon Liu with an incredible array of weapons and styles to use against his opponents. (If I had to bet my life on it, I would say you are actually watching Liu Chia Liang himself performing some of the most difficult fight sequences when Ah To uses the three section staff and spear.) The Japanese masters are also a blast to watch, using little seen weapons such as the Sai and chained hook against Ah To. The coup de grace of the movie though is the final duel between Gordon Liu and Yasuaki Kurata. Fists, feet and weapons fly every which way as the two battle in the air, on the ground and even in the water. The pair's battle with Takeno using Japanese Crab Fist style and Ah To using Crane style is especially exciting. This is one Shaw Brothers film that should not be missed by any martial arts film fan. It absolutely will not disappoint.
Reviewer Score: 10