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蔡李佛小子 (1976)
The New Shaolin Boxers

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 11/04/2010
Summary: Simple film

Not a very subtle or complicated film - a gang of thugs terrorise a town, and everyone is too afraid of "trouble" to stand up to them - except puglisitic young Fu Sheng. His attempts to take on the villains earn him a distinct lack of popularity amongst the locals, even as the thugs get more brutal and audacious. Eventually he comes across a villain he cannot defeat (played by Wang Lung Wei) and his teacher steps in to save him - which will eventually cost him his life. The teacher sends him off to a temple to learn Choi Lee Fut kung fu, and Fu Sheng eventually returns to town and uses it to take on the bullies once more.

This was the first Shaw Brothers' film I've watched in a year or two, and it was nice to return to a familiar style... but it's not a particularly well-crafted or entertaining example of it.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 04/15/2007

While watching Zhong Jian (Alexander Fu Sheng) defeat a gang of thugs brandishing knives in “Grandmaster of Death” I thought of an all but eternal cycle of bad karma, reincarnation on lower levels and thousands of thousands of years as a hungry ghost. Both Fu Sheng and his attackers seemed caught in such a predicament—they kept attacking him, waving their knives and he kept beating them up first using his limited kung fu skills, then the full repertory of Choy Lee Fut that he learned from a wise old man on the other side of the mountain. The gangsters never figured out their problem—they continued to attack and continued to be bloodied—and Zhong Jian was just as dense. While the gang led by Leung Kar-Yan at his most vicious slaughtered rivals, enemies and the occasional uninvolved citizen, it didn’t dawn on Zhong to do kill them until very late.

Other than Zhong’s uncle the audience doesn’t empathize with any of the characters because none of them have any recognizable human qualities. The bad guys are utterly despicable; most of the population is willing to stand around uninvolved while men bleed to death in the town square and women are kidnapped and raped and Zhong, while altruistic and noble, was more annoying than anything else. The script provided no motivation for anyone to do anything so the constant knife attacks and beat downs made as much sense as anything else.

The story wandered off a bit to leer at the deflowering, gang rape and subjugation of a young woman but that sequence was so mechanical that the fear, anger and horror that should resonate in those scenes fell flat.

The scenes of Zhong Jian slowly learning the patience necessary to master Choy Lee Fut, including carrying water up a very long flight of steps only to have it dumped on the ground by Master Zhu were well done and enjoyable, particularly if one reminded oneself that this movie was made in 1976 before scenes like that became all but obligatory. During the last fight, the showdown between Zhong and chief villain Feng (Johnny Wang Lung-Wei) there were black and white flashbacks to Zhong learning sword strokes, kicks or punches. He then used the move that had just been illustrated. This added exactly nothing to the effectiveness of this fight scene and actually detracted from what was a well shot and brutal showdown.

With enough wooden acting to build a subdivision, a script that couldn’t get things from point A to point B and excruciatingly uninteresting direction, the Shaw Brothers technical hallmarks—opulent sets, dead on lighting and sharp edged cinematography—went to waste.

Not recommended

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 01/29/2007
Summary: I prefer briefs, myself...

Zhong Jian (Fu Sheng) is a nice enough kid – always eager to help out family and friends against the local scoundrels. Trouble is, his efforts always end up making the situation a lot worse, and pretty soon, everyone starts to resent him. He’s even thrown out of his Martial Arts school for being naive, although being possessed with a “good heart”. The local bunch of low-level thugs with aspirations of being master criminals make life hard for him, and finally his ex-Master takes pity and takes him to an old Buddhist monk (Chan Wai-Lau – most memorable from his appearance in FEARLESS HYENA) on a remote hill. There, Zhong trains hard and eventually leans Choy Lee Fut. – a Shaolin Martial Art. Armed with his newfound skills, he returns to his village to seek revenge.

THE NEW SHOALIN BOXERS opens with a demonstration of Choy Lee Fut, and for a while you’re left thinking you’re watching a Martial Arts instructional video instead of a movie. When the film itself kicks in, pretty much the whole of the first half hour is largely plotless and things only happen to link fight scenes together. While Fu Sheng’s abilities are quite good, it’s hard to feel as if anything’s at stake. You might as well be watching a WWE match. The cast of heavies does include some good choices – Leung Kar-Yan and Johnny Wang are the main bad guys – but mainly it’s the henchmen who bear the brunt early on.

Things do get a little better when Zhong takes to the hills and learns Choy Lee Fut, but to be honest, we’ve seen these training scenes a million times in other movies since this was made (admittedly, they weren’t as hackneyed in 1976 as they were towards the end of the decade). Another plot point is also added when a family member sells his fiancé into prostitution later on, leading to Zhong attempting to rescue her, but she’s so wet and gullible it’s hard to whip up much sympathy for her.

THE NEW SHAOLIN BOXERS seems to me to be a whole bunch of people spinning their wheels until something better came along. I’m certainly disappointed that the screenplay by Ni Kuang and Chang Cheh is so overwhelmingly weak – they usually supplied some of the more superior scripts in the genre in the early 70’s. That said, Fu Sheng is pretty good, and his performance is probably the only thing worth watching this for.

One for the die-hard fans only – all others should probably avoid.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: SBates
Date: 02/01/2001
Summary: Minor entry in Chang Cheh filmography

Wong Long Wai plays a villain with a claw hand weapon in this solemn kung fu picture by Chang Cheh. Fu Sheng is a young brash kung-fu adept with a strong ethic, but his motivations are always misinterpreted by his fellow townspeople. He goes to the mountians to learn Choy Lee Fut from Chen Hui Lou (Fearless Hyena), and grows up a bit in the process.Only in the end, when he dies while defeating the enemy, do the people realize he was quite the hero. On New York TV, they titled this one DEMON FIST OF KUNG FU, I guess referring to the claw-handed villain.
It's fine for a 'classic' revenge oriented kung fu film, as most of Chang's films before 1978 were at the very least decently made.