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少林寺十八銅人 (1976)
The 18 Bronzemen

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 08/28/2006
Summary: Watch this film!

Well, I’d been planning a big review for this one, but it seems that ewaffle’s got there ahead of me and has pretty much rendered my review obsolete, but here are my thoughts…

The 18 BRONZEMEN is quite a film. The plot will not raise any eyebrows or win any awards for originality (overthrow the Qing, restore the Ming, train at the Shaolin Temple for a decade or two, take revenge on the General that killed the hero’s family, etc, etc) but it does have enough quirks and twists and excellently staged fights to keep the discerning fan happy.

As ewaffle said, it is supremely difficult to keep track of the two kids who end up in the Shaolin Temple and for what reason. Even repeated viewings don’t seem to help much, to be honest. However, it is not really essential and doesn’t spoil the enjoyment half as much as you’d expect it to.

Like the 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN that came later, this film focuses on training for the lion’s share of the running time. The pupils must face many tasks, culminating in a showdown with the eponymous 18 Bronzemen – men who are painted bronze for reasons never explained. Once they have “graduated”, they can then go out into the world, and it’s here that our hero can finally avenge his family’s murder at the hands of the cruel Qing regime.

Murder, mayhem, intrigue and an unconvincing attempt by Polly Shang Kuan at passing for a man follow.

Overall the film is excellent, but it does have its problems. Aside from the confusing narrative in places, the film occasionally launches into flashbacks to events not covered previously. The intention is to reveal key elements or methods, but without the viewer having prior knowledge it just makes the audience feel cheated. Well, I did anyway.

However, 18 BRONZEMEN is a bit of a hidden gem as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t seem to have attracted quite the fan following as other kung fu films, but definitely deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 08/23/2006
Summary: Excellent action

“The 18 Bronzemen” has most of what we looked for in mid-1970s kung fu movies including plenty of fights, lots of heroism, bad guys who are really evil, monks with great eyebrows. The fight choreography is well planned and executed so that even the robot-like bronzemen seem, after a while, to have recognizable personalities. The three leads are very attractive although it is asking a lot for the audience to believe, as do the characters, that Miss Lu, played by the beautiful Polly Kuan, is a man when she is first introduced. Carter Wong spends a lot of time with his shirt off and more time looking demented. Tin Peng, despite having to wear an atrocious wig has matinee idol looks.

It is hard to follow which child has been sent to the Shaolin Temple and for what reason, a difficulty that the filmmaker must have realized since the action stopped twice for a summary of who did what to whom. The movie opens with the always evil officials of the Qing dynasty sending masked killers to slaughter the families of rebel Ming generals. Tang Siu Lung, the infant son of one of the families, is hidden in his grandmother’s house and then sent to Shaolin when he is five years old. There he connects with two other young men, Brother Wan a very determined monk and another aspirant who doesn’t quite have the same commitment, athletic skill, heroic deportment or ripped physique—or, as we discover much later the same commitment to the Tang family as does Brother Wan. We follow their progress through twenty years of training at Shaolin where we see too many scenes of the child actor who plays the very young Tang Siu Lung learning and performing kung fu. A little of that goes a long way and more than a little is boring.

The 18 Bronzemen themselves are an intriguing addition to the 36 Chambers of Shaolin. The first three are guys in odd looking helmets and armor while most of the rest are kung fu monks covered with bronze makeup. There is the usual quest through difficulties leading to redemption/victory/escape. In the last test the monk has to pick up a flaming cauldron and move it to one side so he can get through the gate it stands in front of. The only way to garb it is by using one’s forearms on the blistering hot rim and since this is decorated with a dragon those who finish the final task also pick up a dragon brand on each arm to show they are part of the brotherhood.

Carter Wong is a superb martial artist, as fit and skilled as any. Tin Peng does a decent job of impersonating someone who has had 20 years of kung fu training but obviously isn’t in the same class. The movie makes good use of this contrast—Tang fails to complete the course in his first attempt with the Bronzemen and barely makes it the second time while Wan has much less difficulty. Polly Kuan is energetic and very active—she kicks quite well but most of her action scenes involve jumping up to rooftops or are long shots using a double.

One very long shot is during the final confrontation, a battle that doesn’t seem to have much riding on it. Hei Chu Ying (Yee Yeun) the corrupt Qing official decides to take the field against the three Ming warriors. He arrives in a sedan chair with a gimmick—he has four more fighters made up and costumed to look like him. This conceit is abandoned almost immediately as the fight breaks into to parts—Miss Lu fights the four imposters while Wan and Tang try to deal with Hei. It is in keeping with one of the tenets of martial arts movies that the leader of a group of fighters, however old or enfeebled he me seem, is still the fiercest combatant. It is only when the good guys have fought their way to the emperor/minister/eunuch that the real battle starts. In this case Hei isn’t a good opponent since he has been shown as a brutal dictator but not a fighter as such. However it still takes every bit of cunning, strength and skill that Tang and especially Wan have in order to defeat him, with Wan making the ultimate sacrifice for the Tang family.


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 03/28/2002

This is my of my favorite old school flicks. A classic in its own right! I like the story and the overall acting by Carter Wong, Tien Peng, and Chiang Nan. The flick takes place during the Ching Dynasty. A Ming general (a cameo by Chang Yi) sends his son (later to be played by Tien Peng) off to Shaolin to avoid being killed by the Chings. Eighteen years later, the little boy, Tang Siu Lung, is grown and ready to leave Shaolin to avenge the death of his folks. He requests to leave the temple, but in order to leave, he must face the 18 Bronzemen. The 18 Bronzmen are a most difficult task. Facing these “bronzemen” is a test of courage, gung fu skills, and mental toughness. Luckily for Siu Lung and a classmate of his, Brother Wan (Carter Wong), they both overcome all obstacles and are able to defeat the bronzemen and lift a huge burning urn to tattoo themselves with the famous Shaolin crest of the dragon and tiger burnt into their forearms. Once outside of Shaolin, Siu Lung finds out his true identity and his new quest in life—revenge for the death of his parents by killing the evil Ching, Hei Chu Ying (Yi Yuen). Siu Lung meets his future wife (played by Polly Shang Kuan Ling Feng) but later encounters some startling bad news as his best friend, Ta Chi (Chiang Nan), is something that he could never have imagined! Putting aside the bad news, Siu Lung, his fiancé, and Brother Wan set out to kill Hei Chu Ying. Great flick by Joseph Kuo! Not to be missed!

Reviewed by: SBates
Date: 02/23/2001

Very heavily influenced by the King Hu style sword films. This has a female knight, a powerful evil eunuch, political intrigue, etc. this was also an influential film as well. It predates films like Master Killer with its depictions of the Shaolin training regimen and final test, and also introduced the bronze lo hans into the kung fu movie mythology.
The sequel and spinoff (8 Masters) are actually superior films.