Return to the 36th Chamber
AKA: Return Of The Master Killer, Master Killer 2, Return To The Thirty-Sixth Chamber, Return To The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin, The Return of Master Killer
Year of release: 1980
Genre: kung fu
Director: Gordon Liu
Action director: Gordon Liu
Producer: Run Run Shaw
Writer: Ni Kuang
Cinematography: Peter Ngor
Editors: Lee Yim-Hoi, Chiang Hsing-Lung
Music: Eddie Wang
Stars: Gordon Liu, Kara Hui, Hsiao Ho, Dang Wai-Ho, Wong Ching-Ho, Wa Lun, King Lee
Not rated; contains IIA-level violence
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Long recognized as one of the true classics in the old-school kung fu genre, Return to the 36th Chamber has gotten a new DVD release from Dragon Dynasty. While the DVD is light on extras, it's still a fine way to check out this movie if you haven't done so already.
In this loose sequel to 36th Chamber of Shaolin, director, action co-ordinator, and star Gordon Liu plays Chieh, a hustler who pretends to be San Te (the hero from the first movie) to try and con a few coins from the townspeople. He decides to use his talents for good means by helping his friends working at a fabric factory in getting their back wages from the company's boss. Chieh fools the manager at first, but his lack of real kung fu skills soon makes things worse for the workers. Dejected, Chieh heads to the Shaolin temple to try and learn kung fu for real.
As with 36th Chamber of Shaolin, much of the emphasis here is on training sequences versus actual fighting. That's not a bad thing, since the training still features lots of acrobatic and inventive martial arts work, and the end payoff of Chieh learning "scaffolding" kung fu gives the final fights a unique flavor that you're not going to see in many other old-school pictures.
Things aren't totally perfect. There's a bit too much emphasis placed on dopey comedy, complete with a character that has big fake buck teeth. Also, the cheap budget present in the majority of Shaw Brothers productions is readily apparent, and made even more visible by the new DVD transfer, since you can clearly see the flaws on some of the sets used. But on the whole, Return to the 36th Chamber truly represents the upper class of the kung fu genre, and remains a great movie some thirty years after its' initial release.
DVD notes: the Dragon Dynasty version's only extras consist of trailers for Fist of Legend, The Killer, and the label itself. The transfer is taken from the Celestial Pictures print, and looks great for a movie of its' age. As for the soundtrack, it is available in Dolby mono Cantonese, Mandarin, and English, with subtitles that are translated well and easy to read.
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