These Shaw Brothers movies are really just awesome. The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter is a movie from the mid 80′s starring Gordon Liu, and is another weapons based film with top notch choreography and exciting fight scenes.
The movie starts off with a well known family the Yangs. The Yangs have a respected Pole Fighting art and are known for their prowess on the battlefield. At the very beginning of the film, the Yangs go off into battle but are betrayed by a Government official named General Pan Mei.
Everyone in the battle, all of the brothers and the father die, except for 3. One is captured alive and taken away (and never mentioned again) whilst the other 2 escape. While one brother returns home and is completely insane and uncontrollable, the other (played by Gordon Liu) seeks out a Buddhist Temple to become a monk.
During his stay the head monk Abbot travels to visit the Yang family and inform them that brother Wu-Lang is alive, shortly before being killed by the conspiring government’s henchmen.
One of the Yang Sisters then ride out to meet Wu Lang but is captured. Wu Lang then ventures out to rescue her and help reclaim the Wang family name.
Gordon Liu’s Character
Wu Lang travels to the Buddhist temple and requests to be a monk, but is told he cannot by the head Abbott. Interestingly he is pushy, aggressive and violent but doesn’t see that this is opposite to the way of Buddha and the main reason for his denied acceptance.
He insists on having his head shaved (which he does himself) and even cuts the sharp blade off the end of his spear.
Over time they cover his slow transformation from an aggressive brute to someone a little more ‘monk-like’ (but still a bit aggressive). He walks into the ‘Wolf-Defanging’ training hall. Whilst all of the monks are training to de fang the wolves, Wu Lang insists you should kill one and let the blood scare the others off.
Of course the monks proclaim that as Buddhists they intend to only teach the wolf a lesson, not kill the wolf. This theme is mentioned later when the monks join Wu Lang in his battle, surprisingly killing many men rather ruthlessly (Buddha wouldn’t be happy!).
There’s a mixture of quality in this film…
Like other Shaw Brother movies I’ve seen, the transfer is crystal clear, sharp and has awesome picture quality – something you rarely find in older movies. But like usual, the sound is pretty flat (it has a mono soundtrack) but passable.
Most of the sets on the movie are grand but the battle at the beginning of the film is quite obviously a slightly claustrophobic set with the sky simply painted on the wall behind. This really puts a date on the movie.
But all in all – it matches the style! Despite what would normally be a shot against the movie, the old fashion soundtrack and closed in sets actually give you that feeling of old classic cinema (even though it’s not that old at 30 years).
A Change of Direction
Originally Sheng Fu’s character was intended to be the hero of the film. Sheng Fu unfortunately crashed his Porsche into a cement wall after filming (before the film was finished) and he had to written out of the film. His chracter instead was driven crazy and Gordon Liu took over the hero role.
Interestingly Sheng Fu was living in Bruce Lee’s old house and died almost exactly 10 years after film – during the filming of a movie in which he would become the hero. It would be interesting to see what the movie would have been with him as the lead.
The Action and Martial Arts
As with other Shaw Brothers movies the work is superb. Technical weapon work with a tiny bit of wire work thrown in there makes for an awesome blend of Kung Fu and Action.
The fighting in this movie isn’t bad, but I was particularly impressed with the battle between Wu Lang and The Head Monk toward the end of the film. This fight scene shows many techniques but is also fast paced and very exciting. I literally sat up when it started – awesome stuff.
As usual Gordon Liu’s work is fantastic, and this movie is no exception!
More info on DVD & Blu Ray regions here