The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

Chia-Hui Liu in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

The Shaolin Kid

When San Te (Chia-Hui Liu) wises up to General Tien Ta (Lo Lieh) and the regime of death for disobedience he has brought to the village, the young man escapes and goes on a quest to not only find the monks of the Shaolin Temple but convince them to train him no matter how long it takes. It is a rigorous set of skills which San Te learns as he has to navigate a series of 35 chambers where each skill is honed. But after completing the chambers and falling foul of the monks over suggesting they should teach the skills to everyone he returns home to confront and defeat the General.

In "Kickboxer" when Jean-Claude Van Damme needed to defeat the bad guy who killed his brother he tracks down an expert to teach him the skills of Muay Thai. When in "The Karate Kid" Ralph Macchino was being bullied by some high school punks he sought training from a janitor who was skilled in the way of martial arts. And I could go on because a common theme in martial arts movies is of the young man who seeks to be trained in a discipline in order to defeat a bad guy. And "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin" is no different as we watch San Te make his way through the gruelling 35 chambers of the Shaolin Monks in order to become an expert in martial arts before returning home to take on the General and his men.

What this means is that "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin" is all about the learning experience as initially San Te struggles to get to grips with the training and the lessons to be learned such as how to cross the water pit to the dining area without getting dirty. And so it goes one as after a small period of failing at each hurdle San Te works out how to master what he needs to even when at first it doesn't seem to have much worth. And to be honest each skill that San Te learns ends up an engrossing experience from banging a gong with a weight on a long stick to build up wrists to carrying buckets of water to build up shoulder muscles.

What this all boils down to is that you don't need to be a fan of old Hong Kong martial arts movies to enjoy "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin" as this uses the now familiar set up of various skills to be learned to become a complete fighter. Yes some of it is crazy but it is also surprisingly engrossing and all of it is nicely shot as well as acted.