Raiders Of The Shaolin Temple (1982) Shao Lin nian si liu ma
Taiwan Kung Fu champion (1979 -1984) of Taiwan Sonny Yue in his first and only starring role plays Little Lu. Though not a monk Little Lu lives on the fringes of the famous Shaolin temple caring for horses. With him live a former monk expelled for eating meat and drinking, a young girl with a crush on him and two crippled kung fu experts. These crippled former monks are played by real life paraplegics Jackie Conn and frank Frankie Shum collectively known as the crippled masters which was also the title of the classic film that made them stars. One without arms (well he has a small Thalidomide style flipper for in place of one arm) the other without the use of his legs (They are present, but shrivelled and useless). The films storyline explains their handicaps as being the result of an encounter with the 24 Shoalin Bronze horses. These mechanical horses are kept in a training room at the temple. After a spate of crippling injuries and deaths at the hooves of the deadly horses, the room was sealed and entry forbidden. How ever the crippled masters believe Little Lu has what it takes to conquer the room and learn the secret of the deadly kung fu contained within.
While the Crippled masters secretly train Little Lu for an encounter with the horses, things are afoot within the Shaolin temple itself. Fearing that the Ching dynasty is growing so powerful it will soon turn on Shaolin the chief martial arts instructor there the powerful but hot-headed Wisdom decides to make a pilgrimage to other nearby martial arts schools to form an alliance. How ever the deadly Ching overlord of the area and his henchmen have a plan to kill Wisdom and destroy Shoalin. They send advance word to the schools wisdom visits to announce he has come to challenge them. On his arrival at the schools he finds himself instantly attacked, but survives by virtue of being hard as fuck. On his way back to the temple he is betrayed by a man posing as a disciple and ambushed, but again wisdom is too powerful for his assailants.
Although the film is currently available on DVD as raiders of Wu-tang the legendary sword masters don’t really have anything to do with it. It is in fact those other celluloid enemies of Shoalin, those pesky Tibetan lamas’s that play a major role. The evil Ching warlord summons four of the deadliest Lama fighters to him and soon we find out he is a former lama monk himself. He soon dispatches them to destroy the three Kung fu schools in his area, two fall but the Shaolin monks turn out to be too tuff for the Lama’s on their own and reinforcements are needed.
Meanwhile Little Lu is beaten badly by the bronze horses and has to spend time recovering in the hope that his master will let him make a second attempt. His master is pretty unhappy about not being told of the crippled masters sending Lu into the training room and gives the handicapped hero’s a good kicking. How ever it’s not long before they are back and with his masters consent Lu once again faces the challenge of the 24 Shaolin bronze horses.
All this leads up to a deadly showdown with Shoalin, Wisdom and LU on one side and Ching overlord, Lama’s and some ridiculously dressed warriors known as the stars on the other. The climatic battle that ensues ensues is brutal, bloody and great fun.
Raiders of the Shaolin Temple is must own stuff for old school kung fu fans. It up there with some of the better known titles of the classic kung fu era. Mechanical bronze kung fu horses, kung fu cripples, laughing maniacs, deadly monks and pesky lama’s … what more do you want? Such a shame Sonny Yue did not like working in the film industry, he could have become a major star of the time if this film is anything to go by. Chan Siu-Pang who plays Wisdom has appeared in some of my favourite Kung Fu movies including The 18 Bronze men, fatal flying Guillotine and Rivals of the Silver fox. He is great in the role as Wisdom and is as much the star of the film as Sunny Yue. The choreography is pretty good, with the more old school minimal wirework of the period leaving the stars to showcase real skills. The plot is actually pretty good and moves along at a fitting pace with plenty of fights, training scenes and general action packed in. You can normally pick this overlooked classic pretty up pretty cheap and I highly recommend you do if you’re a fan of this stuff.
Siu-Pang Chan ... Wisdom
Sonny Yu ... Little Lu