Shaolin Intruders [三闯少林] (1983)
AKA Battle for Shaolin
Starring Yee Tung-Sing (Derek Yee), Jason Pai Piao, Liu Yu-Po, Phillip Ko, Chan Shen, Ku Feng, Lee Hoi Sang
Directed by Tang Chia
Expectations: High. Love Shaw Bros. films and this came highly recommended.
I watched this movie because my friend and colleague, Uncle Jasper, recommended this as a Shaw Brothers movie that featured some of the best fight choreography he had ever seen. As a huge fan of such things, I had to see for myself what he spoke of. Uncle Jasper was not pulling a fast one. This is hands-down, one of the best Shaw Brothers movies I’ve ever seen.
Directed by Tang Chia, longtime fight choreographer at Shaw Bros., the film exudes kung-fu energy. The opening titles run over a group of Shaolin monks going through their training exercises. There is a fight scene towards the end of the opening credits where all the monks use wooden benches as their weapons. It was so well choreographed and exciting to watch, a fantastic fight sequence, and we’re still in the opening credits! Director Tang Chia was fight choreographer on countless other Shaw pictures. His credits list goes on for days, culminating in his three directorial efforts: Shaolin Prince, Shaolin Intruders, and Opium and the Kung-Fu Master. If the other two are anything close to the awesomeness that is Shaolin Intruders, then they are also among the best the Shaw Studio has to offer.
The plot is a fantastic revenge kung-fu drama, involving all kinds of murder, betrayal and intrigue. I found myself fully invested in the plot and caring about the characters. Clans are being murdered by a mysterious group of fighters. Our hero, Lei Xun the wanderer (Derek Yee), notices that the men were killed using the Shaolin Jingang Palm. Enlisting the help of his friends, Qiao Yiduo the gambler (Jason Pai Piao) and Ye Qinghua the ferocious female (Liu Yu-po), they travel to the local Shaolin temple and confront the monks. The monks require the trio to pass three tests before they will be allowed entrance.
The tests consist of three flat-out amazing fights. First up is Qiao Yiduo vs. five Shaolin monks. This is followed by Lei Xun vs. twelve Shaolin pole-fighting monks. The third test is a battle between the Shaolin Abbot (Chan Shen) and both Lei Xun and Qiao Yiduo. They fight perched atop the wooden benches from the opening credits fight, the first one to touch the ground declared the loser. Each fight ups the ante in terms of excitement and tension. The wire-work featured in all the fights is superb, easily the best I’ve seen in any Shaw picture. The sustained level of action and excitement contained throughout Shaolin Intruders is simply unprecedented.
Even with all that, it is nothing compared to the end battle with Phillip Ko Fei. This final fight is the ultimate definition of what a knock-out, drag-out fight should be on film. The fluid nature of the choreography and the skill of the actors is a joy to watch. The fight reminded me a bit of a video game as the combatants pursue each other through multiple areas, like any great multi-phase end boss fight. No quarter is given and blood flows freely as Derek Yee and Phillip Ko use every trick in their books to fend off certain death at one another’s hand. This is one of the great screen match-ups and one that you can’t resist to rewind over and over again.
I cannot rave about this movie enough, except to give it the four stars it deserves as not only one of the greatest Shaw Bros. films, but also one of the greatest kung-fu pictures of all time. Enjoy!