The Eighteen Jade Arhats [十八玉羅漢] (1978)
AKA The Eighteen Jade Pearls, Jade Killer, The Eighteen Claws of Shaolin, Jaws of the Black Dragon, Eighteen Deadly Arhats, Bruce Lee – The Flying Dragon
Starring Polly Shang Kuan, Lee Jan-Wa, Lo Lieh, Chang Yi, Phillip Ko Fei, Lung Fei, Ching Kuo-Chung
Directed By Jen Chieh Chang
Oh Eighteen Jade Arhats, you looked so good when we first met. You presented yourself with nothing but class and promises of wonderful times. How my heart fluttered at your awesome box art full of white-eyebrowed old men in dexterous kung fu poses and bizarre multi-limbed training machines. Your plot summary read like a smorgasbord of wu xia thrills and edge of your seat action, a veritable buffet of tasty kung fu goodness. Your opening credit sequence featuring a duo of seasoned martial artists fighting a 20-foot-tall, 14-armed robot statue nearly brought tears of joy to my eyes. Oh where did it all go wrong? I thought we had something special. Instead, our love fizzled out in a sea of dizzying confusion and broken promises.
That’s the gist of it. The Eighteen Jade Arhats, in its eager attempt to give you the world, throws a little bit of everything at you at such a frantic, breakneck speed that it ends up playing out like a collection of Shaw Bros. trailers instead of anything resembling a real motion picture. At one moment you have a dizzying, treetop wire-assisted fight scene, and at the next you have a supernatural kung fu zombie thriller. This would of course be acceptable, welcome even, if there was a shred of coherent storytelling holding the funky mish-mash together. But instead we are left scratching our heads as the film carelessly jumps from subplot to subplot like a drunken frog looking for a specific fly in a vast sea of horseshit. Hell, sometimes subplots are discarded or flat-out forgotten altogether. The viewer of course, is so batshit confused by this point that they either won’t notice or simply won’t care.