Heroes of the East [中華丈夫] (1978)
AKA Shaolin Challenges Ninja, Drunk Shaolin Challenges Ninja, Shaolin Vs. Ninja, Challenge of the Ninja
Starring Gordon Liu Chia-Hui, Mizuno Yuka, Cheng Kang-Yeh, Ching Miao, Kurata Yasuaki, Kato Naozo, Harada Riki, Sumi Tetsu, Shirai Manabu, Yana Nobuo, Nakazaki Yasutaka, Omae Hitoshi, Lau Kar-Leung, Norman Tsui Siu-Keung, Huang Pa-Ching, Ou-Yang Sha-Fei, Simon Yuen Siu-Tin, Chow Siu-Loi, Lee Hoi-Sang
Directed by Lau Kar-Leung
Expectations: I expect greatness.
I’ve been dying to reach Heroes of the East in this chronological series; my friend told many tales of its greatness in the early days of my Hong Kong love affair in the late ’90s. He didn’t have a copy of Shaolin Challenges Ninja, but his copy of Master Killer became my first exposure to Shaw Brothers films. Shaolin Challenges Ninja remained in the back of my mind, waiting for its day. I could’ve watched it long ago, but with this self-imposed chronological journey I couldn’t just skip right to it, no matter how many years have passed! Upon finally watching it — via Arrow’s incredible Shawscope Vol. 1 boxset — it was everything I always hoped it would be.
The Chinese title translates to The Chinese Husband, a more apt, but less exciting title than Heroes of the East. We meet Ah Tao (Gordon Liu) on the day of his reunion with his Japanese bride, Yumiko (Mizuno Yuka), whom he hasn’t seen since they were children. Their fathers arranged the marriage to compliment and enhance their business relationship, but Ah Tao, remembering her as a runny-nosed, ugly girl, tries to figure a way out with the help of his friend Shou (Cheng Kang-Yeh). He quickly changes his tune when he catches sight of her beauty… if only he knew how much their cultures will clash! It starts with her refusal to observe Chinese marriage customs, but it escalates into a full-scale martial battle between the arts of their respective countries.