Shaolin Mantis [螳螂] (1978)
AKA Deadly Mantis
Starring David Chiang, Cecilia Wong Hang-Sau, Lau Kar-Wing, Lily Li Li-Li, Wilson Tong, Norman Chu Siu-Keung, John Cheung Ng-Long, Teresa Ha Ping, Wai Wang, Ching Miao, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui, Lee Hoi-Sang, Lun Ga-Chun, Wong Ching-Ho
Directed by Lau Kar-Leung
Expectations: High. Lau Kar-Leung, c’mon!
David Chiang, you got me two weeks in a row! Just like Shaolin Hand Lock, Shaolin Mantis isn’t really a Shaolin movie! My spirit wilted when I realized. Technically, the origins of Mantis Fist lie in Shaolin, but you’d never know it from the movie. Once again I looked to the film’s Chinese title, and, wouldn’t you know it, there’s no mention of everyone’s favorite flammable temple. The Chinese title translates to Mantis or Praying Mantis, which is a cool title, but in this film’s case it’s also a huge spoiler; our hero literally learns Mantis Fist over an hour into the film. So don’t go into Shaolin Mantis expecting much in the way of Shaolin or Mantis, although the Mantis Fist you eventually get is pretty dope stuff.
Shaolin Mantis begins in the hall of the Kangxi Emperor, ruler of the Qing Dynasty from 1661–1722. A royal scholar (Ching Miao) has brought his studious son, Wai Fung (David Chiang), to serve the emperor. Wai Fung is a student of many arts, and after proving his martial abilities by defeating cameo performers Lee Hoi-Sang and Gordon Liu, the emperor entrusts him with a most important mission. He suspects that Wu Sangui, a Ming Dynasty general who defected to the Qing, is plotting a revolt against the Qing. The Emperor fears that the mighty Tien family will join the rebellion, so he sends Wai Fung to gather evidence on their illicit dealings. The game is afoot!