Shaw Brothers Saturdays: ‘Executioners of Shaolin’ demonstrates that execution is indeed everything
Executioners Fom Shaolin
Directed by Liu Chia-Liang
Written by Ni Kuang
Hong Kong, 1976
The Shaw Brothers column is back after practically a one month absence! To get back on track in style, this week we take a look at a slightly earlier effort from one of the all-time greats, Liu Chia-liang, who is most fondly remembered for bringing fans The 36th Chamber of the Shaolin and Heroes of the East. Both of those iconic films were released in 1978, but just a couple of years prior he made Executioners from Shaolin. This is, in truth, the sequel to a Chang Cheh film from 1974, Men From the Monastery, which depicted the assault of the Shaolin temple by one of its own elders, Bai Mei (here played by Lo Lieh), who conspired with the Manchus. Both films are loosely based on historical events.
The film opens up with a very interesting scene in which the traitor Bai Mei does kung fu battle with the temple current head. The background, curiously enough, is but a room coloured in red. The focus should be, of course, on the fight itself. After a terrific exchange of blows, Bai Mei finally gets the upper hand and vanquishes the noble leader. Cut to the remaining Shaolin students fleeing the burning temple. The viewers follow Hong Xi-guan (Chen Kuan-tai) as he struggles to gather enough of his proverbial brothers in order to launch an assault on Bai Mei and avenge the death of their former master and reclaim the temple. However, as the saying goes, life gets in the way, in this particular example life takes the shape of Ying Chun (Lily Li), a street kung fu artist with whom Hong falls in love. They marry and even have a child (Wang Yu). Time passes, and as Bai Mei grows ever stronger, Hong decides to take his revenge, risking his marriage and duties as a father in the process…