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  Return to the 36th Chamber We'll Have Everyone Off The Scaffolding
Year: 1980
Director: Lau Kar-Leung
Stars: Gordon Liu, Wang Lung Wei, Hsaio Hou, Yu Tsui-Ling, Yang Tsing-Tsing, Chen Szu-Chia, Kara Hui, Chang Yi-Tao, Chaun Yung-Wen, Chang Tao, Chu Lee King
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: The workers at this dye factory have a problem, and it's to do with their treatment in the workplace. They are finding the material they have been given is fading too fast, but when their representative discusses this with the bosses he finds the workers are blamed for the issue and a group of Manchurian heavies have been brought in to improve the production. Since these men must be paid, Boss Wang (Wang Hung Lei), the head of the company, reduces the salary of the locals by two percent, and threatens to lower it further. Understandably they are most upset, but these Manchurians are intimidating so the employees are powerless - until one has a brainwave.

That is to use a spot of subterfuge to get their own way, involving a certain Shaolin monk familiar to you if you had seen returning director Lau Kar-Leung's The 36th Chamber of Shaolin - ah, but wait a second, it's not San Te at all, this is a conman called Jen-Cheh Chao who happens to look a lot like him. The reason for that was the same star in the role, Gordon Liu, except just to confuse us he played both San Te in the more serious-minded original, and his looky-likey in this sequel which wasn't really, in spite of the character showing up later on played by Chu Lee King in very much a supporting role. So you would be better off pretending this was an entirely separate work, even though there were certain aspects they had in common.

For a start, all that grim business at the opening which makes it look as if you're in for Shaolin Industrial Dispute: The Movie is quickly adapted into a more comedic effort as this was ostensibly a comedy, and there were parts which raised a laugh or two, though that said other aspects were less amusing and appeared to be more sincere. It was true enough Chao was a humorous persona for Liu, and he is hired by his foreman brother's right hand man Ho Chiao (Hsaio Hou), an actor labouring under a huge set of comedy teeth, and furthermore he is meant to pretend to be San Te to persuade the bosses that the workers have more strength in their favour than they actually do.

So those scenes are quite chucklesome, but it all goes horribly wrong when Chao is found out as the thugs call his bluff and of course he doesn't have the skills to back up the ruse where his pals have been behaving as if he has supernatural kung fu skills to spare. Thus disgraced, and making the fair enough point that it wasn't his idea so how could they have expected him to follow up his assumed boasts, off Chao goes to the real Shaolin Temple to see if he can gain entry and some much needed learning. As you may have noticed our hero isn't really up to snuff where martial arts is concerned, which has it that he spends most of the movie as the underdog and quite often getting beaten up to a degree, meaning there's quite a wait until the much-anticipated Gordon Liu/bad guys' collective ass handed to them shenanigans inevitably occurs.

In the meantime, all that training the monk character endured in the first movie is replicated for the middle half hour, though the twist is that Chao doesn't twig he is training. San Te denies him a place among the novices, so sets him to build scaffolding around the temple for a year, tying rods and beams together near-endlessly and growing more frustrated the further this goes on. Quite why he doesn't catch on there's a motive for this is not clear, but offers more chances for humour, such as it is, though eventually Chao gets sick of his treatment and ready to admit defeat he heads back to his home town to discover the workers are in a bad way, downtrodden and exploited. If you can't see where this is going this may well be the first Hong Kong action movie you've ever watched, as they did have a template to adhere to, well, this does at any rate, and the final battle makes the waiting around worth it with a terrific display of Liu's talent, tying up the villains and using the poles in an unusual but wild demonstration of scaffolding fu. Music by Eddie Wang.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Lau Kar-Leung  (1934 - 2013)

Chinese director and actor and one of the most influential martial arts film-makers of the 1970s. Kar-Leung joined the Shaw Brothers studio in 1965 where he worked as an actor and fight choreographer, before making his directing debut in 1975 with the kung fu comedy The Spiritual Boxer. A series of martial arts classics followed, including 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Shaolin Mantis, Dirty Ho, Mad Monkey Kung Fu and My Young Auntie. Kar-Leung was a strong believer that fight sequences should be shot in single, wide shots to showcase the natural skill of the martial artists, which was at odds with those directors who prefered wirework and fast editing.

Kar-Leung continued to direct throughout the eighties, with period films like Shaolin Temple, starring a young Jet Li, and modern-day action flicks Tiger on the Beat and its sequel. In 1994, worked as fight arranger on Jackie Chan's Drunken Master II, but was controversially sacked from the production when his methods clashed with Chan's. In retaliation, he directed his own Drunken Master 3 later the same year. Kar-Leung's last film was 2002's old-fashioned Drunken Monkey, once more for Shaw Brothers.

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