08 Feb Two Champions of Shaolin Review By Gary Williams
Two Champions of Shaolin
Starring Lu Feng, Lo Meng, Chiang Sheng, Candy Wen Hsueh Erh, Yueng Jing Jing, Sun Chien, Chin Siu Ho, Wang Li, Yu Tai Ping
Directed by Chang Cheh
“You’re the Shaolin Hercules Tung Chin Chin, I’ve heard of you, you’re famous.”- Li De Dong
Two Champions of Shaolin presents the story of Tung Chin-Chin (Lo Meng) and Hu Wei-Chin’s(Chiang Sheng) fight against the corrupt Wu-Tang school and the Manchurian (Ching Dynasty) government. Shaolin Abbot Chee Shin has given strict orders to Tung Chin Chin to go and find Hu Wei-Chin so they can form a plan along with Monk San Te to fight the Manchus and help restore the Ming Dynasty. Tung has developed an incredible amount of strength and power yet he is gullible and arrogant. He also hates the Manchus (although he is half-Manchurian) and is eager to take revenge for his family. Abbot Chee Shin warns him about the Wu-Tang clan and Chee Shin’s former classmates Priest Bai Mei (the leader of Wu Tang) and Priest Fung Tei who are Manchu sympathizers.
Wu Tang has heard about Hu Wei Chin killing two of their clan and are itching to get revenge. Priest Fung Tei has a meeting with the top Wu Tang exponents: knife expert Li De Dong (Yu Tai Ping), young Wei Sing Hung (Chin Siu Hou), Pao San (Wang Li) and Ying Ju(Chiu Shing Chan). He tells them of his plot to crush the Shaolin and help the “rightful” Ching government. When the young and impetuous Wei asks why they are fighting their fellow Han Chinese Shaolin brothers, Fung Tei quickly assures him that he is too young to understand. After straightening Wei out Fung Tei hands out the specific orders: Li De Dong will go to Canton and kill as many Shaolin men as he can, Pao San and Ying Ju will go to Canton after De Dong, Wei will wait for his girlfriend Er Wan (Candy Wen Hsueh Erh) and Wei will be the third team to go to Canton to fight. Additionally, Wu Tang leader Pai Mei will send one of his students Ko Chin Chung(Lu Feng)and the three Yuen Brothers (who are experts at Monkey Style) to help. Fung Tei then gives all the Wu Tang fighters secret emblems to identify themselves and instructs them to obey whoever has the master symbol.
When Tung arrives in Canton two Wu Tang students fake a fight to ambush Tung. Tung demolishes the students, shows his immense strength (he is THE Shaolin Hercules), and is injured by the deadly secret throwing knives of Li De Dong. Tung manages to escape and is rescued by Chin Tai Lei ( Sun Chien) and his sister, Pei (Yueng Jing Jing). Li De Dong meets up with Pao San and Ying Ju to tell of his progress (injuring Tung Chin Chin). Tai Lei and Pei teach Tung how to counter the throwing knives and he gets revenge by using his newfound knowledge and kung fu to kill Li De Dong. While killing Li, he meets Shaolin brother Hu Wei Chin, who was beating up some Wu Tang men. They strike a fast friendship and discuss their plans. When Pao San learns that De Dong was killed by Tung, he issues a public challenge to Hu and Tung which results in Ying Jun being killed by Hu on the stage (in a most gruesome way). Pao San hatches a plan to kill Pei and Chin Tai Lei.
During the wedding of Tung and Pei, Pao San disguises himself, kills Chin Tai Lei and Er Wan kills Pei and Tung is captured alive( Hu Wei Chin was drunk and locked in the storeroom). Wei arrives and informs Pao of the impending arrival of Ko Chi Chung. At Hu’s place, new Shaolin fighters arrive and inform Hu of the massacre at See Sin Temple and of a hooded man and three men wearing monkey masks. Shortly, thereafter Wei arrives at Hu’s house to tell him of his plan to free Tung. He assures Hu he is a friend, although he is a Wu Tang student. While left in the custody of Wei and Er Wan, Wei helps Tung to escape. Er Wan suspects him and leaves to report this to Fung Tei and Pai Mei.
Ko Ching Chung and the three Yuen Brothers show up, befriend the Shaolin (especially Tung Chin Chin) and set a trap. Tung is badly injured and the Yuen’s monkey style is too effective for the remainder of the Shaolin men. Wei betrays the Wu Tang clan, helps Tung, and kills Pao San while Er Wan watches. Tung dies from his injuries after bending and snapping Ko Chin Chung’s back; Wei kills himself from the shame, and Hu Wei Chin kills the Yuen Brothers (dying after as well); two Shaolin fighters survive (as well as Er Wan).
Kung Fu content:
Two Champions of Shaolin is an interesting movie in terms of martial arts choreography. Given the standards of the fight directors (Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng, and Kwok Choy) the action is good, but not up to Venom Mob standards. Let me say this, Two Champions fights are good, certainly better than most, but not up to Venom standards. It makes me wonder what we would’ve seen if the supposed disagreement between Lu Feng and Kwok Choy didn’t happen!
Lo Meng’s fist style is always superb and the emphasis on his strength is always a plus in the movies. To me, his style looked less like a “Shaolin” style than in some previous movies (such as Invincible Shaolin). Chiang Sheng’s acrobatics seem purposely toned down which I think is a bad thing since that is his specialty and makes him standout. His duel with the Yuen Brothers seems a little uninspired and flat. Wang Li’s kwan dao is superb and he really brings it in his fights. I also wish we got more to see of Ying Ju’s kicking style; I would’ve liked to see a duel between him and Sun Chien! Lu Feng’s weapons work was fantastic as usual and in the tradition of Chang Cheh movies the end fight is crafted in brutality and heroic bloodshed. Then newcomer, Chin Siu Ho holds his own and proves he belongs on the Venoms team. His “Wu Tang” style is smooth, energetic, and he seems to be able to handle the choreography from his veteran Venom brothers. As I stated before these are by no means “bad” fight scenes, I was just expecting a little more from the Venom Mob.
With a slightly more complex revenge plot and some great Clan warfare (Shaolin vs Wu Tang) Chang Cheh manages to create another enjoyable flick. I love his ensemble movies because I like to see how the characters interact with one another and their motives. I also like Chang’s take on popular Shaw Brothers characters like Tung Chin Chin and Hu Wei Chin (who were portrayed in earlier Chang Cheh movies like Men From the Monastery and Shaolin Temple) in his later movies as they seem to be more human (we see Hu Wei Chin being drunk and Tung with a sense of humor and flirtatious). Additionally, we get to see Chang’s B Venom Squad starting to come together (Wang Li, Chin Siu Ho, Yu Tai Ping) and women characters in this movie! Speaking of which, I had a massive crush on Candy Wen Hsueh Erh when I was a kid and loved to see her in Shaw Brothers films!!!! While I have enjoyed Venom Mob movies more, Two Champions of Shaolin is more than adequate to satisfy the rabid kung fu film lover.
Gary Williams has been an avid fan of Shaw Brothers movies since the age of 7. He continues to enjoy martial arts movies, comic books, Capoeira and podcasting. He has several projects in the works including the forthcoming 12th Venom Podcast and The Dojo Fight Masters on Tumblr.