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10 Brothers of Shaolin
10 Brothers of Shaolin (1979) is a real middle ground kung fu film. As Taiwanese cheapie, it isn't too bad, and Dong Wong Tao is a good lead, but there is just something missing. It is a f b-film, with all the b-film foibles. What makes a successful b-film is the energy, subtext, or inventiveness that makes you forgive the weaker bits like performance and basic or no-plotting. 10 Brothers of Shaolin just really lacked that energy to take me away, drop my jaw, and wish I could shave my head and go study the fighting arts at an ancient monastery. All I kept thinking was that the Ming leader everyone was trying so hard to protect was a real dweeb, chubby, out of shape, and always huffing and puffing a few steps behind. He hardly seemed like much of a revolutionary saviour worth saving.
While the action and entertainment gets better as the film goes on, including a nice bit of pole fighting by female star Chia Ling, mostly I just slogged through the film. It is pretty telling when youfr kung fu film has a good performer like Lueng Kar Yan looking slow and awkward because of bad choreography. Hell, that choreography even grinds one of his fight scenes to a halt by having some Ching archers take out his opponent for him. So, I never really lost myself too much, and in terms of the fighting, I cannot recall much that really stuck out as exceptional or incredibly notable, other than the way of defeating the villain which is the old Invincible Armour way of overcoming an iron body style. And, in some weird bit of plotting, they even provide the main villain with a long sad sequence after his son is killed, effectively giving the bad guy some sympathy, so by the time the final fight comes between him, Chi Yuenng, and two Shaolin brothers we barely know, you aren't really routing to hard for the guy to be defeated.
The DVD: Crash
Picture:Full-screen. Cropped, washed out, worn out, on its last legs print. Okay, so I've seen worse. Sure, two years ago I would have been more forgiving. But with Celestial doing a fair job with Shaw Bros HK releases and Fox stateside doing some admirable effort towards presenting old school kung fu films in a more pleasing light, well, I've become jaded.
I realize it is one of the more difficult markets in terms of securing decent prints, so sometimes one has to make do with release es that are basically cobbled form poor sources. And of course, the better the film the more forgiving you are. In this case, the muddy color, vhs contrast, scratchy, soft print did'nt help what was an already less than fantastic viewing experience.
Sound: Mono. English dubbed. Typical. Muffled. Reverb drenched. At one point the dub refers to a martial move as "Chinese karate" which lets you know the people behind the English language versions of these films were pretty clueless.
Extras: Chapter and Fight Scene Selections.— Crash trailers.
Conclusion: Lackluster quality and pretty mediocre film make this a casual purchase at best for fans, at the most a rental for most chop socky fans.