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36th Chamber of Shaolin, The (BluRay) 
Written by: on March 31st, 2010

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1978
Director: Chia-Liang Liu
Writers: Ni Kuang, Eric Tsang Chi-wai
Cast: Gordon Liu , Lo Lieh, Chia Yung Liu, Wang Yu

BluRay released: March 2nd, 2010
Approximate running time: 111 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Interlaced
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital mono Cantonese, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin, Dolby Digital mono English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
BluRay Release: Dragon Dynasty
Region Coding: Region 0
Retail Price: $19.97

Synopsis: During the Qing dynasty, a young student named Liu Yu-De (Gordon Liu) secretly helps fight oppressive Manchu forces. When the Manchu forces capture Liu’s co-conspirators and kill his family. He escapes to the Shaolin temple where he hopes to learn the art of Kung Fu so that he can teach it to the people so that they can defend themselves against the Manchu forces. After the Shaolin have accepted Liu renaming him San Te and he has been with them for a year. He asks them if they will teach him Kung Fu and as his training progresses his training ends up being much harder than he expected. In order to complete his training San Te will have to pass through all the 35 chambers. Each chamber has been designed to challenge an aspect of the human endurance and sharpen his mind. He quickly masters the basics as he moves on to actual kung fu and weapons training.Shaolin Temple is the source of all kung fu and the Buddhist headquarters were divided into Northern and Southern temples. After the death of Bruce Lee martial art movies started to lose their appeal with general audiences. The Lau Brothers (Gordon Lau Kar-fai, aka Gordon Liu and Lau Kar-wing) had built up a following and reputation while making films for the Shaw Brothers. With the 36th Chamber of Shaolin the Lau Brothers would push the martial art cinema to the forefront of mainstream cinema and its reputation as one of the greatest martial arts film ever made is well deserved.

The story may be simple and the characters may not be the strongest. What makes The 36th Chamber of Shaolin is its outstanding martial arts and exceptional training sequences that lift this vengeance theme kung fu film a notch above the rest. Lau Kar-wing’s direction is sure handed and inspired as he infuses elements of real kung fu with grace and humor thought behind every move. Most of the films success is do to the brilliant performance from Gordon Liu who shaved his head for this role and kept the look ever since.

By the late 1970’s Gordon Liu would prove himself as one of the greatest kung fu stars of the decade and Warner Brothers after the death of Bruce Lee approached Gordon Liu as Lee’s Successor. They would change their mind and hire Yul Brynner instead as the lead in The Ultimate Warrior. The action scenes are an important aspect to the films success and its focus on the journey of Liu Yu-De to become a fighter is a key element to the films charm.

Ultimately The 36th Chamber of Shaolin features some of the most powerful images of kung fu training ever committed to film. The film also marked the beginning of a remarkable string of hits that made Gordon Liu a star worldwide.

The BluRay:

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 interlaced  anamorphic widescreen. There are issues with ghosting and there are a few instances where details tend to look to soft. Also this release appears to be a PAL to NTSC conversion with the time length coming in at 1:50:56 while the previous DVD release from Dragon Dynasty clocks in at about 1:55:35. At least the colors and flesh tones are in line with the transfer for Dragon Dynasty’s DVD release. There is nothing about this transfer which improves upon the Dragon Dynasty DVD release and in many instances that DVD is superior to the transfer for this BluRay.

This release carries over the three audio options (Dolby Digital mono Cantonese, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin and Dolby Digital mono English) from Dragon Dynasty’s DVD release. All three audio mixes clear and balanced throughout. Removable English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles have been included.

All of the extras from the Dragon Dynasty DVD release have been carried over for this release. Extras include the original Theatrical Trailer, a home video trailer and T.V. spot, a photo gallery with thirty stills, a concert video for Wu-Tang Clan’s “Gravel Pit”, trailers for other films directed by Chia-Liang Liu, trailers for Shaw Brothers and Dragon Dynasty films, interviews with Gordon Lui (17 Minutes), RZA (10 minutes) and Film scholars David Chute and Andy Klein (8 Minutes) and a 16 minute documentary titled “Shaolin — A Hero Birthplace”. The main extra is an audio commentary with RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan and Film scholars David Chute and Andy Klein. Overall Dragon Dynasty’sBluRay release for The 36th Chamber of Shaolin fails to take advantage of the possibilities of this new format.

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