Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 15th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: Taiwan, 1984
Directors: Cheung Kei, Dai Che
Cast: Alexander Lo Rei, Kim Fan, Wong Lung, Eagle Han Ying
DVD released: November 10th, 2014
Approximate running time: 87 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: Terracotta Distribution
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £9.99
Synopsis: Four monks are forced to flee the Shaolin temple after one of its own turns into traitor and has the Abbot killed. This traitor and those who he works for wants a sacred tome known as The Golden Sutra. Now on the run and in possession of The Golden Sutra these four monks have been entrusted with returning the sacred manuscript back to Tibet.
Hero of Shaolin has also been release under these alternate titles, Ninja Vs Shaolin Guards, Guards of Shaolin and the English language translation of its Korean language title, The War between Dragon and Tiger.
After a brief setup showcasing who the four monks are and giving each one a distinct personality. The film then launches into an all-out marital arts extravaganza. A few of this film’s standout action sequences include the scene where the Abbot is ambushed and murdered. During this scene his tripled teamed and still putting up a good fight, so to throw him off the female fighter exposes her breasts and this most unusual move proves to be his undoing. Another superb action sequence includes a scene where the fours monks and their female accomplice seek refuge is what appears to be an abandoned temple, albeit one with a lot of boxes that look like coffins. And sometime during the night the living dead rise from those boxes and attack them. Needless to say all of the fight scenes are inventive and a lot of fun.
Another area where this film often surprise in its use of humor which often comes as the expense of one the monk’s. This monk is in love with his cousin, the young woman who is accompanying the four monks. Not deterred he refuses to give up in his quest for her and it is no until he has a near death experience that she finally sees him in another light. Also it should be pointed out that the majority of this film humor is delivered in a slapstick way that often occurs during martial arts sequences.
Of course of these four monks that one that stands out most is this film star Alexander Lo Rei in the role of 1st brother. Other notable performances include Eagle Han Ying in the role of this film’s heavy, a traitor monk named Hung Gin. He makes a formidable villain that perfectly contrasts with the loyal and by the book character portrayed by Alexander Lo Rei.
Also trying to find info about this film’s cast was not easy and unfortunately I could not discover who the actress was who portrays the monk’s cousin. Which is a shame since she gives the most rounded performance the film. In one scene her character narrowly avoids rap and after her rapist has been subdues, she then stabs him repeatedly with a knife in the genitals. Overall what this film lacks in substance is more the makes up for with its solid action sequences and well-timed moments of humor.
Terracotta Distribution presents Hero of Shaolin in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s intended aspect ratio. The image never looks cropped or cramped. The source used is in good shape as there are only some very minor instances of print debris. Colors and flesh tones look accurate and details generally look crisp. Black levels are at best adequate, there are some mild issues with compression that are most noticeable during darker scenes and there is edge enhancement that varies in degree throughout. And it should be pointed out that there are no opening or closing credits included with this release.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital stereo mix in English. There are no issues with distortion and background noise is minimal. Dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. The sound effects and score sound appropriately robust when they need too.
Extras for this release include a stills gallery and a a trailer for Hero of Shaolin. Other extras include trailers for Crocodile, Breathless, GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack and Revenge: A Love Story. Overall Hero of Shaolin gets a strong audio / video presentation from Terracotta Distribution.