Back in the mid-1980s, when was around 10-14 years old, there was a show on one of the basic cable channels called either Black Belt Theatre or Kung Fu Theatre...I can't remember which (whenever they came back from commercial, they would quote from Confucious before resuming the film). They played lots and lots of Shaw Brothers films from the 1970s, among other martial arts films. I remember trying to tune in every Sunday afternoon to get my fix of kung fu action.
Anyway, these days I barely remember anything about the movies I saw in those days...I remember a scene here and there, but nothing major. One movie, though, burned itself into my brain and I've never been able to forget it -- that film was Five Masters of Death (aka Five Shaolin Masters). About six months ago, after not having seen this movie for well over a decade, I decided to see if it was still as great as I remembered so I hopped on the internet and found a place where I could buy it on VHS.
This movie is still excellent. My VHS copy is of understandably poor quality, but the film is still a joy to watch. Each of the five protagonists specializes in a different style of fighting, as do the opposing five antagonists, so the film is chock full of great kung fu. I also find the story to be more engaging and epic in feel than most martial arts movies I've seen (however, I am far from being an authority on the genre). The theme music which plays repeatedly throughout is great...it helps give the film its epic feel and is very catchy--I find myself singing it in my head for days after watching this movie.
At any rate, I love this movie. I wish there was still something like Black Belt Theatre (or Kung Fu Theatre) on cable so I could catch some more of the Shaw Brothers era of kung fu film. Martial arts films of today use undercranking and especially wirework far too much--I find myself more impressed by films like Five Masters of Death which rely on "natural" skills.
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