8 September 2001 | BrianDanaCamp
Fu Sheng excels in rags-to-riches kung fu tale
Despite the title and its inclusion in Chang Cheh's Shaolin series, THE INVINCIBLE ONE (aka DISCIPLES OF SHAOLIN, 1975) has little to do with Shaolin Temple, nor do the main actors, Fu Sheng and Chi Kuan-Chun, play the roles they normally played in the Shaolin films (Fong Si Yu and Hu Wei Chien, respectively). Instead, the film focuses on a poor, wandering kung fu fighter who gets a job in a textile factory and works his way up to become the boss's right hand man, although he alienates his longtime friend (and secret kung fu teacher) who got him the job in the first place.
Director Chang Cheh liked rise-and-fall stories (see also BOXER FROM SHANTUNG and CHINATOWN KID) and this one enables him to give a strong, multi-faceted part to his regular star Alexander Fu Sheng in the role of a poverty-stricken villager who, more than anything else, values a good pair of shoes.
There are not as many major fights in the film as fans would like, although there are brief skirmishes sprinkled throughout. Fu Sheng really doesn't let loose until the two big fights at the end. The villains are played by Chiang Tao and Fung Hak On, two capable and reliable players, although Fu Sheng deserved a more formidable class of opponent, like the ones he faced in SHAO LIN MARTIAL ARTS, FIVE MASTERS OF DEATH, and SHAOLIN AVENGERS. The major flaw in this film is the absence of co-star Chi Kuan-Chun from any of the fights until the very end.
This is a minor entry in the Shaolin series, although it does have an interesting story and gives the superb Fu Sheng a chance to shine as an actor. It was shot in Taiwan and offers a badly patched-together soundtrack of cues ripped off from Italian film scores. In the tape reviewed, scenes of extreme bloodshed in the final fight were printed in black-and-white. The film was remade in Hong Kong in 1993 as THE BAREFOOTED KID.
ADDENDUM (4/1/17): I re-watched this film on the R3 DVD edition from Celestial Pictures, the first time I've seen the film in years and the first time I've seen it in widescreen and in its original language (Mandarin) with English subs. In re-reading my original review, I seem to have given short shrift to the film's superbly staged fight scenes. Fu Sheng is excellent in these scenes, on par with the best of his work. While there are long stretches without any action, there are certainly enough fight scenes to satisfy fans of the actor. The fights were all choreographed by Liu Chia Liang (aka Lau Kar Leung), who would later direct Fu Sheng in three films himself, including 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER (1984), the film Fu Sheng was making when he died in 1983.