21 April 2001 | BrianDanaCamp
Kung Fu showcase for the great Fu Sheng
GRAND MASTER OF DEATH (aka DEMON FIST OF KUNG FU, 1976) was directed by Chang Cheh, the pioneering Hong Kong. kung fu filmmaker. With a simpler story and a lower budget than most of Cheh's Shaw Bros. epics, this film nonetheless boasts three top kung fu performers and a steady stream of well-staged fights.
Alexander Fu Sheng stars as an eager kung fu student who insists on intervening when townspeople are bullied by the town bosses and their hired thugs. For his own good, he is sent away by his teacher to a mountain temple where he learns new techniques from a venerated kung fu master. When Fu Sheng returns to town, his original teacher has been killed and the gang is trying to force a female friend of his into prostitution. He then goes into action against the town bosses, played by kung fu greats Wang Lung Wei and Leung Kar Yan (who worked together as villains in numerous Shaw Bros. films).
While not a masterwork of the genre, it is still well above average and a worthy showcase for the considerable skills of its dynamic star. Fu Sheng's actress wife, Jenny Tseng, also appears in the film.
ADDENDUM (4/7/17): I initially reviewed this on the basis of a pan-and-scan, English-dubbed VHS tape. Since then, I've acquired the R3 Celestial DVD edition, letter-boxed and in Mandarin with English subtitles, and it's like seeing the film for the first time. The fight scenes are superb and there are plenty of them, with the best saved for the lengthy finale. What I need to emphasize about this film is that it's one of the very few where Fu Sheng is the sole heroic lead and doesn't have to share the fighting chores with anyone else. There are only two major villains, but, as played by Wang Lung Wei and Leung Kar Yan, they are formidable enough to keep Fu Sheng busy for a tidy 96 minutes. The script plays like a rough draft for THE CHINATOWN KID (1977). On the DVD, the film is preceded by a three-minute demonstration by Fu Sheng of the Choy Lay Fut (Tsai Li Fu) technique.