The Iron-Fisted Monk (1977) is Sammo Hung's brilliant directorial debut. Though the revenge plot is average for kung fu films of the time, the martial arts action and choreography are extraordinary. Iron-Fisted Monk marked the beginning of Hung's movie making prime. In the late 70's and early 80's Hung stared in and directed some of his best films including: Warriors Two, The Magnificent Butcher, The Prodigal Son, Knockabout and The Victim. The Iron-Fisted Monk was the film that got his directorial career rolling.
In the Iron-Fisted Monk, Sammo Hung plays "Husker," a young civilian who is taken in and trained by Shaolin monks after his uncle was killed by the Manchus. Seeking vengeance he eventually leaves the temple. After a group of Manchu officials make trouble in a small town, Husker teams up with a local man named Liang and the "iron fisted monk" Brother Tak (Chan Sing) to finally bring justice to the evil Manchu officials.
The martial arts action and choreography in this film are unbelievable. The film features some of the "hardest" kung fu you will ever see in a Sammo Hung film. Sammo does a great job playing to his strengths, providing a good mixture of martial arts and acrobatics. When this film was made Sammo was young and very near his physical prime. He is very fast and powerful and gives one of his better physical performances. Chan Sing also gives one of the most inspired physical performances of his career. Along with kung fu, the film features a lot of weapon fighting including: swords, spears, knifes and staffs.
The film was made by Golden Harvest studios, which means high production values and a talented stable of actors to work with. Notable appearances in the film include: James Tien as a Shaolin instructor, Casanova Wong as a young monk and Lam Ching-ying as an extra. Fung Hak-on (Warriors Two, Magnificent Butcher) plays the villain yet again and does a very convincing job.
Unlike many of Hung's films, Iron-Fisted Monk has a very serious tone. There are some comedic touches but they are overpowered by the intense drama. The Iron-Fisted Monk is one of Hung's more violent films, featuring very aggressive fight sequences and lots of bloodshed. The movie also includes a few brutal rape scenes. The rape scenes are very graphic and intense and, in my opinion, should have been toned down or left out completely. There is also a ridiculous nude scene in a brothel featuring Wu Ma. The scene was meant for comic relief but should have been left out also. The rape and nude scenes are the only detractions to this otherwise brilliant martial arts film.
The Iron-Fisted Monk was Sammo Hung's first effort as a filmmaker, but it is hard to tell. The martial arts action in the film is superb and outshines most other films made at the time. There are a few weak spots but overall it is a top notch genre film. The Iron-Fisted Monk is one of Sammo Hung's best works and is definitely in the top 30 best martial arts films of all time. The film is definitely not a family friendly Sammo movie but it is highly recommended for hard core kung fu genre buffs.
Martial Arts Genre Rating: 8/10
- "You're a Shaolin monk. How dare you kill indiscriminately!"
- "We're here to rid this world of a rapist and a murderer!"