16 February 2008 | BrianDanaCamp
SHAOLIN INTRUDERS nonstop fight action from director Tang Chia
SHAOLIN INTRUDERS (1983) was the second of three films directed by Tang Chia, a longtime fight choreographer at Shaw Bros. and early partner of Lau Kar Leung, who became a director in his own right starting in 1975. (The two men are generally credited with revolutionizing martial arts choreography in Hong Kong movies.) The plot here provides just enough string to tie together all the intricate fight sequences and, for the most part, they're pretty spectacular, involving all manner of exotic weaponry and virtuoso acrobatics and featuring some of the best kung fu talent of the era. The plot has to do with the mystery of who's killing off the members of four high-profile martial arts clansTiger, Wind, Cloud and Dragon. Two independent heroes, Lei Xun (Derek Yee) and Qiao Yiduo (Jason Pai Piao), decide to conduct an investigation to learn the identities of the masked killers, most likely because their female friend, Ye Qinghua (Liu Yu-po), who's hot for Lei Xun, has been accused of involvement in the attacks because her parents were among the Six Demons of Guandong slaughtered by the four clans in an ambush seen in flashback. The heroes recognize the blows that killed the Wind Clan members as the work of "Shaolin Jingang Palm," so they decide to interrogate the monks of Shaolin Temple.
The Abbot of Shaolin (Chan Shen) agrees to allow the questioning, but only if the two heroes will first accept three challenges posed by the kung fu-fighting monks of Shaolin and their different formations. If the two prevail, then Ye Qinghua will be allowed to pick out the four killer monks based on her witnessing their escape from the Wind Clan's villa after the slaughter there. The challenges involve impressive formations of Shaolin men, including rows of stick fighters perched on each other's shoulders. Finally, it comes down to Derek and Jason fighting the Abbot atop a formation of wooden benches with the loser being the first one to touch the ground. While these challenges are fun to watch, they don't have much to do with the narrative and instead pad the storyline to keep us waiting for the key information the heroes need to proceed. Eventually, the monk who heads the Hall of Discipline freaks out at the prospect of rogue monks in Shaolin and throws quite a grievous and deadly tantrum. But it's not all over. Further revelations await, as well as a rather shocking betrayal.
Derek Yee was already a dependable fighting hero in Shaw Films (DEATH DUEL, THE SENTIMENTAL SWORDSMAN, HEAVEN SWORD AND DRAGON SABRE) when he made this. Jason Pai Piao went back and forth between villain and hero roles at Shaw and plays a likable sidekick here who indulges in frequent drinking, gambling and laughing. Lead actress Liu Yu-po was new to me when I saw this although I've since seen her in other Shaw films including THE WEIRD MAN and PORTRAIT IN CRYSTAL. She has a better role in SHAOLIN INTRUDERS and she offers a strong, dark beauty and hard-edged presence. She didn't make a lot of films, though.
Phillip Ko, always a formidable opponent in 1970s and '80s kung fu films, plays the monk, Jinxiang, who's next in line to become Abbot and he has numerous fight scenes here. Lee Hoi San, another familiar figure in kung fu films, plays monk Kongxing, who runs the Hall of Discipline at Shaolin and is the one who has the memorable meltdown over the identification of four monks as the killers. Ku Feng plays one of the clan chiefs. Future HK film star Elvis Tsui (ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS: BLOOD OF THE LEOPARD) plays a fighting monk.
The storyline isn't the most compelling, but it does hold one's interest. The main reason for the film, of course, is a series of elaborate fight scenes involving multiple combatants and the film certainly delivers the goods. One early fight scene is filmed on a country road, but the rest were all shot on Shaw Bros. studio soundstages. For the record, the other films directed by Tang Chia were SHAOLIN PRINCE and OPIUM AND THE KUNG FU MASTER.