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  • SHAOLIN RED MASTER is one of those kung fu movies where everything is shrouded in mystery for so long into the story that by the time we learn what we need to know, we find it wasn't worth the effort. This is too bad because there are some good performers and a handful of good fights, including a great knockdown, drag-out hand-to-hand bout at the end between star Chi Kuan-Chun and villain Chang Yi.

    Directed by Sung Ting Mei, the film opens with a lengthy treatise on Tibetan Buddhism and its spin-off Lamaism and its Red and Yellow branches, all of which have virtually nothing to do with the movie proper. Instead, the plot is all about a stolen box of Ancient Ginseng originally prescribed for an ailing kung fu master by a doctor who was then killed. Ten years later, the doctor's son, Su (Chi Kuan-Chun), seeks revenge and winds up mixing in with a group of shady characters including Flying Tiger Chi Pao (Lung Fei) and the attractive but deceptive Miss Hung (Hu Chin). All paths eventually lead to a `Red Master' called `Old Devil' (Chang Yi) who is also looking for a hidden Jade Buddha.

    Su continuously intervenes when other characters are attacked, usually by killer monks, but he gradually arrives later and later until, one by one, the various characters die before he can save them, none of which seems to bother him very much. There is a fat waiter and his equally hefty wife who help out Su, but also provide questionable comic relief, including a scene where the couple is about to make love but are interrupted by the boss lady, Miss Hung.

    It's not a bad movie, but the unnecessarily busy plot slows things down and actually keeps the hero from doing what he does best, i.e. fight! Better known for playing Hu Wei Chien in several of Chang Cheh's Shaolin Temple films, Chi Kuan-Chun is in fine form here, as fit and toned as ever. Short, but with long and well-muscled arms and legs, Chi found few opponents who made a good fit with him on screen, but he is particularly well-matched with Chang Yi in the final battle. Chi made lots of films in Taiwan after leaving Shaw Bros., from the sublime (EAGLE'S CLAW, also with Chang Yi) to the ridiculous (IRON NECK LI). SHAOLIN RED MASTER was shot on location in Taiwan and while it's well-directed it pales next to the same director's TRAITOROUS (1976).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Su (Chi Kuan Chun) is searching for those responsible for his parents' deaths. He is told by a former servant that Flying Tiger Chi Pao (Lung Fei) is being released from prison and has clues to the murders. Su heads off to follow Pao in the hopes of getting the information he needs. Su soon becomes Pao's unrequited body guard - fending off killer monks and other individuals who want Pao dead. Su is also in search of an ancient ginseng, which is in the hands of restaurant and hotel owner Miss Hung (Woo Gam) who is acting shady. Su befriends Miss Hung's waiter, Ah So (Ko Hsiao-Pao ), who helps Su out along the way.

    The search for Su's parents' killers and the ancient ginseng also leads to the discovery of a missing Jade Statuette. There seems an endless array of people out to take out Pao and then Su as Su gets closer to the truth. To quote a CKC character from 1977's Eagle Claw "We both know you don't have the ability to match me". Su easily subdues all attackers. His owner truly match is Red Lama Tso Ting Hsin (Jimmy Lee Gam Ming) during two fights. The finale fight is remarkable not to mention intense.

    The plot is muddled but the fights are nice training for Su along the way. He will need to be at his best when facing Red Lama Tso Ting Hsin.

    I gave this an 8 for the cast and fight scenes. The plot needed to be more cohesive, but not every movie can be a 7 Man Army for Five Masters of Shaolin.
  • The movie opens with the narrator explaining about lamas and the significance of color and the comparison to Shaolin. Though in the title, it has nothing to do with the story. Chi Kuan-Chun does a demonstration fight then an old monk explains the whole back story. Lung Fei is released from prison and Chi Kuan-Chun saves him from three monks trying to kill him. Lung Fei goes to a tea house to find a man who owes him big money but the man is dead and Woo Gam is in mourning. Once again Chi Kuan-Chun is there, this time to help Woo Gam.

    If you are a fan of Got Siu-Bo he plays the pickpocket waiter and gets to do a love scene. I like Got Siu-Bo but I had to fast forward through the love scene.

    The story drags and there are scenes that have nothing to do with advancing the story. The exposition even gets repetitious. This movie is really suitable only for hard core fans of the genre and even then it is the sort of movie a hard core fan would only watch once and then forget.
  • SHAOLIN RED MASTER is a confusingly-plotted kung fu movie that suffers from a typically poor presentation, at least in the western version. The story is convoluted and features numerous sub-plots that never seem to gel or particularly work together. As a case in point, there's an opening sequence which looks at Buddhism and features Phillip Ko as a kung fu fighting monk, but this has nothing to do with the rest of the movie and Ko soon disappears, never to be seen again.

    Following this, the plot involves an abandoned child, the hunt for a stolen consignment of ginseng, and a jade Buddha statue. Confused yet? You will be, trying to make head nor tail of the senseless plotting in this film, and to compound the issue the fight scenes aren't even that great, coming across as poorly choreographed and quite repetitive.

    The characters are probably the best thing in this film, as they're all quite well drawn and I liked the way each has his or her hidden motivation. There's also an overweight couple who are used to supply comic relief, which is occasionally in quite bad taste. Martial arts expert Chi Kuan-Chun is rarely given a chance to shine in a film that doesn't really have any stand-out fight action, although the final bout with Chang Yi isn't too shabby.