The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

 (780)7.71 h 52 min1978R
This internationally renowned, award-winning, trailblazing masterpiece broke all the rules (and box-office records). The legendary director's charismatic adoptive brother stars as an anti-Ching rebel who learns what it truly takes to be a martial arts master, chamber by challenging chamber...
Liu Chia-liang
Gordon Liu Chia-huiWang YuLo Lieh
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Liu Chia-yungHsu Shao-chiang
Mona Fong
Celestial Pictures Limited
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Foul languageviolence
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4.7 out of 5 stars

780 global ratings

  1. 80% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 12% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 6% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 1% of reviews have 1 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

Bitter EnzReviewed in the United States on March 28, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
bored and alone one weekend afternoon
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I first saw this film when I was a teenager, bored and alone one weekend afternoon. This was in the days of broadcast TV with pitifully few choices, and I saw this movie called Master Killer come on, its title for a while in the US. I sighed, got some Doritos, and prepared myself to be cheesed to death. Well, before long, I was transfixed. Fast forward a couple of decades, and I bought this wonderful movie on DVD. Even better, if anything, than the first time I saw it. The hero's struggle to be accepted in and then progress through the imaginative training stages was simply captivating. It's got a nice, understated sense of humor, wonderful cleverness, a captivating hero in Gordon Liu, and a great quest narrative in the form of training. Compared with the hammy overacting and campy characterization of most of the Shaw Brothers movies (though I love them), the 36th Chamber stands out as high drama. My favorite of the Shaw Brothers movies and maybe second only for me to Enter the Dragon.
15 people found this helpful
kinakomochiReviewed in the United States on October 31, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
A powerful wayback machine to a childhood without the internet, watching Kung Fu Theatre Sundays
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There are many Shaw movies that comprise my memories of growing up in the '80s... but this Gordon Liu flick is one, if not THE best of them all, even Clan of the White Lotus IMO (and apologies to all that think so -- it deserves to be up there :D).

The best thing by far about this movie, is the storytelling. We see San Te go from nearly dying as a young rebel, rescued by Shaolin... his talent, determination, and hard work in the Chambers, each of his teachers giving him a unique style, perspective, or technique, strict but fair... then rejoining society and bringing down the leader of the evil Mings that killed his father -- all with some honestly *amazing* martial arts choreography through it all.

Favorites are the Li Yoon Too Chi (head monk)'s two-swords vs. San Te's triple-section staff battles (oddly his name 'san-te' is actually 'three virtues' in hanzi, but the same pronunciation can mean 'three hands', like the weapon)... the fight with Lo Tsing and his soldiers... and of course the final battle with General Tin. Gordon Liu has said many times, he laments that so many modern Hong Kong martial arts stars, never bother to practice actual gungfu... and this film is a perfect explanation why.

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (or 'Master Killer' as it was and is for me)... satisfies much like the classic Steven Spielberg film -- all characters, even (or esp) the comic relief, seem fully-fleshed out and you *feel* as if you've been on San Te's long adventure alongside him. That seems a quality missing not only from a great majority of martial arts films past and present... but all films since Y2K esp -- coherent storytelling.

Bonus: the lighting, color, soundtrack, and feel of this film... bring me right back to single/early dbl-digit age, Sundays after the beach... meat on the hibachi and Budweisers popping open as my uncles and cousins watched Kung Fu Theatre with us, late '70s/early '80s. This movie literally never fails to bring back a flood of memories from that age.

And on top of that, it's a pretty good movie. Five stars, easy ;)

PS: there's another Shaw movie about a mother and father (mom is an expert on Crane Style, father Tiger Style) who meet and have a child who is forced to learn Crane... and learns while training on a Brass Man energy-meridian training statue, the secret to how to kill the near-invicible man (a Pai-Mei-like long bearded guru) who killed them. Don't know if I'm smooshing together memories of two movies tbh... but am reasonably confident it's one movie. Anyone know the title?
8 people found this helpful
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United States on October 6, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Must-watch for kung-fu fans, not for everyone else
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Honestly I think general audiences would rate this film a 1 or 2 star. The plot is there in the first 15 and last 15 minutes of the movie, the rest is a diversion. There's a lot of cheesy stuff, the dubbing is good for an old kung-fu movie but bad by today's standards. Kind of a movie you watch just to see what happens, not because there's a compelling story.

For a kung-fu fan though, this movie is excellent. Lots of action. Scenes are fluid and fun. Half the film is training montages but they aren't like normal training montages, they do a much better job of conveying the depth of training the character goes through and the struggles he endures. I couldn't look away from the film, every scene had a little catch that made me want to see how things played out. I was so impressed by how much length they went to, to make every scene feel like it was really happening. Even though things are cheesy by today's standards and all the metal of all the weapons are obviously fake, the movie made it easy to suspend disbelief. There were a lot of "cute" parts in the training that were satisfying as well but i dont want to spoil them.
4 people found this helpful
joel wingReviewed in the United States on May 21, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
1 of the Shaw Brothers all-time classics
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36th Chamber of Shaolin is an all-time classic Shaw Brothers film featuring Gordon Liu. It plays upon a common trope of Hong Kong films of the Han Chinese struggling against the Manchus who ruled the country. That’s struck home by Liu’s teacher who talks about patriotic Chinese who are fighting to liberate their country. He inspires Liu to join the resistance which eventually forces him to flee to the Shaolin Temple where he learns martial arts. The story developed this theme more than others of the time which just took it for granted since they were for a Chinese audience that knew their history.

The movie is known for its extensive training sequences which were always a mainstay of Kung Fu films. This one however had Liu and the others at Shaolin going through several levels hence the title. It’s one of the main draws even more than the fighting.

It was also highly influential. The first scene where a Chinese resistance fighter jumps from a roof into the middle of a Manchu procession might be familiar to some as it was borrowed by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Another time Liu has to carry water as part of his routine at Shaolin which was referenced in Kill Bill Vol. 2 which also had Liu in it. Finally it helped spread the myth of Shaolin Kung Fu around the world.
One person found this helpful
Mark SReviewed in the United States on April 30, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Must Watch for Martial Arts Fans
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The first time I heard about this movie was from the Wu Tang Clan when I was young and I kind of figured it was a joke movie, but it is not at all. The acting is a little hammy, but it works perfectly. I loved every scene in the film. It also has probably the best training sequence of any martial art film imho. It's my favorite at least and I've seen a lot of martial art films. I highly recommend it, especially if you're into the genre.
11 people found this helpful
HunterReviewed in the United States on June 16, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
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Wow, seeing this movie brings me back 40 years ago, I love these Kung Fu movies, all of them, especially the ones with the white haired master, I remember running home from elementary school to be on time to watch these movies come on tv at 3pm, then had the privilege to watch them in the theater in canal street, in Manhattan, NY and what a spectacular movie they were on the big screen, it was $1.50 to watch, I was floored, I would stay there with my mother and cousins and watch it again, I loved it and still do, thank you for the great entertainment Mr Shaw and actors :)
One person found this helpful
Thoughtful ConsumerReviewed in the United States on June 29, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
The Story is a Bit Weak
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As with typical youth, they do stupid stuff like be overtly defiant to a superior force. Gee... speaking your mind does not mean there are no consequences. In this situation, it's death... but these fools think they can do whatever they want, whenever they want.

So rebel youths want to become subversives, and get their teacher and parents killed due to plain stupidity. If they wanted to be rebels, it might have been smarter to be in a different town, and use an alias. Moral of the story, children think they are smarter than everyone, and will make decisions which get their elders killed.
Yeah RightReviewed in the United States on January 11, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Classic Film
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I am not a huge martial arts film person; however, this film is a classic. I rank it as an essential movie along with the Bruce Lee films, Jet Li’s Fist of Legend, John Woo’s The Killer and Hard-Boiled, the Zatoichi films, Touch of Zen and a few of Jackie Chan’s films.
The thing that makes this film unique is it shows you the steps that the main character goes through to train and learn the skills needed to fight. The storyline other than this training is really almost an after thought that bookends the film, even though that plot is enjoyable enough. I highly recommend this film.
6 people found this helpful
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