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?