Today I watched Lau Kar-leung’s The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984)
The Yangs are a family of generals and spear masters for the Song Dynasty who are sent to the north to defend against encroachment from the Liao Dynasty. But another general in the Song army, Pun Mei, is jealous of their renown and betrays them to Liao forces. In the ensuing battle, the Yang patriarch and all of his seven sons are killed save for two, the Fifth and Sixth sons, played by Gordon Liu and Alexander Fu Sheng respectively. They are seperated in the chaos of battle and the sixth son returns home, suffering a psychotic break due to the trauma of witnessing his father and brothers die. Meanwhile the Fifth Brother, Gordon Liu, meets a hunter in the woods who helps him escape and find solace at a Shaolin Temple. But they see that the Fifth Son’s mind is still clouded by anger and sadness and they refuse to make him a monk, he sticks with them though and pushes them to train him in pole fighting. Finally, after getting the monks to train him, his eldest sister comes to find him but is kidnapped and used as bait by Pun Mei, now it’s time for the Fifth son of Yang to return to the outside world and exact his just vengeance.
While all the films I have so far covered this week have had great fight scenes, this one has the best ones yet, also the bloodiest ones yet. Most of the action sequences are chaotic and crowded with many combatants and flow with lightning quickness. The gore really helps elevate the action and the drama of it, especially in the final fight which goes completely balls to the wall. In said final fight, the use of blunt objects to remove the teeth of enemies is demonstrated with extreme effects, especially one shot of a monk delivering a flying headbutt into an opponent’s mouth, it gets pretty over the top. It’s also just pure fun and the intensity of the violence really amps up the melodramatic energy that drives all of these kinds of films.
Aside from the gore, this is just a great Kung Fu flick in all the right ways, moral heroes who must overcome their own internal demons before defeating their external antagonists, said villains are motivated by real emotions and flaws that make them so much more human than modern supervillains, and of course, fast and furious flying fists, kicks, and spears and staves. In many ways, the over the top nature of this film is what people think of when they think of old school Kung Fu films, at least in terms of the bloodshed, I blame the Wu-Tang clan. As such it is a wonderful flick for anyone interested in the genre, endlessly entertaining, well paced, and blessed with an extremely awesome climax, it wholly deserves it’s classic status. 5/5