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Man, oh man, this is one fantastic martial arts film. If Five Shaolin Masters doesn't have it all, it certainly does come close. Not only do you have numerous well-choreographed fight scenes involving groups as well as individuals, you've got a whole buffet of fighting styles served up for your viewing pleasure. Speaking of viewing pleasure, the print is fantastic. I can't speak for the DVD specifically, but the print that I saw was in vivid, glorious widescreen, looking more like a modern-day Hong Kong release than a film dating back to 1974.

As the film opens, the Shaolin Temple has just been destroyed by imperial Manchu forces. Thanks to a traitorous spy among the Shaolin disciples, the bad guys were able to take the Temple by complete surprise, killing all but five of its members. After fighting their way to safety, the survivors head off separately to make contact with other rebels. The Manchu are never far behind, as they are determined to stamp out all the rebels once and for all. Numerous fights ensue along the way, leaving the five Shaolin disciples alive but unsure of themselves, having learned that they are no match for the kung fu fighters of the Manchu. Having encountered their enemies (including the traitor that betrayed the Temple) face to face, though, they are now aware of their enemies' strengths and weaknesses. Proving that knowledge is power, each of them begins intensive training in the particular fighting style he thinks he will need in order to defeat his adversary. That, of course, sets the stage for one hell of a battle in the film's final 15-20 minutes.

I'm no martial arts film expert, but my understanding is that the great writer/director Chang Cheh brought together two generations of top-notch martial artists for this film. The five would-be Shaolin masters are played by Ti Lung, Chi Duan-chun, Mang Fei, Alexander Fu Sheng, and David Chiang, with the last two turning in particularly memorable performances. The Manchu kung fu experts are a few years older than the heroes, but their skills remain honed to a razor-sharp edge. Pao Yu-lung (Choi Wang) is deservedly renowned and feared for his skill with the Flying Axe, while his buddies (played by Kong Do, Fung Hak-on, Chien San, and Ma Fu-yi) are just as masterful at their own individual fighting styles. One of them kills a man with a mere snap of his ponytail, which was so impressive I had to immediately pause and watch him do it a second time.

The big fight at the end is the equivalent of five main events all rolled into one, featuring a display of martial artistry showcasing the Tiger and Crane style, advanced usage of the chain dart and fighting staff, a whopping ten complementary styles by one fighter, and all kinds of other impressive action. The realism extends all the way through the aftermath of each pugilistic duel, as well. Liu Chia-Liang's fight choreography is spot-on throughout the entire film, as is Chang Cheh's direction. For the time being, at least, Five Shaolin Masters is my new favorite martial arts film.

On a final note, a prequel to this film, Shaolin Temple, was made in 1976, so you might want to hunt that one down before watching Five Shaolin Masters. If you have any interest in kung fu cinema at all, though, you're definitely going to want to see this 1974 classic - with or without the prequel.
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on 17 August 2013
Disciples fleeing a burning shaolin temple (see my review of Shaolin Temple) are chased down and slaughtered by the ruthless Manchu. The Manchu hunt and kill all Shaolin sympathisers they find, but five highly skilled fighters just manage to make it to safety by the skin of their teeth. They find sanctuary in different places and begin to rally more supporters of the Shaolin teachings. With these clandestine rallies a success, they then regroup and attempt to smash the Manchu...

With an amazing cast of martial arts athletes and pretty much non~stop, tough kung fu action, viewers certainly get their money's worth here. Cheh Chang directs and Lau Kar Leung provides the prolific fight action. There's next to no budget, which no one in their right mind would care about, because it doesn't need one! The plot although very basic is a tried and tested formula of vengeance in which our fives heroes are not good enough to beat the five Manchu experts, until they go away and retrain. Which allows them sufficient time to get better and return to beat up everyone on the Manchu's Christmas card list!!

The bad guys really kick arse too in this though, With Fung Hark On, Ka Yan Leung (Thundering Mantis) and Luis Suarez (Tsai Hung), with a deadly whirling vorpal blade!! Ti Lung goes up against that guy. Fu Sheng inevitably gets Wei Lung Wang (reprising his dastardly role as Manchu traitor Ma Fu Yi from Shaolin Temple), and David Chiang gets the coolest weapon in the mix, when he takes up a shaolin chain whip.
In the end the heroes don't get it all their own way, so rest assured there's a few slow~motion dying fly moments, which when added to the bloody showdowns, just qualifies this films late night movie madness credentials even further!
The score is very memorable too.
I rate this highly, if you're new to the Shaw Brothers stuff, this is one you'll want. If not and you're already a fan, then you probably have it, because if you like the whole Shaw Brothers's Shaolin versus Manchu movie series, this is unmissable.

The disc by Dragon Dynasty is a very clear, widescreen print with both English Subs and dubbed audio.
4.75/5 rounded up.
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on 28 February 2016
After the fiendish Manchu's try to wipe out all the members of the Shaolin Temple by burning their temple down, 5 members manage to escape and they begin to plot they're revenge. The 5 are played by Shaw legends David Chiang, Ti Lung, Chi Kuan Chun, Fu Sheng and Meng Fei. They decide to approach the Han Society so that they can face the deadly threat posed by the Manchu's. During their continued attempts to flee from their pursuers, many furious battles are fought with great losses to both camps. They eventually discover that they have a traitor in their midst, when he's finally exposed they're shocked to find out that it's one of their seniors from the Temple Ma Fu-Yi (Wang Lung Wei). When Ma captures one of the rebels (Fu Sheng), he wants to torture him so that he can discover they're secret communication methods. Just as he's about to begin his interrogation Fu Sheng's colleagues burst into the Manchu fortress to free him. Eventually the 5 decide to return to the ruined Shaolin Temple, whilst there it's decided that they're no match for the evil Manchu's so they decide to take a year out to improve their martial arts skills. Each member has a different form of training as they have to find a way to counteract the Manchu's various different styles. Ultimately the scene is set for a classic 5 on 5 confrontation! This is an absolutely stunning film, with an incredible cast that includes among others that were named previously Leung Kar-Yan, Fong Hak-On and Chiang Tao and there's also an early appearance from future Shaw superstar Gordon Liu. Once again Chang Cheh displays his unique talents for marshalling aggression, violence and balletic grace within an inventive format. Fans thought that Chang Cheh couldn't out do his previous star making box office hits, but once this exciting saga hit the screens, they had to raise their expectations once again. The story is simplicity itself: Shaolin Renegades fight against their Manchu aggressors and traitorous collaborators. But the finest martial arts actors, led by revered choreographers Liu Chia-Liang and his brother Liu Chia-Yung, created emotionally involving action sequences of unparalleled effect! Thanks for reading and I hope that you enjoy the film.
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on 11 August 2014
As I'm not a film critic I'll not pretend to be one. I enjoy martial art choreography and a credible story. This has it. The English voice overs are a little stilted. I prefer hearing the animated Chinese tongue with English subtitles to get the emotion.
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on 18 November 2015
thank you
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on 7 January 2015
Didn't even get to view the film, it wouldn't play, displayed ERROR on my dvd player, what a waste! Massive disappointment...
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on 12 June 2014
didn't work at all. it din't work in the dvd player. not happy at all. Do not to buy this product.
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on 24 December 2014
not on of the best ok
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on 5 December 2007
Im not sure what the previous reviewer was smoking when watchin this film or if he was trying to be sarcastic, but i can't see how you would consider the choerography to be anything more than horrifically terrible and cheesy. Given the fact that the films over 30years old, it still doesnt constitute to the fact that the choreography should be this bad as everything is way too exaggerated even if someone gets a tap on the shoulder they'll be lunging themselves on the floor in what appears to be them looking constipated rather than anything else.

With martial arts films, the main prerogative usually focuses most effort on creating amazing fight scenes leaving people in ooh's and aahh's, distracting it from the poor structure of narrative and acting. In this circumstance, i get the impression that it's not attempting to do either, especially with the storyline being as stale as a loaf of bread if made the same time as the film and still hanging around ones kitchen. The dialogue is awful and uninspirational with most of it being dubbed even in the original version and all of it being way out of sync making it laughable.

And also leaving the impression that they forgot to use a boom half the time they were shooting scenes. The motion effects in the film are bad and terribly noticeable as used in almost all of their fighting scenes. All of these elements make this film what it is and that its..........Brilliant. Its what makes this film so watchable and lung burstingly hilarious. One other positive to come from this film is that some of the martial arts techniques are very well thought up, to name one would be the ponytail attack which i thought was hilarious.
I have always been a massive fan of martial arts, so i would recommend this only on the basis for pure comical value and nothing else. These films are always good watching with a takeaway i thought i might add lol.
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