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Issue #174 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES August 25th, 2003

Buddha's Palm
(1982; Shaw Brothers)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Yu loi sun jeung
Mandarin: Ru lai shen zhang
English: Rulai's Mystical Palm

If you have seen Taylor Wong Tai-loi's KUNG FU VS. ACROBATIC (sic - 1990), you no doubt remember that it was filled with wild fantasy elements, like Yuen Wah's ability to stretch his leg to ridiculous extremes and a fighting technique that looked like irradiated palm prints being blasted through the air. The film was partially a send-up of vintage HK period fantasies, so one assumed that this craziness originated there. However, now that Wong's 1982 feature, BUDDHA'S PALM, is available once more to the public, we can see that some of the elements the director sent up in ACROBATIC also appeared here.

After seven years of meditation in The Cave of Ten Thousand Buddhas, Sung Dynasty monk Rulai Tianzun (Cho Tat-wah) creates an incredibly powerful fighting technique called Buddha's Palm but dies shortly thereafter. The old man's pupil, Gu Hanhun (Alex Man Chi-leung), believes that his master was hounded to death by interlopers and proceeds to rampage through the martial world, killing those he holds responsible. The film resumes 20 years later, with disfigured swordsman Long Jianfei (Derek Yee Tung-sing) trying to stop the politically advantageous marriage of his love, Ming-ying (Candice Yu On-on), to the powerful leader of a rival clan. Long is easily defeated in combat, and seemingly falls to his death, but is saved by a flying lion/dragon hybrid called Dameng. The creature's master is Gu, now blind and known as Flaming Cloud Devil. He decides to teach the rather bull-headed youth the Buddha's Palm but, even though this would considerably raise his stature in the world, Long is not interested. Naturally, Gu's real motive is to have Long eliminate those who robbed him of his sight, specifically, a quintet of kung fu masters with names like Heavenly Foot of Ten Thousands Swords Clan (Shih Kien), Flying Bells (Chen Szu-chia), Flying Loops, and The Thunderbolt Devil. With the help of a magic orb, Long is able to partially restore Gu's sight and decides to become the man's student after all. Now possessing all of the Buddha's Palm skills, he aids two maidens (Kara Hui Ying-hung and Candice Yu in a second role) obtain a rare tree that will restore their mistress' frozen face. However, it was Gu who brought this malady upon the woman (the aforementioned Flying Loops, played by Yum Yum Shaw) in the first place, leading to a sticky situation for the swordsman. Gu eventually steps in and demonstrates his indomitable powers, with the various clan leaders then deciding to opt for peace under his guidance. However, when an assassin dispatches one of the elders, Gu deduces that Heavenly Foot is responsible and decides to face him in a conclusive battle.

This wildly colorful and invigoratingly mad juvenile fantasy is so maniacally paced and filled with characteristic wu xia intrigue and duplicity, viewers with no advance exposure to this sort of thing may find themselves overwhelmed by the midpoint (though a narrator tries to help keep everything clear). In actuality, the plot is fairly straightforward as these things go but the tempo is so accelerated, events seem to transpire on fast forward. Those who enjoyed the wire-enhanced fantasies of the early 90s will likely revel in this forerunner, which offers such now-familiar sights as sound wave combat (DEADFUL MELODY and THE MAGIC CRANE) and centipedes utilized to control the actions of those who have unwillingly ingested them (DONG CHENG XI JIU). Then, there are other touches that are almost unspeakably outlandish, notably, The Dragon Tumor Duo, the top half of whom shoots corrosive green puss out of said growth! The FX are not always the best but there certainly is an abundance of them and one never feels short-changed no matter how chintzy they may be (like The Golden Dragon Dagger, which looks and sounds suspiciously like a STAR WARS light sabre). So much time is spent moving the principals from place to place and setting up the next high flying battle, there is virtually no time to establish any characters, so the show is easily stolen by Lo Lieh, as an extremely eccentric old master who constantly announces his presence and turns out to be far more sage than anyone initially expects.

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.

Derek Yee. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Lo Lieh. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Alex Man and Kara Hui. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Dameng and Alex Man. Image courtesy Intercontinental.
Intercontinental #612077 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian Subtitles

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

93 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains moderate fantasy-oriented violence, mild horror, and brief nudity

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Australia: G
Ontario: AA
Singapore: PG


Much of the film's impact can be traced to its intricate visuals and the presentation thankfully does not disappoint, looking clean, sharp, and colorful throughout. The stereo re-mix is not a distraction but the English subtitles are synced to the Mandarin track, making that the best version for Western viewers. The usual supplements are on offer (theatrical and video trailers, video promos for other titles, poster, photo galleries, and bios/filmographies).

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