Hong Kong Digital is sponsored by Poker Industries. Please see the Hong Kong Digital home page for a special offer from Poker Industries to Hong Kong Digital readers.

Issue #193a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES January 5th, 2004

Shaolin Hand Lock
(1978; Shaw Brothers)

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

Cantonese: Sap ji so hau sau
Mandarin: Shi zi suo hou shou
English: Figure Ten Locking Throat Hand

Martial arts master Li Bai (Dick Wei) is visited one day by old friend Fang Yunbiao (Chan Shen) who proceeds to kill him with retractable blades he has hidden in his sleeves. Fang also murders two of Li's disciples, mistakenly thinking that they are the man’s son and daughter. Li Chengying (David Chiang Da-wei) and Li Mengping (Chen Ping) swear to avenge their father and, upon hearing that Fang escaped on the next ship to Bangkok, the former decides to give chase. Finding his quarry in a brothel, Chengying coerces him into revealing the name of the party who hired him: the affluent and powerful martial arts proponent Lin Hao (Lo Lieh). Chengying gets the man's attention by stealing one of his gold shipments and then returning it, an exercise to demonstrate his craftiness and superior fighting abilities. Although he suspects an ulterior motive, Lin is sufficiently impressed with Chengying's skills and hires him on as a bodyguard. Not so easily convinced is Kunshi (Michael Chan Wai-man), who has been with Lin for a number of years and regards the newcomer with great suspicion. Chengying's plan to further win his target over is disrupted by the appearance of Mengping, who makes an unsuccessful attempt on Lin's life. The Shaolin Handlock style was created by the Li family and a learned master like Lin is easily able to recognize it, leading him to doubt whether Fang actually completed his mission.

For the majority of its running time, SHAOLIN HAND LOCK offers the sort of prosaic revenge scenario one can find in a thousand other such features. Some twists in the final third add a dash of welcome (if not entirely plausible) intrigue and deception, and the Thai locations are fairly well utilized by director Ho Meng-hua (THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN). Although the necessary ingredients are all in place, action choreographer Tong Gai fails to enliven the final duel (some awkwardly executed wirework is a particularly distracting shortcoming) and it is over in almost no time at all. Speaking of martial arts, the titular manoeuvrer looks like a basic wrestling hold and is hardly as novel or lethal as the film would have us believe. Most Shaw Brothers productions are scored with library cues and the ill-chosen track used for the main title here will be familiar to fans of 1960s U.S. sexploitation features. Kara Hui Ying-hung appears in the opening reel as a doomed Li pupil and a young Austin Wai Tin-chi can be glimpsed as one of Lo Lieh’s henchmen.

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.

Michael Chan (left) and David Chiang. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Lo Lieh. Image courtesy Intercontinental.
Intercontinental #101076 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Post-synced Mandarin Language

Optional Subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.33:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

88 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains moderate violence and brief nudity

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Ontario: R
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]

The transfer looks clean and colorful and, while some reverb is apparent in the remixed audio track (particularly during footstep foley FX), it is sufficient overall. Most Celestial releases from the past few months have offered a standard set of extras and that is the case here as well: video promo spots, a collection of movie stills and behind-the-scenes shots, the original poster, "production notes," and abbreviated bios and filmographies.

SHAOLIN HAND LOCK is available at Poker Industries.

Having problems printing this review with Netscape? Go to the File option in the Netscape Task Bar, click the Page Setup from the sub-menu and make sure that in the Page Options listings, the Black Text box is clicked. This should resolve the "no text" printing problem.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com