Issue #212           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES                May 17th, 2004

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Executioners from Shaolin
(1977; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Hung Hei-kwun
Mandarin: Hong Xiguan
English: Hung Hei-kwun or Hong Xiguan
Alternate English Title: The Executioners of Death, Shaolin Executioner


RATING: 8/10


Following the burning of Shaolin Temple and the death of head monk Chi San (Lee Hoi-sang) at the hands of priest Pai Mei (or "White Brows," played by Lo Lieh), some of the surviving Shaolin students manage to evade the Manchurians by posing as travelling opera performers. Martially adept hero Hong Xiguan (Chen Kuan-tai) marries the lovely and fiery Fang Yongchun (Lily Li Li-li), who is his equal in kung fu. The couple have a son, whom they name Wending. As the years pass, Xiguan practices his Tiger Style kung fu, in preparation for a duel with Pai, while Yongchun instructs Wending in the Crane Style. Ten years after the birth of his son, Xiguan seeks out Pai but is clearly not his equal and barely escapes alive. After a further seven years of training, Xiguan challenges Pai again. This time, he knows about the priest's weak point and his best chance to overcome Pai's kung fu is to challenge him between 1PM and 3PM. Unfortunately, Pai is now able to move this vulnerable spot to different parts of his body and Xiguan is again defeated. However, Wending (Wong Yue) swears to avenge his father's defeat and, with the aid of an old fighting manual, enters into focused training.

Gordon Lau Chen Kuan-tai Lo Lieh

A large portion of the story is devoted to Xiguan and his family and this attention to character is one of the film's prime assets (the oft-mentioned highlight is the couple's honeymoon, which turns into a martial arts contest!). The kung fu is superbly executed and the training sequences are equally stirring. The latter makes extensive use of a specially designed steel fighting opponent, that allows Xiguan to practice and perfect his vital point strikes, the main weapon to combat Pai Mei's near-supernatural abilities. Chen Kuan-tai gives a commanding performance and Lo Lieh is an impressively malevolent adversary. On the strength of his portrayal, Lo would go on to play Pai Mei again in Ho Meng-hua's ABBOT OF SHAOLIN and a very similar classmate in CLAN OF THE WHITE LOTUS (which he also directed). The Pai Mei character was revived recently for KILL BILL VOL. 2, with Gordon Lau Kar-fai donning the trademark white brows and wig. His is a somewhat more lighthearted interpretation but still respectful to Lo's characterization and a wonderful bit of acting. Lau also makes a brief but memorable appearance in the opening reel of this picture; Cheng Kang-yeh (as Xiguan's loyal friend) and Donald Kong To (as a Ching official who retains power as long as the evil priest remains alive) also appear. Director Lau Kar-leung can be seen briefly as a Ching fighter wielding a three section staff.

Lily Li Wong Yue Donald Kong


It appears that the materials for this Shaw Brothers classic were in dire shape as there are a number of spots where staining was apparently so extensive, the computer could not quite remove it all. As a result, little bits of blob-like instability can be briefly detected. Regardless, the presentation is quite good overall, surpassing the dubbed and cropped versions in circulation. Celestial's edition also restores the stylized, pre-credits battle between Lo Lieh and Lee Hoi-sang that was deleted from the American tape version issued by Vista as SHAOLIN EXECUTIONER. The re-mix features the usual foley additions, and sounds a little thin, but is perfectly workable. The standard Celestial supplements are on hand, along with the "Three Styles of Hong Fist" featurette which was included on some previous titles and is certainly an appropriate extra here.

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Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC -- Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd #102028
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 96 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: M 15+
  • Great Britain: 15 (cut)
  • Ontario: R
  • Quebec: G
  • Singapore: PG (cut)
  • United States: R
  • Contains moderate violence


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful