Issue #214a         HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES                May 31st, 2004

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The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter
(1984; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Ng-long baat gwa gwan
Mandarin: Wulang ba gua gun
English: Ng-long's Eight Diagram Staff or Wulang's Eight Diagram Staff
Alternate English Title: The Invincible Pole Fighters


RATING: 9/10


When all but two of the men in the Yang family are massacred, the result of a plot orchestrated by Sung Dynasty general Pan Mei (Ku Ming) and his Mongol allies, only son No. 6 (Alexander Fu Sheng) is able to return home to impart the grim news. Unfortunately, he has been driven insane by the horror, while son No. 5 (Gordon Lau Kar-leung) has become separated from his brother and is wandering the countryside. Narrowly escaping death at the hands of Pan's troops, No. 5 decides to bide his time by becoming a monk at Ching Lang Temple. However, his rage and thirst for vengeance is a violation of fundamental Buddhist teachings, causing the monks (led by Phillip Ko Fei, in a career highlight for the actor) to reject him. Undeterred, No. 5 proceeds to shave his head anyway and, refusing to leave, causes the monks much grief. Meanwhile, word has come back to Lady Yang (Lily Li Li-li) that her fifth son still lives, so she orders her eldest daughter, No. 8 (Kara Hui Ying-hung), to disguise herself as a man and bring him back home. Pan's spies are everywhere, however, and she is soon captured, forcing No. 5 to come out of hiding and attempt a rescue.

Alexander Fu L to R: Yeung Ching-ching, Lily Li, Kara Hui Gordon Lau

A superb period thriller, THE EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER is exceptional in every department, combining a traditional but exciting storyline (which provides ample opportunity for tragedy and high emotion) with outstanding martial arts (the stick fighting battle between Gordon Lau and Phillip Ko is the standout among several highlights). Originally the film’s star, Alexander Fu died in a car accident mid-shoot, prompting a re-write that transformed Gordon Lau's character into the protagonist. This tragedy may partially account for the downbeat tone of the film, which is resolutely serious from beginning to end and ranks among the very best of director Lau Kar-leung's productions for Shaw Brothers. The exceptional supporting cast includes the director (in a small but memorable role), Johnny Wang Lung-wei, Chu Tieh-hu, Yeung Ching-ching, Wong Yue, Mai Te-lo, Lau Kar-wing, Hsiao Hou, Chang Chan-peng, and Yuen Tak. The Chinese title is the name of the staff technique that Yeung Ng-long (or Yang Wulang in Mandarin) developed from the Yeung Family Spear Technique. In real life, there are two stories as to why Yeung/Yang became a monk. One has him becoming disgruntled with fighting wars and entering Shaolin Temple to escape the carnage. The other has him being captured and offered a chance to join up with the enemy. He refuses, stating that he would rather become a monk than join with his rivals, a pledge that the enemy general makes him keep.

Gordon Liu (left), Phillip Ko (center) Ku Ling (left), Johnny Wang Kara Hui


A great movie deserves an attentive presentation and Celestial has done well by the film. The transfer is very good, with excellent hues and detail. The 5.1 re-mix adds some foley atmospherics but more or less leaves the intent of the original mix intact. A documentary or other special material would have been most welcome for this title but Celestial has only provided the usual video promo spots, photo galleries, and bios/filmographies.

This DVD is available at:

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

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC -- Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd #102165
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Cantonese and Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 93 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Great Britain: 18 (cut)
  • Ontario: AA
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Singapore: PG (cut)
  • Contains brutal 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