Issue #230a      HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES          September 20th, 2004

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The Shaolin Invincibles
(1977; Hai Hua Cinema Company)

Cantonese: Yung Jing ming song siu lam moon
Mandarin: Yong Zheng ming sang shao lin men
English: Yong Zheng Dies at the Gates of Shaolin Temple


RATING: 3/10


A lot of kung fu films have been unfairly maligned over the years, thanks primarily to insipid dubbing and/or bad video presentations. This Taiwanese production, however, is derided even by the most ardent genre fans; in fact, Hou Cheng's THE SHAOLIN INVINCIBLES is often cited as the worst martial arts film ever made. While that is clearly not the case, (there are far too many Joseph Lai and Godfrey Ho/Tomas Tang productions more deserving of that distinction), it provides an abundance of entertainment for those who love bad execution of absurd ideas.

Doris Lung Chia Ling Jack Long

Tyrannical Ching Dynasty emperor Yong Zheng (Chan Hung-lit) consolidates his power through terror and murder, even slaughtering the Cha family and their friends because Cha Szuting chose an examination topic that slightly resembled Yong Zheng's name. However, two of the intended victims, Yu Liang (Doris Lung Chun-ehr) and Lu Szuliang (Judy Lee/Chia Ling), escaped with the help of a Shaolin monk and have spent 12 years honing their martial arts skills toward inevitable revenge. A familiar but reasonable premise for this sort of film, right? However, the missteps start from this point onwards. When Liang, Szuliang and their associate, Kan Fanqi (Carter Wong), slay a few too many of his colleagues, Yong enlists the help of two ridiculous looking wizards (each of whom possess a tongue that dangles two feet out of his mouth, a weapon they use to smack opponents in the face) and their pair of kung fu fighting gorillas! The beasts (played by men in ratty looking suits with feet that look like hairy galoshes) display their prowess by bopping various henchmen on the noggin and tossing around a few floppy dummies, which is enough to convince the emperor that he no longer has anything to fear from would-be assassins. (Of course, if this guy had any intelligence at all, he never would have been in this fix to begin with, so you can guess the calibre of his judgment here.)

Carter Wong (left) Chan Hung-lit (far right) Mad Monkey Kung Fu!

There are some wonderfully preposterous images here (the demise of the sorcerers and their simian minions has to be seen to be believed and one of Yong's aged prisoners boasts a truly hilarious make-up job topped off by a huge distended eyeball), but a large percentage of this Taiwanese production is too lively and competently staged for it to really qualify as an out-and-out disaster. Prominently billed Tan Tao-liang does not appear until the final quarter of the film and has perhaps 5 minutes of screen time, which must have come as an immense relief when he saw the final product. Jack Long Shi-gu co-stars.


As with other titles in the Martial Arts Theater line, this is an aged Ocean Shores master (from 1983, in this case) offering the movie in cropped and dubbed form. The image is squeezed, colors are a bit faded, and the source material has the usual degree of wear. Still, for Old School, it is not too bad and far from the worst in this product line. The audio is okay, aside from some left channel dropouts during the opening credits. There are no extras, unless you count a brief promo.

This DVD is available at: cover

Images in this review courtesy of Tai Seng. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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

DVD Specifications

  • U.S. Release
  • NTSC Region 0
  • Tai Seng Video Marketing #82853
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Dubbed in English
  • No Subtitles
  • 8 Chapters
  • 4:3 Fullscreen (1.33:1 cropped from 2.35:1)
  • 90 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: M 15+
  • Great Britain: 15
  • Ontario: PG
  • Quebec: 13+
  • 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