Film Review: Challenge of the Masters (1976) by Liu Chia-liang

Using fabled Chinese language folk-hero Wong Fei-hung’s life and apply of martial arts is nothing new to style cinema, being tackled by the likes of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Kwan Tak-hing, and Vincent Zhao amongst others. Few, although, needs to be as celebrated as Gordon Liu’s tackle the character in brother Liu Chia-liang’s underseen masterpiece for Shaw Brothers in Problem of the Masters, now accessible from Arrow Video as a part of their Shawscope Vol. 1 retrospective.

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Determined to be a martial arts grasp, rowdy teenager Wong Fei-hung (Gordon Liu) always tries to ingratiate himself into the teachings at his fathers’ college which earns his scorn as a substitute. Making an attempt to deal with beating his rivals’ faculties and their free use of dishonest and underhanded ways, he doesn’t have time to cope with Fei-hung and agrees to let him keep together with his grasp Lu Ah-tsai (Chen Kuan-tai) as a way of retaining him out of hassle. Despatched off to Ah-tsai’s coaching web site, he begins to check the assorted martial arts methods and disciplines of his grasp till he learns that one of many college students at his fathers’ rivals’ college, Chen Ah-fu (Lia Chia-liang) has murdered a good friend of theirs in battle which brings a famend dedication to be taught martial arts and enact vengeance for his or her good friend.

Total, “Problem” emerges as one of many style’s best entries. Among the many movie’s higher qualities is the overarching storyline from Kuang Ni that tends to revolve across the humanistic teachings of kung-fu. Fairly than boil the coaching sequences down right into a cliched use of merely studying the best way to transfer and strike as a way of studying martial arts, the nice sense of together with the best way to make the most of the assorted methods correctly additionally comes up. Providing to go for a humanitarian route with not solely realizing the strikes however when to make use of them and why, this tempering of Fei-hung’s feelings from petulant teenager to maturing younger grownup by the methods taught to him comes off remarkably effectively. This provides depth to the coaching past the same old scenes of somebody simply standing round in varied obscure positions, hanging at his grasp, or the quite a few different results often featured in martial arts movies. To then have these classes be visibly demonstrated on a number of events on the very finish throughout his battle with Ah-fu presents a full-circle round-up of those teachings and makes Fei-hung’s transformation full.

As effectively, the same old high-standard motion on show in “Problem” make for a usually enjoyable time. The assorted group fights originally, not solely present the rivalry between the colleges within the space but in addition the competitions the place the devious ways being employed result in some stellar choreographed shows. The coaching montages right here, displaying Fei-hung’s trials and research studying to not solely use his entire physique however the weaponry within the type, are among the many style’s greatest regardless of all of the cliched stances and methods featured. Along with his research full, the ultimate battle between Fei-hung and Ah-fu showcase a number of the greatest one-on-one combating kinds on the market which add quite a lot of pleasure and power into the movie by having the fighters go at it and forcing Fei-hung to depend on his teachings to the fullest to beat his opponent. Having top-quality performers on the peak of their bodily prowess provides to the enjoyment available as effectively, all coming collectively to make this a high-quality effort.

Whereas “Problem” doesn’t have too many points there are some. About the one actual downside resides in the usage of the coaching montage as the point of interest of the movie, which comes on the expense of fixed hand-to-hand fight. Viewers anticipating a full-scale show of performers punching and kicking one another within the face for ninety minutes could be turned off by having to see yet one more sequence of occasions displaying a grasp coaching and placing a disciple by the ropes to be taught a specific kung-fu type. This could be considerably of a turn-off to some viewers on the lookout for a continuing sequence of fights, however for essentially the most half, that is all particular person desire fairly than a real detriment to the film itself. What’s a real fault is the three-pronged storyline that has means an excessive amount of occurring, counting on a number of subplots that don’t have to be there when it might’ve been streamlined right into a quicker narrative.

Amongst one of many style’s best entries with a improbable storyline and a few stellar martial arts motion, “Problem of the Masters” is immensely worthwhile and satisfying with out a lot to carry it down. Most kung-fu appreciators or followers that need extra of a human angle to their martial arts with out it going overboard shall be completely entertained by this one.

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