Friday, May 8, 2015

The Blazing Temple (Feng Shiu Shiu Lam Chi, 1976)

What's good, good people?!! Hai!Karate returns with a burning classic in the genre of martial arts films, The Blazing Temple!! The 1976 flick is a cavalcade of stars including Chang Yi, Carter Wong, Judy Lee and Kam Kong, and is directed by the noted Joseph Kuo!

The Blazing Temple starts out with a slight bit of confusion; we see the film open on the emperor(Yee Yuen) and his entourage. He's just been informed that the 8 Swordsmen, along with other members of the Shaolin Temple, are training heavily to take down the Manchu Empire. This of course enrages his highness, who all of a sudden gets ambushed by Miss Yu(Lee) who swears to take his head in response to his decree to eliminate her entire family for conspiring with the rebels. Cue throwdown. We then jump to the Shaolin Temple and find the rebels joking with each other and discussing how they came there during a lull in training. Of course, this gets interrupted by the Manchu forces surging to attack. And what an attack it is; the entire temple is assaulted, and we see various disciples trying to save precious Buddhist texts. Word gets to the chief abbots, and they press the remaining disciples deep in the catacombs to train harder. The supreme abbot, even though there is a secret tunnel to freedom, demands that the only way out for them is through...the Bronzemen!!!

The disciples begin the process of trying to break through the Bronzemen and the rest of the trials, but the supreme abbot is chastised by others for being so stubborn to stick to tradition in a dire time. He relents, and goes to the tunnel only to find it blocked by a massive boulder. He makes the supreme sacrifice, and the 8 Swordsmen leave to go find the emperor and assasinate him. But the fight won't be easy - twists and turns beset them, especially the fact that there could be a traitor in their midst. Can they succeed against the cunning of Emperor Yungzheng and the Manchu forces?

To be real, The Blazing Temple is good, not great. It stands out because it's one of the few films if not the only one, to actually make the destruction of the Shaolin Temple a central setting within the film. Others, you see a glimpse of the chaos or it's spoken of and not really drawn out with the exception of Shaolin Abbot three years later. Kuo, who would go on to helm other classics like The Mystery Of Chessboxing, does okay here. The action scenes are crisp and increase in brutal effect as the film goes on.(Side note - cats catch severe bad ones starting with the Bronzemen sequence.) What had me flip was Judy Lee basically being at the start of the picture and then she makes no real appearance UNTIL THE FINAL FIVE MINUTES. I wasn't overly mad at her entrance though, that wire-fu was serious. Chang Yi puts in good work here, displaying a lot of emotion. If you've read this blog from jump, there's times where I've called him too damn stoic. Not here though, you get tears and everything from him. Carter Wong as Siu is the hidden gem of the picture. This was the beginning of Carter's prime in Hong Kong cinema, where he could be counted on to deliver solid performances that caught the audience's eye. And here he makes sure not to oversell his acting, and to also be thoroughly acrobatic with his fighting. Which is probably why he got the prominent spot on most DVD covers of the film. I do believe that this is one of those flicks that anyone who's a martial arts film fan will want to see if they haven't already just to add to their knowledge. The Blazing Temple is available on DVD, and online if you don't want to pay the freight.

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