Director: Lau Kar Leung
Starring: Gordon Liu, Kara Hui, Wang Lung Wei, Hou Hsiao, Feng Ku
Directed by the legendary Lau Kar Leung, Martial Club tells the tale of two, formerly rival, martial arts schools who find themselves allies against a dishonest training hall using a powerful fighter for protection. As the heirs to the schools train to improve themselves, they come closer to a confrontation with the great fighter and try to prove that he is being manipulated by the leaders of the nefarious school.
Offering a unique take on the Wong Fei-Hong film legend, Gordon Liu stars as our famous warrior from Po Chi Lam. His version is a decidedly less righteous version than is typical, but this does not make the film any less entertaining than others. Notorious character act Wang Lung Wei plays against type as Master Shan, a surprisingly noble and righteous antagonist. The lovely Kara Hui displays her typical charm and considerable abilities in a few scenes, but the brunt of the film lies in the comedic and martial skills of Wang, Liu, and Guk Fung.
The film is among the better shot of the Shaw Bros. stage productions, with familiar sets and a variety of locales. Its, generally, late vintage also demonstrates a noted improvement in action choreography, when compared to similarly themed films in the previous decade. The feature of lion dance fight is beautifully realized on film and makes for one of the more inventive action sequences in the Shaw Bros. library. With the use of lion dancing, the music is, as expected, very good; it’s use of traditional instruments and songs greatly complimenting the action on screen.
For the kung fu fans, the film features three stand-out fights; the opening lion dance fight at the film’s beginning, a mayhem packed theater fight between rival schools, and the excellent Liu vs. Wang alley fight which demonstrates many varying techniques and the brilliant use of shrinking environments to create inventive choreography.
Martial Club is definitely one of the underrated Shaw Bros. films. Despite the great stars, inventive choreography, and generally, solid comedy, it just doesn’t seem to get the love that many of its other contemporary Shaw Bros. films receive. I honestly blame the lack of bloodshed for its lack of notoriety. While hardly the best in Leung’s or Liu’s career, it is a solid entry and very entertaining. A title that many casual fans would overlook, many would do well to check this ‘must see’ Shaw Bros. film off of their ‘to see’ list.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Heroes of the East, Cat Vs. Rat, and Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow