Shaolin Prince (1982) Shaolin Prince

Shaolin PrinceDirector: Tang Chia
Starring: Ti Lung, Derek Yee, Pai Piao, Ku Feng, Ai Fei, Liu Yu-po

Tagline: The prince and the pauper kick arse!

You have to admire a director who is confident enough to run the opening credits over a fight scene. This is what happens here when Lord 9 (Pai Piao) storms the palace to overthrow the Emperor. His loyal bodyguards attempt to escape with the heirs to the throne and are cut down one by one by various henchmen including the spectacular Fire General and Water General.

Three surviving guards meet up with Lord 9 himself and are subjected to his Iron Fingers. These fingers are permanently welded into the 'eye poking' stance, but there are no Three Stooges jokes here as it is a deadly weapon.

After their fight with Lord 9, one soldier secrets one prince at the house of the Prime Minister while another attempts to gain refuge at his former Shaolin Monastery. He is refused, but the three monks rescue the baby and defeat Lord 9's henchmen.

In a very confusing development, suddenly it is twenty years later and Wang Zital (Derek Yee) is being tested by an unknown assailant. It turns out to be his foster father in disguise and from the test it is decided he should go to the Shaolin Monastery to build up his strength.

Meanwhile at the monastery, Dao Xing (Ti Ling) is very daggy and is a bit of and outsider as he is being taught by the same three monks who have been confined to the Discipline House and must not set foot outside. They do go outside, but never touch the ground. The scenes with the monks are very funny, with lots of slapstick and the monks themselves have cross-eyes and make funny faces all the time.

Suspecting that the previous emperor's sons are still alive, Lord 9 pays Wang Zital a visit and proceeds to beat the crap out of him, just so he can test if he knows any martial arts. Hasn't he ever heard of asking a question?

Dao Xing is not doing any better with a traitorous monk trying to kill him in a training accident and then having a possessed woman at an exorcism do the same. Luckily he is saved by Wang Zital's Emperor Sword that shoots yellow laser beams and kills the ghost.

As he is on his way there, Wang Zital travels with Dao Xing back to the monastery, but there is trouble when Wang doesn't want to give up his sword and the cranky monk fights him. Dao is also attacked by the Twelve Guardians, but he fights them off.

In a spectacular set piece, Wang Zital fights with the 18 Lohan Array, but loses and is taken prisoner. A parody of the Lohan Array also appeared in Stephen Chow's movie Royal Tramp II, so it was interesting to see where they originally came from.

Dao Xing rescues Wang Zital from the cranky monk and the Shaolin leader who was in cahoots with Lord 9 all along. They have to fight off the Twelve Guardians and the 18 Lohan Array at the same time, but they are helped by Dao's three masters who fight on wooden pogo sticks so they don't break the rules.

The two then team up and both go to defeat Lord 9 and his henchmen, but I will leave the rest to you to discover. Phew! Even after writing all that, I still haven't told you most of what happens in this movie.

As I mentioned, it is all action from the very first scene with my favourites being the Fire General, who can set his sword on fire and cause explosions. Also the Water General is very fey and jumps out of the water when you least expect it. They are really only in two scenes of the movie, but they do make a big impact.

The other great fight scenes are in the Shaolin Monastery with the Twelve Guardians and the 18 Lohan Array and their golden hoola-hoops. There are heaps of people in that scene so it is great to see how they manage to pull it off and also not lose the two characters in amongst all the action.

One of the best things about a action movie is if you want to rewind to watch what happened again, I found myself doing it several times, but I'll let you find these scenes for yourself. Some of the fight scenes don't really work out how you would expect also which is great.

Royal machinations are a common theme in a lot of period dramas, as is the whole theme of having to regain the throne. If you watch enough of these films, you can start to recognise a lot of the sets that are used in different movies. There are a lot of interior sets used in this movie, but they are well decorated enough that use usually don't notice.

You don't expect a film like this to have comedy in it, so the characters of the three monks are a surprise. Even in the middle of a fight they still manage to be funny and hopefully I can find another film with them in it or similar characters.

I would recommend this movie to people who like kung fu and swordplay movies, with some comedy thrown in to liven things up. There are some similarities with early Jackie Chan movies and a lot of it also reminded me of Stephen Chows period fantasy comedies, but with a lot less yelling.

Rating: 8/10

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