Thursday, August 11, 2005

Of Tridib, Tarantino and Shaolin Kung Fu
The most amazing thing happened today. I was Googling for stuff on Kill Bill: Volume 1, which I watched for the nth time this morning, and guess what I found out? Gordon Liu aka Chia Hui Liu, who plays the Crazy 88 gang leader Johnny Mo, was the guy who played the lead role in the 36th Chamber of Shaolin.
So what? 36th Chamber of Shaolin is one of my favourite kung fu movies of all time. 36th Chamber was a cult hit — it was to our generation what Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is probably to today’s karate kids. Ask any guy, who grew up watching Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot on Doordarshan, to name their favourite martial arts movie, chances are they will name 36th Chamber. I remember watching it at Calcutta’s New Empire, or was it Globe, and emerging a big fan of martial arts flicks. Bruce Lee and Golden Harvest also played a big part, but I will save that for a separate post.
The film had apparently been released as Shaolin Master Killer in the US and made Gordon Liu a popular martial arts star in the West. Interestingly, 36th Chamber was directed by Gordon’s adopted brother Liu Chia Liang, considered an ‘auteur’ in the world of kung fu cinema.
Gordon also plays the role of the Deadly Vipers Assassination Squad’s kung fu instructor Pai Mei in Volume 2, which has a scene showing Uma Thurman carrying buckets of water up the stairs — straight out of a memorable training sequence in 36th Chamber.
He also starred in Shaolin Drunken Monk. Made in 1982, which was another great watch.
Kill Bill cinematographer Robert Richardson said 36th Chamber was among the 200 films that he watched for visual research prior to shooting the film.
It is common knowledge that Volume 1 is Tarantino’s homage to “old school” martial arts films, especially the kind directed by Chang Cheh. Now, Chang Cheh directed a film called Shaolin Temple in 1976, which was produced under the Shaw Brothers banner in Hong Kong. Incidentally, there was another Shaolin Temple made in mainland China in 1982. It was Jet Li’s debut film, and I remember watching it open-mouthed as a kid.
Here’s one Kill Bill trivia that you won’t find even at IMDB. At the end of the House Of Blue Leaves massacre of the Crazy 88, just one — the youngest of the yakuzas — survives. Though the young boy was originally supposed to die, Tarantino changed his mind because he thought sparing the innocent kid’s life would add a sympathetic layer to The Bride's ruthless character. "I thought, 'There's no way she'd off a kid with a mug like this,'" Tarantino reportedly told a Time magazine correspondent. So he devised a new ending for the scene — The Bride gives the boy a good spanking and he is shown running out of the House Of Blue Leaves.

I remember another martial arts flick I saw as a kid: Snake in the Monkey's Shadow. Great film depicting the clash of two fighting styles. Also had a spectacular training scene. But I defy your view that 36 Chambers is to us what Crouching... is to kids today. I still believe that martial arts films begin and end with Bruce Lee.
Yes, I remember watching Snake in The Monkey's Shadow. Incidentally, the movie followed the earlier and probably more popular Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, which starred Jackie Chan. Clarification. I was comparing Crouching and 36th Chambers strictly in the context of kung fu films. Yes, Bruce Lee was the undisputed martial arts icon of our time, something like what Jackie Chan is today!
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?