As mentioned in my review of Knockabout, Eureka seems committed to bring pretty much anything Sammo Hung to our screens. Thank god for that. The Shaolin Plot is a 1977 film that featured Hung in his first starring role (a rare villain appearance), as well as his first outing as an action director. Those two milestones make the film historically relevant and essential to any Hong Kong martial arts collection. Thankfully, it’s pretty awesome, too.
James Tien Chuen plays the hero, Little Tiger — a member of the Wu Tang clan who refused to give the ruling Manchu prince their martial arts manuals. If you know your Chinese history, there’s some meaty politics here on which to chew. But the plot still makes sense if you don’t. Little Tiger finds refuge with a warrior monk who defends him from Hung’s evil prince. However, he loses his martial arts manual and must team with a Shaolin monastery to help stop the evil prince from getting the last manual he needs — the Shaolin manual. The film climaxes in a couple of really spectacular fights that will delight any connoisseur of martial arts films.
Indeed, Hung’s innovative choreography is still great, even though this is an earlier effort. In front of the camera, Hung chews as much scenery as he can punch — which is a lot, and it’s just as fun. Hell, Hung even throws deadly symbols around and laughs in a wonderfully over-the-top evil manner. It’s a shame he’s not in the film more, but you can see why this film helped him build such a presence in the industry.
As usual, Eureka packs in as many extras as are reasonably possible on a release like this. This includes newly translated English subs (always a favourite of mine) and two sets of audio commentaries with the label’s stalwarts, including the now-ubiquitous Frank Djeng. There’s also a nice booklet from writer James Oliver. Finally, it comes packaged in a slipcase that matches Eureka’s other classic Kung Fu releases this year and will rest handsomely alongside them.