Of Duty, Honor, and Scaffolding…

Lash up some bamboo scaffolding, because Return to the 36th Chamber is the Greatest Movie EVER!

Click on the movie poster or the title above to download our review of the film, featuring Sean “Hollywood” Hunting.

Review in a Nutshell:  Return to the 36th Chamber is a kinder, gentler kung fu film that’s low on murder but high on comedy and creative choreography.  Included in this review is a discussion of how to find good martial arts films for fledgling kung fu fans.

This movie contains:


Coconut Head.



  1. What’s not to like?

  2. gooberzilla says:

    Is that a rhetorical question?

  3. TheMarkSewell says:

    Awesome. Keep up the Kung Fu stuff! I missed it. You guys had kind of a dry period on the Kung Fu front for a while.

  4. Ian says:

    I think this inspired the Wu-Tang Clan album Enter the 36 Chambers which I’ve heard is pretty solid. I should probably watch this eventually.

  5. Alphonse0079 says:

    Great podcast as always guy, good to see more love for the always awesome Gordon Liu.
    Although I must say I was a little disapointed with no mention of the villians ultimate weapon of the collapsable bench. What fearsome weapon indeed. Seriously though there always seem to be some crazy use of weapons in Gordon Liu’s movies and this one is just the strangest, well next to the bamboo knots.

    I do love this movie and everything I’ve seen Gordon Lui in so far, and yes he does look very strange with a wig on but I still thought Heroes of the East is his best, 3 part staff FTW.

  6. Nino says:

    Great podcast Guys.

    I’d love to hear one on Five Element Ninjas aka Chinese Super Ninjas. As one of the first Kung Fu Movies I ever watched, it is near and dear to my heart.

    Have you guys ever watched Invincible Pole Fighter/8 Diagram Pole Fighter starring Gordon Liu. It’s my favorite film of his and is serious as hell.

  7. Keith says:

    Answering the “kungfu film starter sampler” is a tricky question, as “kungfu” is a genre as diverse and sometimes contradictory as, say, thinking of “anime” as a genre.

    I approach it the same way I approach trying to introduce people to whiskey — rather than picking a list of “my favorites” or “the best,” I try to pick prime examples from the various flavor profiles.

    Or I just make everyone start with Fantasy Mission Force and Young Taoism Fighter. If you survive, then you can progress to the next chamber.

  8. gooberzilla says:

    Yeah, I realized after we stopped recording that we had completely failed to mention Boss Wang’s totally boss collapsable bench kung fu. My bad.

    Heros of the East is one of Daryl Surat’s favorite kung fu films, but it didn’t really do it for me. Maybe I just don’t like the humorous stuff too much. I own both Eight Diagram Pole Fighter and Five Elements Ninjas, and plan to cover them both at some point. Scheduling is a bit difficult, though, because both Sean and Daryl like the same kung fu films, and I’m never sure who I can give what without hurting anyone’s feelings.

  9. Damn I wanted to talk about everybody using the benches as weapons too. That was bananas.

    This podcast was fraught with disaster and recording errors though. Our train of thought was derailed in a fiery explosion killing every passenger way early.

    Ian – I am a pretty big Wu-Tang fan and thats a great album if you are at all into Hip Hop. A lot of the songs have quotes from kung-fu movies, and the title is a reference to the first 36 Chamber movie. The song “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit” actually has dialogue from the first kung-fu movie I covered with Paul, Executioners from Shaolin.

    As for the rest of the suggestions…I want to do them all. Our listeners have awesome taste in Kung-Fu and if they want to hear it, I want to cover it. I think 5 Element Ninja needs to be covered soon since I know it was an early Paul fave, plus it has ninjas. Also we are sorely lacking on some Sonny Chiba stuff…

    Paul stop being so Milquetoast. If you can’t decide who would be more appropriate for an episode ask the fans on the poll.

    Or just skip it and leave Surat on the back burner forever…I got it covered.

  10. Eduardo M. says:

    “Paul stop being so Milquetoast. If you can’t decide who would be more appropriate for an episode ask the fans on the poll.”

    Gotta go with Hollywood on this. Either that, or have some sort of death match

  11. Firest says:

    I was disappointed to hear that you aren’t a fan of Heroes of the East, as it’s one of my favorite kung-fu films, and the only one of my favorites that you haven’t reviewed on the show yet.

  12. Keith says:

    Heroes of the East is one of the only kungfu films I can remember where not a single person dies. I like to watch it immediately before 8 Diagram Pole fighter, which is totally bleak and filled with rage and despair.

    Liu Chai-liang’s films are, for me, some of the truest expressions of “kungfu” film, in that they’re not just action or fighting films where they happen to be using kungfu, but could be using anything. His films generally make the martial arts and philosophy so central to the themes of the movie that the films couldn’t be made with anything but kungfu.

    His other brother’s films (Liu Chia-yung) are lower key but also a lot of fun, eschewing the philosophy in favor of just having Liu Chia-hui beat a lot of people up and make his patented “I’m surprised!” face.

  13. I agree with what Keith said in his second paragraph above.

    “Why did I use kung fu to make movies – to display the art and to aestheticize fist fighting.” Lau Kar-leung (Hong Kong Film Archive 1999: 89) p. 24

  14. Firest says:

    Heroes of the East is kind of groundbreaking in terms of Kung-fu films. Not only does no one die, and in fact killing someone will only make the protagonists situation worse, but it’s one of (if not the) only kung-fu film where the Japanese are the good guys.

  15. gooberzilla says:

    If you got the impression that the Japanese are the good guys in Heroes of the East, then I think you seriously misread that film. The whole point of that film is to denigrate Japanese martial arts by showing how kung fu is superior to the Japanese martial arts in every possible way and in all respects, including philosophy. One kung fu master bests their greatest masters single-handedly. It’s all based on a misunderstanding and it’s played for laughs, but at the end of the day the Japanese look like assholes and the Chinese hero comes out smelling like a rose.

  16. Firest says:

    Maybe “good guys” was the wrong phrase to use, but the Japanese characters aren’t the bad guys by any means either. While they are aggressive, HotE makes it plain that they have every reason to be pissed off.

    Gordon Liu’s character is acting like a twit right from the start. Insulting his wife and driving her away, writing an ill-advised and insulting letter to her that is seen by her family, then compounding all his other errors by being so ignorant of his wife’s family’s customs that he mistakes a gesture of peace as an attack. Except for the wrestler, I can’t recall any of the Japanese fighters accused of being either unreasonable or in the wrong by any of the Chinese characters.

    And yes, Gordon Liu wins, but it’s hardly easy. He has to really work for it, practice and plan out how he’s going to defeat each brother. And even then he only succeeds because he has so much help from his teacher and fellow students, as well as inside information on his opponents fighting styles from his wife.

  17. EZE says:

    Heroes of the East is freakin great. The film does NOT insult Japanese martial arts. Sure Gordon wins all the fights but it’s clearly mentioned that it’s not the fighting style that matters but the fighter himself. I think Paul should review that one as it’s a fine film.

    Also Paul, I’d like to know what your take on Horror Kung Fu is? Do you like it? Check out “Encounter of the spooky kind” starring Sammo Hung if you haven’t already. (Available on Netflix) I think that’s a great place to take the Kung fu genre. It’s such a shame not many people know of these films. The ending to that movie alone is worth the ticket. Youtube it if you can.

  18. Edmund says:

    Does anyone think 2011 should be the Year of the Venoms? Year of the Fist?

    You know how I feel about kung fu movies. Five Element Ninjas is good, but Paul you have to look into doing Shaolin Drunkard or Tian Shi Zhuang Xie. Its a comedy directed by Yuen Woo-Ping and if that doesn’t entice you, their is a Kung Fu fighting toad!

    As a guy qho grew up in Brooklyn, NY the Wurang Clan a was big part of growing up as are the movies they are based on. Espeacially The Last Dragon, I wish I could I have heard the podcast you and Hollywood recorded. For me the first Wutang CD is still my favorite hip hop cd next to Aquemini by Outkast.

    can’t wait for the next podcast Paul!

  19. I agree with EZE. It would be great to see some reviews of Horror Kung Fu.

  20. For whatever reason, Paul dislikes Heroes of the East enough that he sold his DVD copy of it…

    TO ME!

    So lets not try to change his mind too much because I ain’t giving it back.

    Although I do disagree with him on how it makes the Japanese look. Its almost a Ben Stiller plotline the way Gordon Liu gets in so far over his head facing the Japanese masters. I like to compare his character to Senator Kelly in the X-men movies. There are two groups of super fighters who could be working together and learning from each other, but there is some dumb asshole who is trying to prevent that because it is above his understanding.

    I will continue the comic book metaphor (one I use a lot actually) and say in a Punisher title, Frank Castle can beat up Wolverine, Daredevil and Spider-man with ease and at the same time. The same thing would never happen in one of their own titles. Its a Chinese movie, so the Japanese have to lose. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn something from the experience.

    EZE – I can’t speak for Paul, but I for one have liked the mix of supernatural elements ever since I saw Jackie Chan peeing on a ghost in Spiritual Kung-Fu. After watching the preview I for one will be checking out that Sammo Hung movie ASAP.

    Edmund – Lets face it…Every year should be the year of the fist. I would almost recommend against it as a theme year if only because that type of pressure could make Paul get sick of doing them. Believe me when I say, at the moment we almost have to actively stop ourselves from covering classic Kung-fu every episode.

    If you liked Shaolin Drunkard I highly recommend Taoism Drunkard. Its probably a pseudo sequel as it has Yuen Cheung-yan playing the same Sam Seed character in both. Its on youtube or netflix streaming.

    Interesting side note: Yuen Cheung-yan is director Yuen Woo-Ping’s brother. Their father is Siu Tien Yuen who played Sam Seed in the Jackie Chan movies, and bringing it full circle, Gordon Liu’s teacher in HotE.

    Bringing it more full circle, Siu Tien Yuen also stars in the movie Ol’ Dirty and the Bastard where Dirt McGirt, the O.D.B. himself got his Wu-tang alias.

  21. Just a quick comment. I was having one of my frequent conversations with your spiritual rival Caleb Dunaway and the concept of Jo-ha-kyū (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo-ha-ky%C5%AB) in Japanese narrative and its effect on anime. After our conversation my mind drifted towards your Return to the 36th Chamber podcast. Perhaps this is a clue towards the why the general structure of Hong Kong Martial arts movies is the way it is.

    If you look the narrative form that is Jo-ha-kyū it is almost how you described the general plot structure of a martial arts movie. A slow build with a point where everything heats up and then a large spectacular climax than ends almost immediately afterward.

    Now while Japan is often loathed to admit it a good deal of the basics of Japanese culture is based on earlier Chinese cultural concepts that has then been then modified and cultivated into their own unique forms in Japan. I am 99% certain if you were to hunt around you could find the Chinese equivalent of Jo-ha-kyū. I assume that what ever the Chinese equivalent of this concept is can be traced as the framework that these martial arts films are trying to embody.

    I am not exactly sure where I am going with all of this. I figured I would throw the concept out there and see where people could run with it.

    – Hisui

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