8 Diagram Pole Fighter/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
As Shaw Brothers films go I've always had a soft spot for this film. Not because it's a particularly brilliant movie (it is, but that's not the reason) nor is it to do with the fact that Gordon Liu stars in quite a prominent role (Liu is one of my favorite martial artists). No, the reason that this piece of cinema is reserved a special place is due to the fact that this was the last film that Alexander Fu Sheng ever made. For those of you who don't know, Sheng was a very talented and successful HK movie star of the 70's whose career was almost cut short due to a series of serious accidents between 1978 and 1979 (he was supposed to take the lead in Snake in The Eagle's Shadow but couldn't due to injury and as we all know that role went to Jackie Chan and the rest is history). Sheng fought his way back from this series of disappointments and though he never fully recovered he was still considered a huge star HK. During the shooting of 8 Diagrams he was being driven home by his brother when his Porsche failed to make a turn and slammed into a concrete wall. He died in hospital three hours later. During the film you will notice that Sheng's character just disappears and we are never given a reason for this. Well, now you know.
The movie itself starts with a prediction from The Yang's mother that in the upcoming battle of Jinsha,of the seven brothers sent only six will return but it will be a worthwhile sacrifice if it benefits the Sung Dynasty, though I doubt the soon to be dead brother would see it that way. This prediciton is further enhanced in the next scene when we're introduced to the Empress's father, who is working with the Liao Dynasty to overthrow the current Emperor storms into the palace to inform her that her brother was beaten to death at a tournament by Yang Ye's seventh son,Yang Si. This leads the Empress that instead of pleading with The Emperor for justice, as this wouldn't work due to The Yang's secured position on The Council, that it'd be just easier to bump them off at Jinsha battle. And away we go.
What follows is the first of many pole-fight's (no sniggering at the back) and as you would expect the choreography is excellent. The Yang boys, though hopelessly outnumbered, proceed to kick many levels of bad guy ass until they are undone by Kung-Fu treachery in the form of an exploding tent and the magical apperance of about 20 or so fellas from behind said tent. Half blinded and half blown up, they fight valiantly until sheer numbers and in one brothers case lack of eyeballs overwhelms them and they're all killed including their father who pops up out of nowhere just for the sole purpose of being brutally slaughtered except for the 4th, 5th and 6th brothers. So much for the opening prediciton then...
Well after that things go from bad to worse for The Yangs. The 4th brother (played by Hsiao Hu) is captured by Liao and never heard of again (though the script source says he marries a Liao Princess). The 6th brother (played by Alexander Fu Sheng) finds his way back to his home palace but unfortunately, having witnessed the massacre of his family he's now as crazy as a sack of rabid badgers and 5th brother (played by Gordon Liu) has it away pretty sharpish due to the fact that as a survivor he's now seen as a traitor. Time passes and Gordon Liu finds his way to a Shaolin Temple (as is his custom in these sort of films) where he trains until he is ready to return and seek his revenge (Yay revenge!!!) which he finally does after he learns that his 8th sister has been captured by the Liaos. (8 sisters, 7 brothers (Christmas must've been murder at that house) . After proving to his Master that he is ready to leave, in one of the greatest Monk vs Monk fights ever captured on celluloid, he heads back to civilization to lay a few boots to asses. Well a few whuppings here and a few spears to the face there and everyone who has wronged The Yangs lay dead or dying leaving Gordon Liu to walk off into the sunset because as he says to his now free'd 8th sister: "The World is my home".
So that you have it for what it is, The 8 Diagram Pole-Fighter. I highly recommend it. It's fast paced with plenty of fighting, excellent choreography, Gordon Liu kicking ass and, as I said at the start, it has the last appearance of Alexander Fu Sheng in it, what more could you ask for?