A Slice of Death/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< A Slice of Death
Shaolin Abbot poster

The monk Chi San (David Chiang) is sent forth from The Shaolin Temple to visit a Wu-Tang (aint' nuthin' to fuck wit) priest to have plans drawn up as well as to learn his Kung-Fu. But all is not well. The priest's brother Pai Mei (Lo Lieh) rejects the monk due to the Shaolin Temple taking a stance against The Qing Empire and attempting to reinstate The Ming Dynasty he leaves, vowing never to return (yeah like that's gonna happen). The priest then teaches Chi San the ways of the Wu-Tang (who ain't nuthin' to fuck wit). Having learned all he can, Chi San returns to the Shaolin Temple just in time to watch it get exploded to death and see all of his brethren killed. Following the dying wishes of his Abbot he heads south to find suitable people to help him rebuild Shaolin and to avenge (AVENGE!!!) the wrongs done upon his kind.

So begins the 1979 classic A Slice of Death (aka Abbot Of Shaolin) a movie from the juggernaut Shaw Brothers Studio. A Slice Of Death was one of thirty six films released by the company in 1979 alone but it's one that I've always had a soft spot for.

There will always be room in my life for the likes of Jackie Chan or Jet Li but traditional martial arts movies have a special place in my heart due to the way they are more in line with Chinese Opera than they are with the fast paced action of 80's/90's classics like Wheels On Meals or Once Upon a Time in China. There is a rhythm to these films that you just don't get with modern day Kung-Fu and A Slice Of Death is no exception.

From the opening fight between Chi San and Dao De (Ku Kuan-Chung) where the monk "accidentally" breaks Dao De's arm to the climactic battle between himself and Pai Mei, the pacing and fluidity of the combat is something that any traditional fan with any knowledge of the genre will be more than comfortable with.

It may also seem slow in comparison to modern day slugfests like The Raid or The Man from Nowhere but it's subtle nuances and, at times, almost pedestrian pacing is never a hindrance and, in fact, adds to the enjoyment of the film by never forcing you to have to rewind a scene just to make sure that you did actually see what you thought you saw in the first place.

David Chiang as Chi San Lo Lieh as Pai Mei

Add to that the wonderful over-dubbing (whatever these guys were paid it wasn't enough) and a romantic sub-plot revolving around Chi San and Wu Mei (Lily Li) and you have yet another Shaw Brothers Production that ticks all the right boxes.

Sure, some of the scenes look like they were shot on a backlot somewhere, and it's obvious they were, and the editing can at times leave a lot to be desired, as is usually the case with Chinese films cut for an American market, but overall A Slice Of Death is a top end 7 out of 10 everyday of the week.

So grab yourself a copy of A Slice of Death if you like traditional Kung-Fu, or if you don't want to part with your hard earned cash you can find it on YouTube, and settle in for a familiar but fun hour and 25 minutes of good old fashioned, solid, martial arts. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Neil Gray is a writer from the UK. The story goes that he was invented in a laboratory experiment that went horribly wrong and has spent years devouring every movie form and film genre that was foolish enough to pass his way until he is now nothing more than a hideous monstrosity, more celluloid than man.
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