Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shaolin Wooden Men (1976)

Shaolin Wooden Men is a typical Hong Kong Martial Arts Movie which cobbles thin storylines and questionable acting to some awesome kick but action.

The music swings between twee and chinese ‘action music’ most westerners find discordant. With dreadful dubbing and poor quality film, its a movie best fast forwarded through to the action scenes.
In saying all of this, I am a huge fan of Jackie Chan. He is an immensely talented man and martial artist; regardless to the quality of the movie, he is fun to watch.

Shaolin Wooden Men comes from his early career and it is a bit of a rude shock to revisit it and see just how young he looks. Jackie has an unmistakable style, great timing, and ability to do some impressive things with both his body and surrounding props. He manages to meld the slapstick and serious in a way no other action actor is able to.

Shaolin Wooden Men focuses on the journey of Little Mute, an orphan taken in by the Shaolin Monks after his father was murdered by a unknown fighter. Since the day he witnessed his fathers death, he refuses to speak. Little Mute works hard to learn the skills from the monks, but is constantly taunted by his fellow students.

Although he has a tough time in his training, he is taken in by two monks with differing styles.One teaches him a graceful and subtle style, the other is a prisoner of the monks. Little Mute works hard to mesh the styles together to enable him to pass the test of the Shaolin Wooden Men, a series of 108 wooden men who block the path of any new monk.

Once he passed the test, Little Mute leaves the monastery to search for his fathers killer and break his vow of silence.

The copy of Shaolin Wooden Men I was able to get a hold of was badly degraded and had crackly, monotone dubbing. Though perhaps a little unfair to pass judgement on this experience, its poor dialogue and bad music made the film a trial to endure in so many spots. What saves it is Jackie Chans presence, skill and martial arts ability. Turn the sound down and enjoy his mastery.

Theatrical poster via Wiki

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