The Eight-Diagram Pole Fighter

98 minutes

This late release (1984) from the Shaw Brothers Studio in Hong Kong is one of its very best, thanks to the kinetic direction of Lau Kar-leung (who started out as a prominent fight choreographer). Set during the Liao Dynasty, it stars Gordon Liu as one of seven brothers who, along with their father, are ambushed and attacked by Khitans. With most of his family dead, Liu takes refuge in a monastery, where he hones his quarterstaff skills. More than a mere revenge story, the film illustrates Lau's belief that family unity brings strength and that kung fu is the cornerstone of one’s ancestral heritage. It also demonstrates his penchant for placing actors alone on soundstages in full period costume; the brutally violent opening scene plays like something out of Bertolt Brecht. In Cantonese and Mandarin with subtitles.

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