Customer Reviews: Five Shaolin Masters
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Man, oh man, this is one fantastic martial arts film. If Five Shaolin Masters doesn't have it all, it certainly does come close. Not only do you have numerous well-choreographed fight scenes involving groups as well as individuals, you've got a whole buffet of fighting styles served up for your viewing pleasure. Speaking of viewing pleasure, the print is fantastic. I can't speak for the DVD specifically, but the print that I saw was in vivid, glorious widescreen, looking more like a modern-day Hong Kong release than a film dating back to 1974.

As the film opens, the Shaolin Temple has just been destroyed by imperial Manchu forces. Thanks to a traitorous spy among the Shaolin disciples, the bad guys were able to take the Temple by complete surprise, killing all but five of its members. After fighting their way to safety, the survivors head off separately to make contact with other rebels. The Manchu are never far behind, as they are determined to stamp out all the rebels once and for all. Numerous fights ensue along the way, leaving the five Shaolin disciples alive but unsure of themselves, having learned that they are no match for the kung fu fighters of the Manchu. Having encountered their enemies (including the traitor that betrayed the Temple) face to face, though, they are now aware of their enemies' strengths and weaknesses. Proving that knowledge is power, each of them begins intensive training in the particular fighting style he thinks he will need in order to defeat his adversary. That, of course, sets the stage for one hell of a battle in the film's final 15-20 minutes.

I'm no martial arts film expert, but my understanding is that the great writer/director Chang Cheh brought together two generations of top-notch martial artists for this film. The five would-be Shaolin masters are played by Ti Lung, Chi Duan-chun, Mang Fei, Alexander Fu Sheng, and David Chiang, with the last two turning in particularly memorable performances. The Manchu kung fu experts are a few years older than the heroes, but their skills remain honed to a razor-sharp edge. Pao Yu-lung (Choi Wang) is deservedly renowned and feared for his skill with the Flying Axe, while his buddies (played by Kong Do, Fung Hak-on, Chien San, and Ma Fu-yi) are just as masterful at their own individual fighting styles. One of them kills a man with a mere snap of his ponytail, which was so impressive I had to immediately pause and watch him do it a second time.

The big fight at the end is the equivalent of five main events all rolled into one, featuring a display of martial artistry showcasing the Tiger and Crane style, advanced usage of the chain dart and fighting staff, a whopping ten complementary styles by one fighter, and all kinds of other impressive action. The realism extends all the way through the aftermath of each pugilistic duel, as well. Liu Chia-Liang's fight choreography is spot-on throughout the entire film, as is Chang Cheh's direction. For the time being, at least, Five Shaolin Masters is my new favorite martial arts film.

On a final note, a prequel to this film, Shaolin Temple, was made in 1976, so you might want to hunt that one down before watching Five Shaolin Masters. If you have any interest in kung fu cinema at all, though, you're definitely going to want to see this 1974 classic - with or without the prequel.
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on October 10, 2011
I collect old-school kung fu movies, and no doubt - I count Five Shaolin Masters among the top 10 movies to have; right up there with Master Killer and Five Deadly Venoms. Here's the catch though, a lot of people do not know that this movie actually has a pre-1uel, which was completed, I think, 4 years AFTER it: Shaolin Temple A.K.A. Death Chambers. All of the main actors are in both except Meng Fei - I keep reading that Meng Fei is in Shaolin Temple, but I can never spot him. If he is there, he has a very small part. David Chiang, Fu Sheng, Ti Lung (one of my favorites) and Chin Kuan-Chun (another all-time favorite of mine) are in both - along with the usual cast of Shaw Brothers villains. I have both the original language and dubbed versions - both are good, but I always prefer the original language - although- even those do not have the actual actors' voices in them, either.

Like a lot of kung fu movies, this one is about revenge - But watch Shaolin Temple first, which chronicles their training and escape from the destroyed temple, in order to better understand what is happening in Five Shaolin Masters. This one has an excellent fight scene climax - actually five of them - going on simultaneously. You will love how Chin Kuan-Chun unleashes ALL of his Hung Ga styles on Fung Hak On's (one of my favorite villains) Mantis Fist.

You like old school kung fu? Then just go out and get this - BUT - do yourself a favor and get Shaolin Temple too - and have yourself a nice Kung Fu Theater weekend like we did in NYC back in the day.
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on March 23, 2008
The maestro Chang Cheh made this Shaolin versus Manchu classic "Five Shaolin Masters" in 1975 for his independent Chang Ho Film company (which was affiliated with Shaw Brothers). First, the movie itself is classic Chang Cheh, right down to his themes of brotherhood, patriotism and honor.

The Shaolin heroes are comprised of his "first team" ~ Ti Lung as Tsai Te-Chung, the late Fu Sheng as Ma Chao-Hsing, Chi Kuan-Chun as Li Shih-Kai, David Chiang as Hu Te-Ti & an odd choice in Meng Fei as Fang Ta-Hung. Odd because it's Meng's only appearance in a Chang Cheh film to my knowledge. Billy Tang & Gordon Liu both make cameos, I don't know why he didn't use one of them. Anyhoo, Chang rounds out the film with great "villains";(shown with their own music) Tsai Hung as Pao Yu-Lung, Liang Chia-Jen a.k.a. Beardie as Chien San, Feng Ko-An as Chiang Chin-Chiu, Chiang Tao as Chen Wen-Yao & Johnny Wang Lung-Wei as Ma Fu-Yi. The story is simple; Manchus attack and destroy Shaolin with the help of a spy (explained in the prologue), each Shaolin hero gets matched up with their Manchu adversary, the heroes get beaten, they regroup, spend a year brushing up on their fu in the Shaolin ruins and have a 15 minute finale with our "improved" heroes taking on their Manchu enemies. However, Chang Cheh executes the narrative like no other. The Liu brothers, one of whom makes a cameo, deliver the goods in the choreography department, especially the end fight between Chi Kuan-Chun using the Cross Fist style against Feng Ko-An's Mantis Fist & Eagle Claw styles. Awesome stuff here and great stock music.

Now for the DVD; digitally restored & remastered blemish-free print. Widescreen, uncut, and it includes the original Chinese/English credits. One complaint though. Even though I would prefer subtitles and original Chinese audio track, I didn't mind the English dubbing here because it was those familiar "Drive-In Movie" voices that I grew up listening to. But here's the problem, the English track this DVD company had wasn't in the greatest shape. It was audible and all, but there were synch glitches left and right (probably because of the different region origins of the video and audio), and the audio track kept switching between two different audio tracks. It wasn't that bad, I'm being a little nitpicky I know, but it was slightly distracting, but the picture quality is top-notch.

Bonzai Distribution, who did this one, are hit and miss. Sometimes they do a fantastic job like "Ten Tigers of Kwangtung", "The Weird Man" and "House of Traps", sometimes they do a real crappy job like "Magnificent Ruffians". "Five Shaolin Masters" a.k.a. "Five Masters of Death" falls in between - excellent picture, so-so audio, no special features. Well, there's my opinion for what it's worth. Hope it helps.
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on June 9, 2013
this movie was good quality audio video and was fun to watch. its in the same tradition as other kung fu movies from that time. its not as good as some of the classic though, that's why I gave it a 3 instead of a five
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on July 26, 2009
I own over 300 classic Kung Fu DVDs and every now and again I try to rank the top 5 or 10 DVDs any collector MUST have and this one always ranks in both categories along with, of course, Five Deadly Venoms, and Shaolin Master Killer. This is because it pairs two of my favorite SB actors, and real life kung fu practitioners (Ti Lung (Wing Chun) and Chi Kwan Chun (Hung Ga)) in the second part of the telling of the burning of the Shaolin Temple and a few escapees' attempts to spread Shaolin Kung fu as well as fight against the Qing oppressors. If you like this and to better understand this story, pick up Death Chambers (AKA Shaolin Temple) with essentially the same cast except for Meng Fei. A very young Lee Yi Min has more of a prominent role in this one and you will recognize most of the teen-age looking Venoms in it as well.

Released 4-6 years AFTER Five Shaolin Masters, Death Cambers/ Shaolin Temble is actually the prequel to Shaolin Masters. It is kind of odd to see how much younger the actors are in the second part of collection, but you get used to it.

The last fight scenes are fantastic with our heroes each taking on other actors classic kung fu villians we have come to know in the genre. I love the guy who does the mantis fist in most of his movies. He fights Chi Kwan Chun who unloads a demonstration of, I think, 10 Hung Ga forms on him while naming each.

Try watching this in its original language you if you can. There is someone on Ebay who sells the Celestial remastered versions of all SB movies for like $5.00 each called Brothersrobber. There are other sellers as well. I like to collect the cases and artwork so I also look for other sellers as well.

Great Movie, story and choreography!
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on January 23, 2014
This film's quality is very good, DVD transfer is okay, subtitles are well placed most of the time. Nothing seems to be cut off or missing. The Kung-fu is good and the plat is well written and paced. Good to purchase if you are into the martial arts films.

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on February 27, 2013
Directed by Chang Cheh, choreographed by Liu Chia-Liang, and starring the trio of David Chiang, Ti Lung, and Alexander Fu Sheng -- I've been watching a lot of movies from these folks, and for good reason. They're the best at what they do. Which is why this movie would be good no matter what. The film builds to a big finale of five heroes against five villains, and I really liked those villains too, but I was definitely feeling like there was nothing new here. It's about the few survivors from the burning of the Shaolin temple... yet again. A good movie but nothing original. Well, swinging an axe blade around on a rope is a good idea.
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on September 25, 2011
one of those classic kung-fu movies you saw with your grandfather back in nyc on a saturday afternoon....kung fu theatre....used to be channel the non-cabled household.
this is your typical kung-fu formula for success....shaolin temple....detruction of shaolin temple....survivors band together....survivors train to seek vengeance....train in styles specific to beat their enemies....tragedy ensues...
great acting...or overacting as manifest by exuberant dubbing....
any kung-fu movie withe 50 utterances of "but still" can't be all that bad....
i've always's a drinking game waiting to be developed for the kung-fu set.

must buy for your collection.
i can't say much about the particular mastering / remastering ....
with this particular edition.
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on December 6, 2013
Quality of the movie was not that great. I love Karate movies. I was disappointed in the quality of this product. I own other movies and the movies I have are good that why I got more from this series, but these movies were awful!
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VINE VOICEon April 16, 2013
First off, the quality of the DVD was excellent. I'm so used to seeing poor quality on some of my VHS tapes (obviously recorded at 6 hour mode), that a real DVD transfer looks fantastic. No complaints on the DVD itself.

Though this movie has gotten some good reviews, I was not thrilled with it. The overall story was pretty good about the Shaolin temple being burned down and there being 5 survivors to continue the teachings. Though really there are 7 (at least mentioned at beginning) but you never hear about the other 2. Not sure why. The fighting skills of the survivors are not that good and the story follows them through recruiting fighters and training themselves further.

The training sequences were weak. The people they recruited did not play into the final fight storyline at all. And the fight sequences themselves just were not that great. I expected better based on some of the actors in this movie.

If you are expecting Venom quality fights, you will be disappointed. And even considering the actors involved, I found Fu Sheng much better in Chinatown Kid (for example).

Overall, just an average Kung Fu flick.
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