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VINE VOICEon April 19, 2008
Apples vs. oranges, Chevy vs. Ford, Yankees vs. Red Sox, vanilla vs. chocolate... all great debates to be sure, but they pale in comparison to the best debate of them all, Chinese Martial Arts vs. Japanese Martial Arts! This Lau Kar-Leung(who also appears as a drunken master!) film, that also goes by the far worse title, "Shaolin Challenges Ninja," delivers this battle in fantastic fashion with tons of style and charm to spare. The plot has Gordon Liu in an arranged marriage to Japanese actress Yuko Mizuno and instantly their cultures and beliefs clash, most importantly when it comes to just who has the best fighting techniques the world over. In typical Kar-Leung film fashion the movie has a light playful tone, however; unlike some of his other attempts it's never corny and obnoxious and Gordon and Yuko in particular have fun with the situations while still keeping a serious tone about everything. The Japanese masters that are brought in to challenge Gordon are all great and bring personality and flavor with the small amount of screen time each is given (by actual Japanese actors). When these duels occur we get everything you could ever hope for including Kung Fu vs. Karate, Long Sword vs. Kitana, Butterfly Knives vs. Sais, 3 Section Staff vs. Nunchuku (in the closest we'll ever get to seeing Liu take on Bruce Lee... and this guy is an obvious clone), and more! One knock I do have with the movie is that Chinese master Liu tends to pawn the Japanese masters in exciting but fairly one-sided duels. Still, this is a Chinese film (if it was Japanese I'm sure things would be quite the opposite) and the Japanese masters are all treated respectfully even in defeat. This is a top 10 martial arts movie for myself and many other fans of Kung Fu cinema so if you haven't seen this yet then do yourself a favor and check it out ASAP! For those that already own the DVD from bootleg hacks Red Sun, I implore you to do the right thing and purchase this version from Dragon Dynasty... not only will there be a nice selection of bonus material included BUT it will also show that martial arts fans are willing to pay for top-notch respectable releases of classic Kung Fu films(especially Shaw Bros movies). Who out there wouldn't love to see other chop socky masterpieces like Five Deadly Venoms, 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, Enter The Fat Dragon, The Kid With The Golden Arm, Shaolin Vs Lama, and so many others get more than just a bootleg treatment? Thank you Dragon Dynasty for taking a chance on this release and hopefully it's a step towards more quality genre titles in the near future(Come Drink With Me is coming soon too!).
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on March 14, 2008
Probably the most entertaining Shaw Bros. film ever! Possibly the most fun Liu and Lau had making a Shaw Bros. film ever!! Positively the most amazing demonstrations of various Chinese and Japanese weapons, styles, philosophies, and attitudes about Martial Arts in any "Kung Fu vs Karate" or "Wuxia vs Ninja" or "China vs Japan" film made at Shaw Bros. or any other studio in Hong Kong, Tokyo, or anywhere else in the world, ever!!! And no one dies, or gets beat to a bloody pulp because it was meant to be entertaining, and fun, and amazing... And it's all that and a bag of shurikan's! Also, keep your eyes peeled for the "Sifu" himself showing Jackie Chan how "Drunken Master's" style can be done righteously in 10 minutes! * Highly recommended "fu flick fare" for females and families! Even the youngest kids in your brood can watch this one and learn some good life lessons about tolerance, respect, and confidence without pride too! Plus, they'll love it all the way through and have as much of a good time as you! It's really true!! Just ask "Sifu" Lau or "Master" Liu!!! ~ S->
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on May 29, 2008
Heroes of the East is a fantastic cinematic presentation of Chinese and Japanese fighting styles put up against each other to see which is the better one. Gordon Liu(36 Chambers of Shaolin) stars as Ah To in this movie and does a fantastic job. The fight scenes are really well done representing both the Japanese and Chinese styles of fighting without one necessarily being the dominant one. I hope Dragon Dynasty continues its great DVD releases of classic films like this one.

Special Features were excellent also. They included feature commentary with Bey Logan, 22 minute tribute to Martial Arts icon Lau Kar-Leung, 20 minute interview with Gordon Liu, and a 26 minute Shaolin vs Ninja Martial Arts Weapons presentation which was very interesting.
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on June 9, 2008
There is an audio commentary by Hong Kong cinema expert by Bey Logan. He points out that this film was made during the glory days of the Shaw Bros. At the time, Gordon Liu was doing Shaolin monk roles in films and had a shaved head so he is wearing a wig in this film. Logan identifies many of the actors that appear on-screen and lists off some of their other credits. For those not familiar, he points out various customs of Chinese and Japanese culture which really enhances what we are watching.

"Spotlight on a Legend: A Tribute to Celebrated Martial Arts Icon Lau Kar-Leung." Bey Logan talks at length about the man interspersed with clips from several of his films.

"Hero of Shaolin" is an interview with Gordon Liu. He says that his father wanted him to follow a more conventional career path but he had other ideas. Liu took martial arts classes and became very proficient and serious about it. He talks about the Hong Kong film industry in the 1970s and how Bruce Lee's death impacted it. Liu talks about the genesis of Heroes of the East and working on it, including how he communicated with the actors who only spoke Japanese.

Finally, there is "Shaolin vs. Ninja" which takes a look at the martial arts weapon forms of China and Japan and features experts demonstrating the proper way to handle these weapons used in the film mixed with clips from it. This is a really interesting and engaging primer.
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on March 19, 2009
This movie is a classic! It's a keeper for your kung fu movie collecton. I am a kung fu instructor and fully enjoy the action and training scenes. Nothing phoney or hokey. The movie was directed by a kung fu expert, the star was a kung fu expert, and the cinematographer was a kung fu expert as well. This combination of kung fu experts in different roles makes for a unique action movie from the perspective of martial artists. The action and moves are more authentic and many fight scenes are shot in a single take in real-time speed. Many kung fu movies speed up the action to make the actors look like they're moving fast. This movie lets you see real martial artists showing off their best skills when they were at the peak of their prowess. It also has a good story and not just fighting for the sake of fighting. This is great deal because you get a great movie and bonus features!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon June 5, 2010
HEROES OF THE EAST is also known by the more badasss title SHAOLIN CHALLENGES NINJA, but whatever you call this movie, doesn't alter the fact that it is one of the most entertaining vehicle for martial arts ever put to cinema. No one dies in this one, so there's none of that extra gratuitous thrill. Rather, the focus is on the remarkable exhibition of techniques encompassing various disciplines in the Japanese and Chinese martial arts. It's been a while since I saw The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, but HEROES OF THE EAST may be my favorite Gordon Liu flick.

The misunderstandings here get more blown out of proportion than in an episode of Three's Company. Cultural clashes and notions of impropriety quickly surface when an arranged marriage hooks up a proud Chinese man and a willful Japanese woman. It starts at the wedding ceremony when the Japanese bride Kung Zi unwittingly wears white, the color of death in Chinese culture. Ah To, himself a student of kung fu, then learns that Kung Zi is a practitioner of karate, and he promptly contends that her style is brash and unladylike. It doesn't help that Kung Zi while training breezily wrecks the family garden, demolishing those decorative little stone statues and such. When Ah To shows off his Chinese kung fu, Kung Zi scornfully taunts him: "When you practice with it, it's like dancing." When Kung Zi demonstrates her more forceful moves, Ah To lets her know: "All that noise, it's like a beggar driving dogs away." Marital bliss gets kicked to the curb.

Thanks to a pretty stupid scheme of Ah To's cringing tattletale servant, things escalate even further, and before you can say "Can't we all just get along?" seven of Japan's foremost martial artists, each a master of a particular discipline, storm Ah-To's home to challenge him in a series of one-on-one duels.

These challenges play out superbly. Another fun element is that no sooner does one fight end than we immediately learn Ah To's next challenger, and then we watch Ah To, in his allotted time of rest, try to come up with the proper counter. These skirmishes are wonderfully choreographed and hold up spectacularly well today. One outstanding sequence is Ah To versus the kendo master (or, more properly, iaido master) and what Ah To does here actually worsens things. Further highlights are the nunchuk and tonfa versus three-sectioned staff sequence and the sai versus butterfly sword sequence (and I got a kick out of the odd little sai master with his French mustache and his twitchy mouth). Ah To versus the judo master falls out more like a comedy routine, as Ah To bests him in a pretty underhanded (but clever) manner. I did think that the finale which is Ah To taking on the master ninja, while pretty decent, goes on a bit too long. Surprisingly, the ninja's employment of the "Japanese crab fist" isn't as cheesy as it sounds.

Director Lao Kar-Leung, himself an accomplished and highly respected martial artist, has a wonderful cameo as the drunken boxing master whose style Ah To must lift. Lao Kar-Leung also doubles Gordon Liu in some of the tricker moves with the three-sectioned staff.

Unlike films like FISTS OF FURY, HEROES OF THE EAST doesn't portray the Japanese martial artists as evil goons. Legendary director Lao Kar-Leung instills a sense of dignity in the Japanese contemporaries and even though the challengers lose, there's respect there. Gordon Liu was a superstar in the late '70s and '80s and you can see why. Liu not only has the requisite skills of a martial arts icon, but he's got presence and swagger and grace. Even if it's a wig he's got on for this picture (around this time, Gordon Liu was still shaving his head regularly because of his shaolin monk roles). Mizuno Yuko, who plays Kung Zi, is herself a skilled martial artist and she holds up very well when sparring with Liu. What's more, you do get the sense that the two lead characters are genuinely in love, and that lends a sweet emotional core to what otherwise would only have been a technical exercise in Chinese and Japanese martial arts. As it is, HEROES OF THE EAST is one of the finest films of its genre that I've ever seen. And the way it ends, not with bloodshed and gruesome deaths, but with mutual respect after an exhibition of prowess and skills, well, that's pretty much a philosophical linchpin of martial arts, isn't it? Makes me want to go in the garden and practice maneuvers like the "Cripple Li Carrying Water" and chop down innocent garden gnomes. Such an awesome movie.

The DVD from Dragon Dynasty offers up several nifty special features: feature commentary from Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan; "Spotlight on a Legend" - a tribute to celebrated martial arts icon and director Lao Kar-Leung, hosted by Bey Logan (00:36:08 minutes); "Hero of a Shaolin" - an interview with Gordon Liu as he talks about his career and, specifically, about this film (00:22:13); "Shaolin vs. Ninja" (00:26:10) - this is a really interesting segment with a Japanese Iaido master, a Hung Gar weapons master, and an Okinawan bo master breaking down techniques in their craft; and the original theatrical trailers for HEROES OF THE EAST and COME DRINK WITH ME.
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on September 22, 2011
I reviewed an old bootleg of this and gave it 4-stars, which means I liked it immensely. While the movie was immediately enjoyable to me and most fans of classic 70s kung fu, additional viewings have yielded tasty, unforeseen fruit! This flick gets better every time I watch it! And there is no other film quite like it! A unique story and a reasonable quantity of authentic styles & weapons. Plus the always awesome Yasuaki Kurata ("Fist of Legend")! Throw in Dragon Dynasty putting out this legitimate edition, loaded with special features and this flick has now been officially upgraded!

Gordon Liu ("The 36th Chamber of Shaolin") is arranged to be married to a Japanese woman (Mizuno Yuko), which he's not the least bit thrilled about; until he sees how pretty and kind she is. So he goes through with it and all is well until she starts boasting about the superiority of Japanese fighting styles. That's when he finds out how stubborn she is. Eventually they spar and Gordon is victorious. He's the more tolerant of the two but really coulda handled it better and she stomps back to Japan. Hoping for her return he attempts to exploit her tenacity by issuing her a challenge. Unfortunately the letter is intercepted by some of her superiors thinking he is challenging them and insulting their martial arts. A small group of 'em soon show up at Gordon's door for a one-fight-a-day reply! Whoops!

As most of the characters are a tad bit biased toward their paritcular art, director Lau Kar Leung ("Legend of the Drunken Master") kinda comes off the same. HOWEVER, one should consider that when this was made, in films of this genre, the Japanese were rarely (if ever) portrayed as anything but cruel nationalists. Here they are anything BUT one-dimensional supporting players! The two sides develop a mutual respect for one another's art, and it has an overall theme of tolerance. For that it deserves a TON of credit! Oh, and as an additional old-school rarity, some of the humor actually translates and the small amount that's painful is kept brief.

Dragon Dynasty gives us another stellar version of a Shaw Brothers classic with the gorgeous picture quality that Celestial has restored for the studio's repertoire. Languages include Mandarin, Cantonese and English. Optional subtitles in English or Spanish. Special features include one of the more informative commentaries by Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan and the following mini-documentaries: SPOTLIGHT ON A LEGEND: a Tribute to Celebrated Martial Arts Icon Lau Kar-Leung with Bey Logan. HERO OF SHAOLIN: An Exclusive Interview With Leading Man Gordon Liu. SHAOLIN VS. NINJA: An Exploration of the Legendary Martial Arts Weapon Forms of China and Japan. Oh, and a trailer gallery. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

1978. aka: Shaolin Challenges Ninja; Challenge of the Ninja
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on May 30, 2008
This is one of the best martial arts movies of all time. Fun story with humorous moments and fights that will boggle the mind. The various match ups between different various weapons and the choreography involved is exciting to watch and a real treat for fans of weapons in general. This movie showcases plenty of cool martial arts styles and what they could look like if they were used in a battle against each other. Btw, if you love games like Soul Calibur then check out this film! It's like watching a live-action version of that game. :D
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on June 25, 2012
There are roughly 1200 "old school" kung fu movies that were produced from the late 60's to the mid 80's. Shaw Brothers made 850 of them. Of that only 60 will be worth viewing for one reason or another. Of that, only 10 might considered excellent. But only maybe 5 would make the list for the most accurate, real usage of kung fu put to film.
This is simply because if you hold Gordon Lius movies side by side in the fight scenes of these 5, then everything else pales.
All real Hung Gar Gung Fu. All the weapons used by Gordon Liu were trained while studying Hung Gar as well as all the empty hand material.
The movie itself happens to be one of the most western mind-set movies. Husband and wife marry and quarrel over who's best. Only light comedic elements were used. No one is seriously hurt. No revenge. Just a great story that is easy to follow.
Heroes of the East also features quite simply the most beautifully choreograhed fight scenes put to the Jade Screen.
Filmed close enough to see every detail but far enough back to feel like you are standing there. Shots are centered and the camera only cuts when necessary. Each shot is held Seperate. No multiple cut angles.
Every practioner from Japan was a real martial artist in each art. Karate, Judo, Ninjintsu and the others were all experts in sai vs. butterfly knives, spear vs. tasseled spear, 3 sectional vs. nunchaku and tonfa, Samauri sword vs. straight sword and karate vs. monkey gung fu.
Every major combination of Chinese vs. Japanese weapon was matched. It all looked like real weighted weapons really clashing in the most beautifully filmed fights ever.
That puts Heroes of the East as simply THE #1 MOVIE OF ALL TIME. Even overshadowing 36th Chamber of Shaolin to the #2 spot because of the extensive fighting over training. And #3 is 8 Diagram Pole fighter, #4 Shaolin vs. Wutang (Gordon also directed this one) and #5 but perhaps the next one you should buy is Fists and Guts. Solely because the fight scene midway through is framed like Heroes of the East. Other than the first 4 movies... no other fight scenes, not even in Gordons other movies, are up to par with these 4
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on November 21, 2010
I am a self-admitted kung fu flix junkie. I became addicted to this from watching "Kung Fu Theater" on TV from the early 80s on. Much like many other genres or particular themed movies, there are good ones, there are bad ones, and some that outright suck.

This is one of the best I've ever gotten to watch. I'm surprized I've never even seen (or at least remember) snippets or clips before seeing this DVD. This was filmed just after "36th Chamber of Shaolin" (1978), probably the "Citizen Kane" (1941) of kung fu movies. This film also has the title of "Shaolin vs Ninja"

Strengths: almost too many to list. First is Gordon Lui as Ah To, son of a well-to-do businessman who gets married. (If you've never seen him with hair, it's funny.) His chosen wife is Japanese who is adept at Japanese martial arts, and is practically wrecking the household with her constant practicing. Second is director Lau Kar-Leung, who is also one of the very best director / action direction / choreographers in the business. Lau also is one director who does not indulge in fights drenched in blood and death, so don't expect any. Lau puts on a brief demonstration of 'drunken boxing' style as a lighter moment during the second half. Third is the chief Japanese antagonist, Yasuaki Kurata, one of the greatest actors of the genre (and still going strong today at age 63). Fourth, the weapons action--in fact the multiple matches seen makes up the second half, and the varieties seen. Unique here is one gets to see the chinese weapon of choice (including my favorite, the 3-section staff) and the approximate Japanese version / equivalent. No other film will ever show so many in use or matched in such a way.

The plot is understandable and starts out more of a comedy starting out as a 'battle of the sexes' through the lens of cultural differences (Chinese vs Japanese) regarding their respective martial arts and the philosophies integrated into them. Typical for this type of film, don't expect great dramatic acting or dialogue, but this has very little campy acting, and does not get mired in bad stereotypes. Unusual aspect of this film is it isn't a 'bash the Japs' type of Hong Kong movie that were more common. Ah To's wife leaves in a pique back to Japan, and Ah To makes a tactical mistake by listening to his obsequious house servant and writing a letter that was interpreted as a challenge to his wife. The direction turns more to drama as his wife has a serious suitor (Kurata-san) in Japan who takes it as an affront to all Japanese martial arts, and goes to China to answer the challenge. And for extra measure, brings along a number of masters, each adept in a particular Japanese martial art or weapon. Each cannot back down because of the sense of honor.

Weakness: I could nitpick but overall Heroes of the East (title doesn't quite the action or plot) is well made, consistently interesting, isn't overly predictable (other than match outcomes) and really doesn't get bogged down like most movies will, however the ending scene was really weak. Was the challenge really resolved? Did Ah To win his wife back? What was that moral message again?

A more thorough review can be found at [...]. Description of the weapons can be found at: [...].

If you like good martial arts movies, this is a cornerstone film for any DVD library. So if you don't have it, then get it.
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