The Eighteen Jade Arhats (Review)
The Eighteen Jade Arhats
aka Shi ba yu luo han
Directed by Cheung Git
The Eighteen Jade Arhats goes by many many many titles besides its original Shi ba yu luo han. You might find in on video under titles such as Eighteen Claws of Shaolin, Eighteen Deadly Arhats, or The Eighteen Jade Pearls. We’re watching a widescreen print released somewhere that speaks Spanish, where the film was titled Bruce Le y El Secreto del Saolin. Someone overlayed the widescreen print with the English dubjub by that company that dubbed hundreds of Kung Fu films (so you’d recognize many of the voices.) Why would we watch such a weird hybrid? Because, at the time, it was the best way to see it. It might still be, I haven’t kept up with the latest DVD releases of 18 Jade Arhats, but I don’t know if there is a good widescreen print in English or Chinese.
My first experience with the film was still pictures from the book Deadly China Dolls that featured Polly Shang Kuan battling some sort of multi-armed statue. That was awesome so the film jumped way ahead in my search queue. Too bad for me the actual statue fighting happens for less than a few seconds, and is just a flashback and an immobile statue.
Director Cheung Git only directed two other films, and I haven’t seen them, so I can’t tell if this is a typical Cheung Git film. Maybe one day…
“What the hell is an “arhat”?” I hear you asking. Well, guy who can’t use Google, an arhat signifies a spiritual practitioner who has realized certain high stages of attainment. The Chinese word for arhat can be written as “Lo Han” which become Lohan when subtitle people are at work. And thus, the Lindsay Lohan jokes that will be in the film, because if I don’t do it some commentor will. But now I probably will prevent all potential comments! That’s what I get for shooting myself in the foot…
Polly Shang Kuan is awesome enough we’ll give her a better biography when reviews of some of her weirder films are completed. As the time of this reviews publication, there are four other films of hers in my review pipeline, showing how I just get reviews 90% done and then wander off to watch something else. She was a queen of action cinema during her day, and some of her films are too awesome for words and are just experiences you have to have.
The opening credits have Polly Kuan and Lee Jan-wa fighting a metal contraction with multiple arms. This is initially what attracted me to 18 Jade Arhats, having seen the lobby card and wanting to see a film where people fight a multi-armed metal statue. Sadly, most of the fighting only takes place during the opening credits and during a short scene at the end where moves learned on the machine are remembered. But the machine is played off like it is a Shaolin training device we are supposed to be familiar with, so hopefully that means it shows up in other movies at some point.
Sing Pei-Pei is heading to Old Town, despite a warning of danger there from Kung Chin Ya. “Danger doesn’t worry me, because I’ve met it before” Sing Pei-Pei declares to him. So he attacks her! Sing Pei-Pei, haven’t you learned not to provoke the local crazy people? Kung Chin Ya calls out some men with hanging lantern weapons who also join in. I am not sure how such a weapon is practical, and they aren’t that much as Sing Pei-Pei makes short work of them. Kung Chin Ya then tells her he is a traveler and he is interfering with her because she’s pretty. Great, Kung Chin Ya is literally a five-year-old dunking pigtails into inkwells of the cute girls.
A white robed man has been killed in Old Town! Not white robed man! Who will wear the white robes now? Gandalf? Soon we see Kung Chin Ya is beating up other dudes, who were sent to kill him. But they are killed instead, and then Kung Chin Ya then attacks the man who sent them while deriding his sending of assassins. After the scolding, Kung Chin Ya kills him. Prominant martial arts master Wong Chun Wei is attacked and blamed for the murder of the white robed man. He claims he was killed by Lo Han Palm, a technique known by only a few people, Wong Chun Wei being the only guy nearby. But Wong Chun Wei just kills him and his men via spike traps, then sets out to find who the other master of Lo Han Palm is.
First, some dude named Ku Yung Pung has challenged Wong Chun Wei as well, and Wong Chun Wei must fight him despite his family being sick of all the challenges. Wong Chun Wei seems to find people to fight every day, I am surprised anyone is left still alive within a 100 mile radius of him. Kung Chin Ya is attacked in woods by guys from North Temple, so he goes there to beat everyone up and find out why they attacked him. The leader won’t say why unless Kung Chin Ya agrees to an iron ball challenge. Pei-Pei has been following Kung Chin Ya and his exploits, and wants to take his place in the challenge. They agree, so Pei-Pei and the North Temple leader get on top of big iron balls and fight on a red carpet with bamboo spikes all around, trying to knock the other off. I think I played this in gym class in junior high.
Sing Pei Pei wins, but the North Temple leader is killed by his own men before he can answer. Polly kills the men, and now the only way to find out who tried to kill Kung Chin Ya is to ask Wong Chun Ya. But when they get there he is dead and they blame Hu Ying Pao. This is all very confusing, I’m taking notes and still have a hard time keeping up. But Hu Ying Pao kills Wong’s men who were blaming him.
An adviser tells Wong’s widow to hire some killers to kill Hu Ying Pao. She hires some dudes: The Tien brothers and a dude in a hat named Sha Pi Chen. Sha Pi Chen talks big but he is a fake klutz and gets beat up in a nanosecond. The Tien brothers fail as well, so the widow hires Sau Wu Chin, the unbeaten one.
Of course, Sing Pei Pei harasses him into a contest because he looks to be losing a match of Go. Pei Pei defeats the “unbeaten one”, and soon the family wants to hire her. Instead, she recommends Kung Chin Ya, but he doesn’t want to be an assassin. Wong’s daughter convinces him because Wong Chun Wei was murdered.
Pei Pei and Kung Chin Ya go ask Hu Ying Pao questions, he says he didn’t kill Wong Chu Wei, and doesn’t know who could except one guy. Before we find out who that is, a masked bad guy sends some killers to kill Kung Chin Ya. We got floating flames in the forest at night and disappearing killers pretending to be ghosts. This sequence is pretty creative but doesn’t last long enough. The heroes fight throughs them, and reach two gates: Birth Gate and Death Gate. What, no Stargate? Kung Chin Ya chooses Birth Gate, Pei Pei Death Gate.
Birth Gate has weird women playing instruments while Death Gate has kung fu killers that Pei Pei Fights. Kung Chin Ya given wine and soon is trying to make babies with one of the women he is hallucinating is Pei Pei. They try to kill him by a falling spike trap. By now Pei Pei has fought her way to the center and where Kung Chin Ya is. She demands to see the lord of the house and ask about the killing, but he’s been dead for a month! D’oh!
Kung Chin Ya figures out Pei Pei is looking for the 18 Jade Lohans. Have you tried rehab? I think they have a jaded Lohan… Pei Pei’s father was entrusted to watch them, but he was killed and the 18 Jade Lohans stolen. She knows Kung Chin Ya is also looking for them.
A monk appears and want’s Kung Chin Ya’s head, but the monk can’t kill him because of his vows. So the monk will do a contest of speed to try to win the head, I guess Kung is supposed to just hand his head over if he loses. But the monk loses and goes home to report. Then a girl dressed as a nun pops down to also challenge Kung to take his head. Pei Pei will duel in his place, a Light Kung Fu battle, which means they both stand on the ends of bamboo poles in the ground, the loser is whoever first sinks their bamboo slightly into the ground. Pei Pei stats talking to distract her and wins. Kung Chin Ya then gives this awesome quote: “You see, in kung fu, all tricks are allowed” Keep that in mind whenever crazy nun ladies challenge you to Light Kung Fu battles standing on top of poles. It’s like every other week for me.
Next up is a grumpy guy with rules, Kung kills him by snapping him between trees.
At this point the heroes figure out the killer was left handed, as is Hu Ying Pao. So once again they accuse him, and then try to fight him to get him to confess. But then they defend him from a dart assassin, and learns enough to believe he is innocent. They then see the Wong family’s servent is left handed and is the killer! He admits it with story, explaining he was defeated in duel, so he burnt his own face to alter his appearance to work for Wong and bid his time for revenge! He killed Wong Chun Wei from behind.
Then the servent tries to kill Kung Chin Ya for knowing too much, but instead the servent is killed…and his hand is too crippled to hold a sword, so he couldn’t have been the murderer! So he is a big liar, I guess. Damn liars.
Then Wong’s daughter Man Nue claims she killed her father, and that he is not her real father. In fact, Wong killed her real father and raped her mom. Then Man Nue dies from suicide.
Pei Pei confronts Kung Chin Ya, because he used the Lohan technique! Blames him for steaing the Lohans despite him being five when it happened. She fights him to a standstill, and says she will give the remaining 9 jade lohans to anyone who can kill him.
Just so we all know, the 9 Jade Lohans are 9 jade naked men statues around two feet tall in various poses, which I guess are kung fu poses that teach you how to use your kung fu energy better. Why they are naked with big jade wangs I am not sure, but it probably means all kung fu should be done in the nude.
A ton of guys show up to claim the jade lohan prizes, but we all know Lindsay doesn’t swing that way anymore…
Pei Pei tests out all these newcomers. A hatted guy shows up to try to claim them declares the are fake, but the only way he could know if is he stole the originals and killed Pei Pei’s entire family just to get the jade lohans back in the day! He did, because he is Wong Chun Wei, who isn’t dead, and Pei Pei, Kung Chin Ya, and Hu Ying Pao all set a trap for him and were working together. Please, even Admiral Ackbar could see this trap coming!
Hu Ying Pao and Wong Chung Wei fight, with Pei Pei and Kung Chin Ya joining in
Kung fu, kung fu, kung fu, kung fu, kung fu,
Hu Ying Pao is killed in the battle
Kung fu, kung fu, kung fu, kung fu, kung fu,
Kung Chin Ya channels different poses of that metal armed thing from the credits, while Pei Pei remembers her father’s words telling her the Lo Han technique is vulnerable from attacks from above. Thanks for finally remembering that one piece of super-important information!
Eventually, he gets ground crucified! Take that, Wong Chun Wei! Now you are Jesus.
And we instantly end again, because that’s how it works.
Rated 7/10 (Angry, seducty, Monky, Nunny, Lohanny, wandery, false promise!!!)