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.
Sing Pei Pei (Polly Shang Kuan Lingfeng) – Sing Pei Pei is in search of the 18 jade arhats/Lohans that we stolen from her family, and the thief murdered her entire family. She gets involved in the search for a killer because it will lead her to the man who killed her family.
Kung Chin Ya (Lee Jan-wa) – Kung Chin Ya is a guy who wanders around China getting into adventures or something. He really has no real motive except he wanders around. I guess he’s out to fight for justice or something, but it’s not like he says it. It is more like he’s just running around slicing up bad guys because it is more exciting than making noodles.
Hu Ying Pao (Lo Lieh) – The accused murderer of Wong Chun Wei, who is innocent and eventually proves his innocence when people try to kill him to silence him. Lo Lieh was previously seen here in Lady Iron Monkey
Wong Chun Wei (Chang Yi) – He’s dead, so most of the film is people trying to figure out who killed them. Boy are they wasting their time! Uh.., SPOILERS! Chang Yi was one of the baddies in The Thrilling Sword.
1978 Directed by Juang Lung (as Huang Lung)
Written by Tsai Yung
Deadly Strike is a pretty good kung fu film. It follows a pretty average plot, but takes it and runs with it, making the entire film be a whole lot of fun. There is rarely a dull moment, and they only occur when setting up the next cool fight sequence. The basic plot involves a new sheriff taking on a gang of bandits, recruiting some prisoners to help him as the bandit thugs get tougher and tougher. It all plays out like a video game, and Bruce Li does a good new Sheriff who is eager to kick some bandit butt and save the people. And many people die. The plot sounds familiar, and the style is similar to films about the Old West. I am sure there are probably research appears on how old film Westerns influence films from all over the globe, but I am hardly an expert in the matter enough to give more than an outline. Taking basic stories and transplanting them to new settings is not a new event, and it continues to happen to this day in multiple directions.
The plot of the film necessitates that there is a great number of actors and memorable bit parts, so we will have one of the rather large Roll Calls that stretch throughout the film review. We have tried to identify many of the actors, but there is scant information and many are either best guesses or left blank for later. Some of the faces are familiar to fans of the 1970s kung fu film genre, so it is only a matter of time before everyone is properly credited. So we will start out with our main characters:
Captain Chen (Bruce Li) – Chen as his name is a guess based on what one guy said quickly that could be misunderstood as some other name. So we will call him Captain, as that is what everyone else does. Put a little captain in you? This guy is the best fighter in China, it seems, and the only hope to save the village from the bandits. Bruce Li previous fought on TarsTarkas.NET in New Guinea, so he is used to exotic locales.
Wu Tung (Tsang Chiu) – The lazy assistant to Captain, he soon grows into a good fighter and loyal companion, but he dies. That always happens. Stupid dyers, stop dying!
The Cook (Chiang Han) – The Cook has a black scar/mole/something that makes him stand out, but still ends up dead. That is what happens when you run off in the middle of a long quest!
Chow Quay Ah (Choi Wang) – Chow Quay Ah killed three men, but a flashback shows they were three men who killed two women. Chow Quay Ah was just enraged at how horrible of people they were. Has a son and a mother, but his wife has passed on. Choi Wang has been in dozens of films but hasn’t appeared on TarsTarkas.NET before.
Ni Gi (Lung Fei) – One eye – A knife expert who killed a corrupt magistrate for being corrupt. Makes sense. Doesn’t like to kill people who don’t deserve it. Lung Fei might show up again if I ever get around to watching my copy of Bruce Lee Against Supermen.
Wang Chow (Su Chen-Ping) – Wang Chow was arrested for stealing a magistrate’s mistress – he is hilarious! Does several gags throughout the film. Not the best fighter, but does what he can do to help. Su Chen-Ping has also been in a bunch of films, including Way Ching Killed the Dragon which I must track down.
Wei Gun (Li Min-Lang) – Wei Gun had three wifes, beat them all and one died. Whip user. Takes a shine to Yi Lin because that is the kind of guy he is. Ends up dead before the rest due to it. Li Min-Lang is somewhere in Island Warriors.
Yi Lin (Chu Lai) – The girl who is out for revenge for reasons not explained well. She will use her body to destroy the enemy. No, not by STDs, you pervs! Chu Lai was only in a few films.
Thug leader Fan Ta Hu (Sing Chen) – The deadliest villain of them all, Fan Ta Hu controls a vast network of bandits that raid villages at will, cause all sorts of problems, and have the local police too scared to fight them. Fan Ta Hu fights cobras to keep himself fast, and spends his fights high on drugs so he will feel not pain. Will soon learn you can’t mess with the Captain! See Sing Chen here in Bruce Li in New Guinea and Lady Iron Monkey.