zen master 6

All New Wave Kung Fu Talk Going Back From the Late 80's
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Zen Master 6

Postby Goldenswallow » Wed Jan 10, 2007 1:53 pm

Zen Master 6 (1987) starts off depicting life in the Shaolin Temple and the rivalry between two of it’s top students - Kau and Wai Nan (Sun Chou Min). The arrogant Kau is very popular and firmly believes in a strict adherence to the rules of the temple, studying the scriptures and training hard to increase his strength and improve his kung fu. Wai Nan on the other hand is a bit of a loner who believes true Buddhism is found in the heart not in rules and scriptures and that an understanding of kung fu is more important than physical strength. Unfortunately Kau is in charge of the students and is widely respected in the monastery whereas Wai Nan is seen as a bit of a lazy troublemaker with his outspoken views, luckily the Abbot sees that Wai Nan has embraced the true ideals of Buddhism and secretly gives him the Abbot’s Surplice (the symbol of authority in the monastery), names him the as the next leader and sends him off on a journey to the Southern Shaolin Temple to inform the Abbot there of his appointment (whilst spreading a bit of Buddhism along the way). Unfortunately the Abbot promptly dies and Kau, believing that Wai Nan has stolen the surplice appoints himself chief and sends out various fighters to kill him and retrieve the surplice for himself. Basically it’s a film of two halves - the first half showing life in the temple, the second showing Wai Nan’s adventures as he travels through China spreading Buddhism and fighting both to defend himself against Kau’s men and for various good causes.

Zen Master 6 is notable for having Lo Lieh as it’s director, and generally he does a good job, the film is quite serious in tone and is obviously making a conscious effort to promote the ideals of Buddhism (in which it’s quite successful). He’s not quite as successful at stringing together a coherent story unfortunately and there’s a few moments that leave you wondering exactly what’s just happened (although this is partly due to the hard to read burnt in subtitles). It’s a minor criticism though and it didn’t really spoil my enjoyment of the film - just left me a bit puzzled on one or two occasions and it certainly isn’t the first kung fu film to do that.

Despite the fact that I’ve been going on about the lofty ideals of Buddhism, Zen Master 6 is an action film and there’s plenty of great kung fu on display courtesy of action director Yuen Bun. I was expecting a new wave film but the action is mostly old school with very little wirework, although there is a fair bit of great swordplay a lot of the fighting is hand to hand and is executed with a surprising amount of speed and skill. The action kind of reminded me of the other films you could describe as a links between the old school and new wave like Shaolin Temple or Arhats in Fury but if anything I’d say it was more hard hitting and slightly better here with less of the wushu influence. The highlight for me was the tournament in Shaolin to decide the top fighter with some blistering styles on display but there are plenty of high quality fights (usually involving Wai Nan fending of multiple attackers) throughout the film. Don't worry he might be a Buddhist but he got no qualms about kicking someones ass.

So it’s all good then, if Lo Lieh had tightened up the story a bit and used some big name stars I’m sure we’d be regarding Zen Master 6 as a classic, as it is it’s still a very enjoyable addition to the Shaolin genre that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

Posts: 2180
Joined: Sat Mar 04, 2006 11:46 am

Postby Goldenswallow » Fri May 06, 2011 7:44 am

I completely agree mate. I think the lack of big stars has stopped this film from gaining the recognition it deserves. It's got a hint of the mainland about it and the fighting is a cross between new wave and old school.

I suppose period kung fu films were well past their peak around this time so that might explain it's lack of popularity which could be why Lo Lieh didn't get to make more films.

I did a write up for this in the review section if anyone's interested.

(that's a nice print BTW better than mine by the looks of it, where's it from RB?)

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