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Lost and Found: 8 Diagram Pole Fighter

‘Lost and Found’ is an ongoing column, wherein I discuss a noteworthy movie that for whatever reason has never been released on DVD, or is otherwise unavailable for my viewing pleasure.

I saw Shaw Brothers Studios’ The 36th Chamber of Shaolin a couple weeks ago for the first time. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly knowledgeable about Shaw Brothers movies, or even martial arts movies in general. I’ve seen and enjoyed Drunken Master, Supercop, Enter the Dragon, Master of the Flying Guillotine, and some others, but correcting my lack of knowledge about this genre is one of my ‘movie goals’ for 2010. 36th Chamber was a real treat, sort of like kung fu Rocky. I’m a real sucker for those ‘disciplining your mind, body, and spirit’ training movies. After watching that, I watched all the trailers in the Shaw Brothers Studio trailer gallery included on the DVD. By far the best was the trailer for a movie called 8 Diagram Pole Fighter.

8 Diagram Pole Fighter is the story of 8 brothers (named Yang No. 1 – Yang No. 8…seriously) and their father, who make a last stand against some evil dudes. All but three die. Of the three, one is captured and one goes crazy. The last brother, Yang No. 5 (played by Gordon Lui, awesome in 36th Chamber and really awesome in Kill Bill 1 as the leader of the Crazy 88s and in Kill Bill 2 as Pai Mei, Uma Thurman’s insane kung fu instructor) develops a super badass ‘stick fighting’ style based on the combined styles of all his dead siblings, and he’s going to kick the asses of all the dudes who killed his brothers and dad. Also, his sister kicks some ass, too.

One of my favorite things about 36th Chamber is how the ‘indoor for outdoor’ sets and beautiful Technicolor-style cinematography seem almost like something out of an old MGM musical. It’s strange comparing a kung fu movie to Meet Me in St. Louis or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but there it is. 8 Diagram Pole Fighter looks like it’s cut from that same cloth.

Unfortunately, the 8 Diagram Pole Fighter DVD went out of print a while back. Even the poor quality bootleg released by Red Sun as ‘Invincible Pole Fighters’ has been discontinued. As of the time of this writing there are five copies of the bootleg left for sale on Amazon, so act fast if you want it. There is hope, however. ‘Well Go’ has released several very reasonably priced Shaw Brothers Studios box sets over the last couple of years. If they keep that series running, it can’t be long before the collect the Gordon Lui era, right? Keep your fingers crossed.

Side note: Shaw Brothers Studios has the best studio logo ever. It’s like some weird Warner Brothers from Dimension X!

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