A typically barmy slice of seventies kung fu, Shaolin Brothers is one of those films that feels like its been compiled from two or three different movies with similar looking actors. It starts coherently enough — Ko Lung (Carter Wong) is a General in the Ching army (the bad guys) who invites his old colleague Lin Yun to join him; Lin however remains loyal to the Mings (the good guys). They have a fight. Meanwhile, three Taoists are in possession of a set of Ching plans that could be very harmful if they were to end up in the hands of the Mings. Following this?
So a runner is sent on a cross-country trip to deliver the plans, but in order to take the heat off him, a set of decoy plans are also given to some dude called General Hang, who comes up with a stupidly elaborate scheme to smuggle them out. This involves pretending to be dead, and being taken out of the city as a corpse by a local mortician. Only these corpses are enchanted and can jump of their own accord... and there are some thieves also pretending to be dead... and there's a foxy woman who can disappear at will.... and... oh, who cares?
But although the plot is impossible to follow, Shaolin Brothers is not without merit. Joseph Kuo was one of Hong Kong's most prolific directors during the seventies, and he directs the action scenes with an energy that many of his contemporaries lacked. There's quite a bit of wire work, which while undeniably shoddy compared to modern standards, was pretty unusual for the time, and the editing is fast and tight. Carter Wong was a hugely popular martial arts star back then, and he proves a charismatic villain; it's just a shame that so much time is given to the tedious smuggling-dead- bodies subplot rather than the kung fu... which, let's face it, is surely the only reason for watching.
Prolific Hong Kong martial arts director who worked steadily throughout the 70s and early 80s. Operated independently from the powerful Shaw Brothers studio, turning out numerous no-frills, well-made kung fu period films that made the most of often limited budgets. Worked with actor Carter Wong in several films, such as The 18 Bronzemen, Born Invincible, Shaolin Brothers and The Blazing Temple. Kuo’s other films include The 36 Deadly Styles, Dragon's Claws, The Mystery of Chess Boxing and The World of Drunken Master.