Reviewed by: MrBooth
Summary: 5/10 - perhaps hasn't aged well
Whilst watching this, the first of Chang Cheh's "Shaolin" films, I remember thinking on multiple occasions that a particular scene or shot must have been really impressive to see on a cinema screen in 1974. It marks a definite change of style from the Ti Lung/David Chiang films, and was clearly very influential. The film's structure, where each major character is introduced in their own 20 minute short before the title card finally appears after nearly an hour, was no doubt fresh and exciting, and the fight scenes from the talented young performers are perhaps more feral and violent than those that had come before. At no point did I ever find myself thinking "this is really impressive to watch on dvd in 2007" though, even on a nice big screen. I've never been a great fan of the Shaolin style films though (the lack of any substantial training sequences means I'm not actually sure this can be called a 'Shaolin Film'), even those which are undoubtedly better than this. I guess your mileage may vary, as they say.
Reviewer Score: 5
Reviewed by: cal42
Summary: Not quite what I had in mind...
MEN FROM THE MONASTERY follows Fong Sai-Yuks (Fu Sheng) advancement and graduation from the Shaolin Temple. He meets and befriends Hu Huei Chen (Chi Kuan-Chun) and together they set about settling scores with an arrogant local school who bully their way across town. When the Temple is burned down, the survivors (including Hung Hsi-Kuan (Chen Kuan-Tai)) split up and start their quest for revenge.
Reviewer Score: 7
I believe this was the first film in Chang Chehs Shaolin cycle. It pretty much covers everything up to the burning of the Temple (sorry if this is giving anything away!) and the splitting up of the survivors to fight the Manchu. However, if youve seen the others in the series, youll notice that this contradicts the others which is confusing to say the least. For example, Fong Sai-Yuk and Hung Hsi-Kuan know each other in this one but met each other for the first time in the sequel HEROES TWO. Thats not the only example, but youll have to see for yourself for the main one.
Its also a little messy in places, and the plot doesnt make a great deal of sense. One major bugbear for me is the same problem I had with the third film in the cycle, 5 SHAOLIN MASTERS, which introduces the characters one at a time and at length. I was watching this for about 45 minutes thinking I was mistaken in my belief that Chen Kuan-Tai was in it. He does eventually show up, of course, but way too late in my opinion.
The film clearly marks a change in style for Chang Cheh away from the slow-burning epics of films like BLOOD BROTHERS and HEROIC ONES and towards a faster, more action-packed approach. In this, he was certainly more successful the action scenes are pretty impressive and plentiful. During the finale, he experiments with camera effects in an unusual way a prelude to what he did on the climax of HEROES TWO. However, on this occasion, the results arent quite as obtrusive as on that film.
All told, this is not quite the classic I was hoping for, but it still packs a punch with its exciting action scenes.