Clan of the White Lotus (1980)

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 09/01/2019

A movie starring Gordon Liu Chia-hui, Kara Hui Ying-hung and Lo Lieh is self-recommending. Unfortunately it doesn't get much beyond the typical and expected strengths of its main actors--Gordon Liu is grimly determined to kill the White Lotus priest and just as serious about learning a new form of kung fu to do so; Lo Lieh, the object of his hatred, is confident that his 100 steps kung fu is superior to anything out there and is satisfied that he knows everything he needs to continue his reign of terror; Kara Hui is the ruefully sexy helpmate who shows Gordon Liu the "embroidery strike" kung fu.

Yeung Ching-Ching does a star turn toward the beginning of the movie, showing off her amazing acrobatic and sword skills while fighting the men of the White Lotus and allowing our heroes to escape. There is a very decent fight as the climax as Liu sticks Lo with scores of needles while being beaten himself until he finally finds the vital nerve of the White Lotus priest. Well choreographed action surrounding Yeung Ching-Ching's performance led to the middle of the story where Gordon Liu tried to look effeminate while learning first to embroider then to use the moves involved in the placement of the needles in a new form of hand to hand combat. Liu is not a natural comedian but his discomfort of learning a woman’s skill comes through

An interesting conceit--that any everyday motion done with repetitive efficiency can serve as the basis for a move to defeat an opponent so long as the practitioner has the patience and desire to perfect the mundane routine.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 03/26/2008

Clan of the White Lotus (better known in the west as Fist of the White Lotus) is the sequel to Executioners from Shaolin, but don't worry if you haven't seen that film. This is a pretty straight-forward entry in the Shaw Brothers' vast catalog of kung fu movies.

After killing the notorious Pai Mei (Lo Lieh), Hung (Gordon Liu) returns to his village and seems to be ready to finally settle down and marry. But the White Lotus won't let him go so easily. Led by the Chief (also played by Lo Lieh), the clan attacks the village and kills everyone except for Hung and Mei (Kara Hui).

Of course, Hung swears revenge and sets off to kill the Chief. However, Hung's kung fu is not good enough, and he is defeated. Downtrodden, Hung begins to study various forms of kung fu in the hope of finding one which can stop the Chief.

Like I said, the plot ain't exactly Vonnegut material here. The actors try and salvage what they can out of the exposition scenes, but they are hampered by a half-ass scripting attempt that relies way too much on comedy, especially at times in the film when tension should be building. In particular, the whole bit where Hung learns a feminine style of kung fu is just painfully unfunny and goes on for way too long.

But you can throw most of that sort of stuff aside if you're a fighting fan. The brawls in Clan of the White Lotus are top-notch. They're not the best that the Shaw Brothers studio produced, but given the fact that this was made at a time when both the studio and old-school martial arts movies in general were in a bit of a downward spiral, one has to think that the film-makers did the best with what little resources they had to work with.

Perhaps because of those budgetary restrictions, there's not a whole lot of variety in the combatants; the vast majority of the fight time centers on Gordon Liu and Lo Lieh. That turns out to not be a bad thing at all, since they're two of the top movie martial artists, and make each of their clashes seem fresh.

Despite the strength of the action sequences, at the end of the day, this reviewer feels that Clan of the White Lotus is a bit over-rated. The exposition scenes really drag down the momentum the fights create. Nevertheless, it's a very good old-school flick that should definitely satisfy fans of the genre.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 08/09/2006
Summary: Classic characters and story...

Clan of the White Lotus is a direct sequel to "Executioners from Shaolin," with Lo Lieh in the director chair and Gordon Liu taking over the role of Hung Wei Ting from Wong Yu. After he and his friend Piao (Lee King-Chue) kill the White Brow priest Pai Mei (a slightly different "ending" than the finale of Executioners from Shaolin), they are released from prison by the order of the emperor. However, Governor Kao Ting Chun (Johnny Wang) has different ideas, and goes to the White Lotus Clan Chief (Lo Lieh in his legendary role) for advice and help. They succeed in killing Piao, but Hung and Piao's wife Mei Ha (Kara Hui) escape to a relative's business in a village. There, Hung learns to combine the tiger and crane styles, as well as incorporate "Ladies' Kung Fu" and the power of acupuncture. His final objective is to take revenge on the White Lotus Chief for the killing of his friend.

When you have a role as juicy as White Brows Pai Mei, why not reprise a version of it in a sequel? Certainly that is what Lo Lieh must have had as motivation to make Clan of the White Lotus 3 years after Executioners from Shaolin. He allowed Liu Chia-Liang to remain as martial arts choreographer, but took the directing reins and made one hell of a movie. Tapping Gordon Liu to take the lead role certainly didn't hurt anything either as he puts forth a fantastic performance. His fights and training rival those of any of his other movies. Although Lam Fai-Wong's character gets a bit tiresome, he does add some comedic elements and he serves as a training dummy for Liu's developing techniques. In the end though, you relish the moments that Lo Lieh is on screen. He completely owns the role of the white haired priest and you can tell he has fun with it. The furled eyebrows, the stroking of his long beard, the devastating kung fu style and deadly mystical attacks all lead to one of the best characters ever introduced in martial arts movies. In fact, as I was watching Gordon Liu and Lieh fight, I realized that one of my first memories of Kung Fu theater on Saturday morning was the priest's twisting palm attack (classically named the "Hundred Steps Soul Catching Fist") on Liu. It stuck with me to this day.

A highly recommended martial arts extravaganza that will not disappoint. You even get to see a naked Lo Lieh fly superman-style out of his bath into his robes! How's that for a selling point?!

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 07/02/2005
Summary: 9/10 - Classic

The newly remastered DVD in original language means it's time for a new review of this film!

Lo Lieh used the old twin-brother trick to essentially reprise his role as White-Browed Priest Pai Mei in this self-directed sequel to Executioners from Shaolin. Lau Kar Leung is back as action director rather than director this time, and Gordon Liu is back as the Shaolin rebel who must learn new skills to take revenge. Luckily Kara Hui is on hand to teach him. The film is far better than EXECUTIONERS, and a rightly heralded classic. Gordon Liu gives another fantastic performance (the fact he has never won an Oscar is proof enough that the awards are a sham), but the film is owned by Lo Lieh in his quintessential role as Priest White Lotus himself. The film falls short of a full 10/10 because the camera work is sometimes a little unambitious, and because it's probably fair to say that its appeal won't carry over to those that aren't already fans of classic martial arts films (whoever those poor people may be!).

Be warned, however, that Celestial have done their best to ruin the film with an atrocious sound remix (both the Cantonese and Mandarin soundtracks), and they very nearly succeed :( I really hope that somebody manages to release it with original mono, but I presume this is one of the 50 films Miramaxe bought the rights to (being a favourite of Tarantino) outside Asia, so chances are we'll never actually see it released :-/

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 04/25/2005
Summary: Nothing special

I think it maybe me, those movies where they train again and again to finally defeat there opponent bored me!! The ending is different and Lee King Chue shows great comediac ability, apart from this there is nothing which makes ti better than the standard kung fu SB movie


Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 09/13/2003

Exceptional kung fu can be found in this interesting Shaw Brothers movie. If you like old school martial arts, then you must get it now.


Reviewed by: CaptainAmerica
Date: 06/15/2002
Summary: Kung fu by needlepoint!

There are some films one has to see to believe...that's definitely the case for CLAN OF THE WHITE LOTUS aka FIST OF THE WHITE LOTUS! This movie not only features what has to be one of Lo Lieh's seminal performances as a villain, but also is one of his best directorial efforts. No doubt, having Lau Kar Leung as action director for this film didn't just help, it paid dividends for providing some spectacular action! (Bless you, Lau Kar Leung!)

This movie, along with EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN, is based on historical fact. The Emperor of the ever-nasty Ching Dynasty, in an atypically un-nasty move, has just released the Shaolin and other political dissidents from China's prisons. Unfortunately the Chief of the White Lotus Clan, the White Eyebrow Monk Pai Mei -- in collaboration with his nephew, a Ching governor -- decide to go against imperial orders and begin systematically culling and mass-executing those just set free. Barely escaping one of these raids are Hung Wei Ting (Gordon Liu) and a pregnant Kara Hui Ying-Hung. Hung was no match for the Chief's supernatural abilities, and decides to refine his training in his martial arts as Kara's character brings her baby to term.

There's a surprisingly comedic progression and tone underlying all the pathos, and is best demonstrated by Hung's quest to get revenge for his friends against the Chief. It's almost surreal how he bounces back and forth from training to defeat to learning something new and back again! He combines his late friend's Crane style with his Tiger style, but he's beaten soundly yet allowed to leave alive. Then he learns the more distaff forms of what are described in the film as "women's kung fu" and even learns how to do some traditionally feminine tasks thanks to Kara Hui...as this happens, she shows him the secret of the Chief's abilities, which are based on simple physics! Impatient, he takes this newfound knowledge to duel with the Chief again...but is hit hard by the Chief's Hundred-Pace Palm (a strike that'll kill after the recipient takes a hundred steps!). Good luck and a benevolent acupuncturist save his life, and in the process he finds what may be the way to put paid to the Chief once and for all...with the help of a LOT of sewing needles!

Highly recommended!

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 11/12/2001
Summary: Good

FIST OF THE WHITE LOTUS: More Shaw Brothers/Gordon Liu action. Explaining the setup is largely pointless, but it basically leads to Gordon Liu being out for revenge against the leader of the White Lotus cult, an extreme Kung Fu master. Gordon's Tiger Fist isn't up to the job so he has to keep training and learning new styles to counter the cult chief. The chief himself is a very sporting bad guy... each time Gordon turns up to try his latest style, the chief kicks his ass then says "Not good enough, you need to work on this" and sends him away to practise more. Really good film, with Gordon being great as ever. The finest moments are Gordon learning "Women's Kung Fu", complete with terribly camp mannerisms, but there's lots of other great moments. The new US DVD is widescreen at 16:9 (non-anamorphic) too.

Reviewed by: battlemonkey
Date: 12/21/1999

A sequel to Exectuioners From Shaolin.

Reviewed by: Areles
Date: 12/09/1999

Lo Lieh's (I believe) directorial debue. A fun and entertaining sequel of the afformentioned film. Lau Kar Fei turns up as the nominal hero of the piece having to learn "embroidery Gung-fu" from Wei Yin Hung. This film is just pure entertainment and shows Lo Lieh to be a director of considerable talent, that unfortunately has remained unrealized.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

It's been awhile since I've seen this movie, but I remember something about acupuncture being used in a way that was totally cool. The bad guy was getting stuck with the little needles, and each point he got stuck in would disable a different part of his body. Strange stuff, a little more cheesy than most films I review here, but it was made in 1980, so I cut it some slack.


[Reviewed by Dale Whitehouse]