1974 • Hong Kong • Directed by Cheh Chang
After directing a non-stop string of box office hits for Shaw Brothers, the studio gave Chang Cheh his own mini-studio (Chang’s Film Co) and the freedom to produce his own martial arts masterpieces, escaping the usual Hong Kong studio backlot to shoot in exotic Taiwanese locations. Though the company was short-lived, among its output was Chang’s instant-classic ‘Shaolin Temple Cycle’, five self-contained tales of the temple’s disciples escaping and avenging the wrath of the Manchus and the Qing dynasty, the most thrilling of which may be 1974’s Five Shaolin Masters.
As the hallowed Shaolin Temple burns to the ground on the orders of the Emperor, the last five surviving students – Hu Dedi (David Chiang), Cai Dezhong (Ti Lung), Ma Chaoxing (Alexander Fu Sheng), Li Shikai (Chi Kuan-chun) and Fang Dahong (Meng Fei) – attempt to locate and ally themselves with the growing anti-Qing resistance. Soon it becomes clear that the biggest battle is yet to come, and the five disciples must hone their skills and learn newer and deadlier techniques as enemies and traitors close in on all sides.