1984 • Hong Kong • Directed by Chia-Liang Liu
After one of its lead actors (cherub-faced action icon Alexander Fu Sheng) unexpectedly died midway through production, master director Lau Kar-leung (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin) retooled his latest martial arts epic, The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, as the ultimate action spectacular in tribute to the fallen star. Loosely based upon the legendary Yang dynasty chronicled in Chinese folklore, the film starts as the family patriarch and all but two of his sons are brutally wiped out in a bloody battle. One surviving son (Fu Sheng) returns to his mother and two sisters, deeply traumatized; the other (Gordon Liu) escapes and joins a nearby monastery while in hiding. Once he learns his sister (Kara Hui) has been captured by their enemies, however, the warrior-turned-monk realizes he must renounce his peaceful ideals in order to mount a rescue mission and avenge his family. Made during the legendary Shaw Brothers studio's twilight years as a filmmaking powerhouse, The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter is often regarded as director Lau’s masterpiece, as elegiac and suffused with anguish as it is thrillingly violent (not least in its bone-crunching, teeth-smashing climax).