A heroic family is double-crossed and massacred on the battlefield. Only two brothers—Gordon Liu and Alexander Fu Sheng— survive the slaughter. Alexander Fu Sheng returns home to his mother and sisters, but has been driven insane by witnessing the slaughter of all his brothers and father.
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At its best moments, a kino-poem of bodies in motion, aka pure cinema. While 8 Diagram doesn't benefit from the stripped-down, archetypal simplicity of 36th Chamber, it uses its bigger and more idiosyncratic canvas to full effect, strewing the screen with elegantly criss-crossing movement in a dance with the movement of Liu's camera and the internal movement of his editing.
Ravishing colors and compositions, beautifully kinetic fights and incredible sets/props (The Hunter's home, the training wolf), this is definitely a grand showcase of Shaw Brothers might before the fall. Kar-leung is a master at filming action as emotion that few can even approach (The opening sequence into Fu Sheng's raving monologue, Gordon Liu's fight to leave the temple).
Take a simple Shaw Brothers formula, add the standard ingredients, and insane fight choreography (including a violently-awesome ending) and you've got yourself a classic kung fu film. Similar (like all great classic kung fu films) to an Astaire & Rogers film: The plot just propels you the next dance number.
A contender for my favourite Shaw Bros. film at the moment. I was blown away by its insanely fast paced choreography and blood splattering violence. It also has one of the more effectively emotional narratives of a Shaw film; a studio which often made films with irrelevant stories, existing as an excuse to set up a series of action set pieces. I was actually invested in this film's story, though.
Some wonderfully elaborate fight scenes and beautiful symmetric compositions here. The whole thing has a very melancholy tone, possibly due to the death of Fu Sheng during production. The story is oddly constructed (definitely owing to Fu's death), but the emotion is there.