A failed assassination attempt by a rebel leader, inspires some young men to join the local Canton rebellion. Only for the Manchu government to find out about their involvement. In order to crush the local rebellion they begin a brutal campaign to exterminate the rebels, leaving one wounded and desperate student, Liu Yu-de, to seek refuge at a secretive monastery. Fueled by his desire for justice over his loss of family and friends at the hands of the Manchu, he undergoes a grueling program of martial arts training that hones his strength, agility, and endurance in order to defeat his enemies.
The 1978 martial arts film
, starring Gordon Liu, considered one of the greatest and influential martial arts films of all time by many film fans.
This film provides examples of:
- All Monks Know Kung-Fu: Subverted, San Te after being accepted into the ranks of the Shaolin spends nearly a year just sweeping and meditating. He later finds out that you just have to ask to learn kung fu in order to go through the chambers.
- And That's Terrible: The English dubbing gives us this line:
If Shaolin techniques could be taught here, then the people could use them to fight Manchu troops! That would be GOOD!
- Do Not Call Me Paul: Liu Yu-de ultimately becomes San Te after spending his time within the Shaolin monastery.
- Enlightenment Superpowers: The elder at highest level of the 35 Chambers displays this when San Te tries to skip ahead and start at the top.
- Hard Work Montage: Not an Ur Example but one of the earliest examples and unique instead of glossing over what he does to improve, the film goes into great detail early on at least to show him learning how to get of the basic steps that each chamber is supposed to instill.
- Obstructive Code of Conduct: Shaolin teachings that forbid interference with the outside world. Until San Te, after being exiled goes to create titular 36th Chamber as a means of a loophole.
- Rite of Passage: Liu Yu-de, after being accepted into the Shaolin monastary is renamed and his advancement through the 35 chambers is seen as something like a Rite of Passage.
- Training from Hell: The protagonist subjected to such training alongside other trainees at the temple, including carrying heavy buckets of water with arms held straight out to the sides (with bladed bracelets that cut into trainees' ribs if they lower their arms) and having to ring a bell with a heavy, long-handled hammer. With one arm, as long as one's wrists can take it.
- Tranquil Fury: San Te after his training and exile can be called this as he completes his Roaring Rampage of Revenge while not really giving into being to excessive in doing it.
- Use Your Head: One of the 35 chambers is dedicated to teaching this. Becomes a Chekhov's Skill in the final fight.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The movie is based around the legendary Shaolin disciple, San Te.