Return to the 36th Chamber is a 1980 Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Movie and a direct follow-up to The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, once again starring Gordon Liu, reuniting Liu with screenwriter Ni Kuang and producer Run Run Shaw, ever since the original Chamber.
Chou Chun-chi (Liu) is a hooligan working in a textile mill, but the workers are constantly bullied into giving up their property to a hostile Manchurian landlord, Boss Wang and his army of hired thugs. Seeking a promotion, Chou decide to teach the invaders a lesson by learning some minor degree of Shaolin Martial Arts from the local temple, and then pose as the legendary Monk San Te (from the first Chamber) to scare off the thugs. But upon being humiliated after a grueling training session in the temple, Chou instead decide to complete his training anyways, to fight for justice and put Boss Wang and his pun ks in their place.
This is merely the second Shaolin-themed martial arts film starring Gordon Liu after the original Chamber. Out of maybe a dozen.
This film provides examples of:
- Chairman of the Brawl: Chou's climatic fight have him battling a legion of kung fu trained Elite Mooks armed with long, foldable benches, attempting to use the joints on those benches to trap Chou while beating him down. Chou defeats all of them in the end.
- A Handful for an Eye: In the above bench fight, when Chou is starting to lose, he turns the battle around by kicking a pile of sand into the face of enemy mooks who happened to be packed close together. It works.
- Identical Stranger: Chou looks a lot like the legendary Shaolin Monk, San Te, from The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, especially after shaving his head. Both of them are played by Gordon Liu, and they do not share any screentime.
- In a Single Bound: Chou's ability to leap effortlessly off the ground, thanks to his Shaolin training skills.
- Lighter and Softer: As a follow-up to Gordon Liu's earlier film, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, which this movie is Spiritual Successor for. There are more slapstick elements and comedy, no onscreen deaths, and instead of fighting an imperial uprising like the former film, this one's about a workplace drama with the main conflict revolving around a pay dispute.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Using Shaolin martial arts for... stacking huts and moving hay. Yes. And it's more awesome than it sounds.
- Nobody Can Die: Despite having plenty of fight scenes, mooks being flung into walls and over railings, and an insanely lengthy final battle, by the end of the film there isn't a single onscreen casualty.
- Save the Villain: The final battle between Chou and Boss Wang ends with Chou knocking Wang off a platform, where there are piles and piles of spiked bamboo poles pointed upright directly below Wang... but then Chou stops Wang from falling, preventing him from getting impaled. At which point Wang concedes defeat.
- Secret Test of Character: Chou's training in the Shaolin temple invovles him being assigned to build the bamboo facade of a hut instead of practicing kung fu like the rest of the monks. Turns out that was a secret test of dexterity, balance, leaping effortlessly, acrobatics, and other fighting skills that eventually comes in handy for Chou in the final battle against Boss Wang and his mooks.
- Spiritual Successor : To The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, the Mandarin title even tries to sell it as a direct sequel, despite Gordon Liu playing a different character.
- Training Montage: Used to depict Chou's training in Shaolin martial arts.
- Use Your Head: Thanks to his knowledge of the Iron Head Shaolin Technique, San Te can headbutt enemies and sent them flying above him easily.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Chou in most of his fights have him kicking ass barechested.