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Film / Shaolin Prince

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Two Princes, One Destiny

Shaolin Prince, also known as Iron Fingers of Death and Death Mask of the Ninja in it's various international release titles is a 1983 Martial Arts Movie, one of the many, many, many Shaolin-themed movies released by Shaw Brothers in the wake of the successful The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. It is, however, Darker and Edgier compared to the other Shaolin-related input of the studios at that time.

The Imperial Palace is invaded by the sinister 9th Lord, Iron Fingers (veteran Shaw villain Jason Pai Piao), who intends to usurp the throne for himself. The Emperor, facing imminent death, orders for his sons, two baby princes, to be taken far away before the impending palace massacre, and be hidden from the Emperor's enemies.

While the younger of the princes made it safely to another royal family, the older prince only made it as far as the steps of the Shaolin Temple. Adopted and raised by the temple, the baby, named Dao Xing note  by the head abbot, grows up and lives a simple life with the Shaolin Monks. Decades later, Dao Xing (now portrayed by Ti Lung), oblivious of his true heritage, wants to travel to the big city, despite the temple monks insisting he stay put. By sheer chance, Dao Xing end up meeting Wang Zi-Tai (Derek Yee), a warrior noble, who turns out to be his brother, the other prince, who is actively seeking his long-lost sibling as well.


Soon enough, the reunited brothers will team up to take down the tyranny of Lord Iron Fingers and avenge their family.

Shaolin Prince Contains Examples of

  • Age Cut: Dao Xing early in the film, where he's depicted growing from a baby to a man in his mid-twenties (played by Ti Lung) in a five-minute scene.
  • All Monks Know Kung-Fu: Yes.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: For Wang Zi-Tai, the younger of the two Princes. The titular hero, Dao Xing, chose to relinquish the throne to his younger brother because he feels that he belonged with the Shaolin monks.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: The three monks, Monk Wu Li, Monk Wu Zhi and Monk Wu Ming.
  • Body Double: In the opening massacre, the baby princes Dao Xing and Wang Zi-Tai are being hidden from the Emperor's enemies. In order to distract the pursuers, several other babies, implied to be purchased from poor families, are escorted away by the Emperor's personal guards, confusing them long enough as they hunt down every other baby, one at a time, in an attempt to kill the princes.
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  • But Now I Must Go: The movie ends with Dao Xing, having completed his revenge, bidding his brother Wang Zi-Tai farewell, allowing Wang to succeed the throne. Because having being raised in the Shaolin Temple, Dao Xing decides his fate is to be the next senior abbot of the temple instead.
  • Comically Cross-Eyed: Wu Zhi had this constantly as his default expression.
  • Comic Trio: The monks Wu Li, Wu Zhi and Wu Ming, assigned by the head abbot of Shaolin in babysitting baby Dao Xing. They spend much of the film bumbling around and screwing up, and provides plenty moments of comic relief in between the fights and training sequences.
  • Elite Mooks: Lord Iron Fingers has a legion of white-clad bodyguards which are exceptionally dangerous, which provides an extra challenge when Dao Xing and Wang Zi-Tai to overcome during the final battle.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The title refers to Dao Xing, a Prince who is raised in the Shaolin Temple and trained in Shaolin martial arts. Although subverted when the ending have Dao Xing forfeiting his throne, preferring to spend the rest of his life as a monk instead.
  • Flaming Sword: Prince Wang Zi-Tai's sword in the finale, somehow.
  • Infant Immortality: Played straight for the two baby princes, Dao Xing and Wang Zi-tai, who grew up into adulthood. Averted to hell and back with the babies who serves as doubles so that the princes can escape slaughter. Quite a few babies (thankfully portrayed by unrealistic-looking dummies) gets slaughtered together with the Imperial bodyguards in the opening massacre, to a depressing degree.
  • Mood Whiplash: The movie opens with the massacre in the palace, where several guards and servants ends up being massacred by Lord Iron Fingers and his soldiers, and the baby princes barely managed to escape, with numerous babies serving as body doubles getting killed in their stead. One of the baby princes, Dao Xing, ends up at the doorsteps of the Shaolin Temple, where he is picked up by the abbot... and the following scene is a silly, comedic sequence featuring the Comic Trio of monks being incompetant at their jobs and goofing around, and it goes on even after a Time Skip of twenty-odd years.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: Dao Xing is formerly a Prince who escaped the massacre in the palace, before his guardian, barely alive, deposits him at the steps of the Shaolin Temple.
  • Power Fist: Lord Iron Fingers got his name from his iron gauntlet, which he uses to catch and break Wang Zi-Tai's sword in the final battle.
  • Separated at Birth: The two princes, Dao Xing and Wang Zi-Tai, are separated as babies and raised in different conditions, the former in the Shaolin Temple and the latter in a different royal family. Decades later Dao Xing encounters Wang Zi-Tai, realize each other to be brothers, and exacts their revenge.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: For the two princes, quick-tempered Wang who grew up with royalty is the red, calm and level-headed Dao Xing, being raised by monks, is the blue.
  • Time Skip: After the first fight in the palace where the two baby princes are taken away to escape their killers, one of the babies, Dao Xing, ends up in the steps of the Shaolin Temple. A couple of scenes later Dao Xing is now a young man training in martial arts, having been adopted and raised by the abbot.
  • Training Montage: Dao Xing went through plenty of these while growing up as a revenge-seeking young man in the Shaolin Temple. Rule of Thumb: This trope tends to show up in any Shaw Production with "Shaolin" in it's title.
  • Wire Fu: Most of the fights employs this technique to great effect.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Lord Iron Fingers and his minions have no qualms killing several babies who got in their way to capture the two baby princes. Which they of course intends to kill if they succeed.
  • You Killed My Father: The two brothers, Dao Xing and Wang Zi-Tai, swear to avenge their father's demise in the hands of Lord Iron Fingers after finding out their true lineage as Princes.


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