Sunday, July 7th
6pm : The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
8:30pm : Black Belt Jones
Martial arts cinema lost two of its legends recently: Chinese actor/director/stunt coordinator Lau Kar-leung and American actor/karate champion Jim Kelly. Wasp & Orchid will pay tribute and commemorate their lives by screening Lau’s The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Black Belt Jones starring Jim Kelly.
Lau Kar-leung was like the Beatles of martial arts cinema insofar as so many of the films he had a hand in as either a director, actor or martial arts choreographer are now considered classic hits: One Armed Swordsman, Master of the Flying Guillotine, My Young Auntie, Legendary Weapons of China, Invincible Pole Fighter (just to name a few!). But it was perhaps The 36th Chamber of Shaolin that established him as a master of the genre.
Released in 1978 by the Shaw Brothers and starring Gordon Liu in a role which made him famous, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin appears on numerous fan lists as one of the greatest martial arts movies ever made. The film is a tale of revenge where our hero San Te has to progress through multiple chambers of extreme Shaolin training in order to become proficient enough to enact vengeance against the Manchu government. Decades later the movie maintained its cultural relevance when in 1993 a NY hip hop crew named The Wu Tang Clan named their debut album after the film and Gordon Liu was honored by being cast as Pai Mei in 2004’s Kill Bill.
Read Lau Kar-leung’s obituary HERE.
Lau Kar-leung: Ten Essential Films.
In 1973 Warner Brothers and the Hong Kong production company Golden Harvest would collaborate on an action movie which would introduce American audiences to the actor who would thereafter become an international legend: Enter The Dragon starring Bruce Lee. This iconic film is credited for sparking the world-wide kung fu cinema craze that has lasted to this day. If Lee’s display of physical prowess was unparalleled there was one co-star who matched him in swagger and charisma: African-American world karate champion Jim Kelly.
Following Enter The Dragon’s success director Robert Clouse subsequently cast Kelly in a starring role for 1974’s Black Belt Jones. The first feature film in the martial arts strain of the “blaxploitation” genre brings the action to the streets of Los Angeles where Black Belt Jones has to defend a karate school against the Mafia and other unsavory elements of the criminal underworld. From the dress to the dialogue so much of the 70’s oozes from this film we’ll have to do some serious mopping up afterward.
Read Jim Kelly’s obituary HERE.
The Wasp & Orchid Martial Arts Cinema Series explores martial arts cinema in its most innovative and inspirational forms. Each screening highlights a particular martial arts style, theme, director, production company, choreographer, or individual actor and actress, featuring cinema from China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and beyond.