Wei Fung (David Chiang, King Boxer, The Boxer from Shantung) has been given an assignment from the Emperor himself: work his way into the Tien Clan rebels, gain evidence of their connection to a series of enemies and report back. If he fails, his entire family will be punished. Complicating the mission is the fact that he’s already fallen for one of his enemies, Tien Chi-Chi (Huang Hsin-Hsiu), the granddaughter of the rebel leader.
The rebels have already learned that Wei-Fung is a spy, yet Chi-Chi has already fallen for him. Her grandfather Tien (Lau Kar Wing, the choreographer of so many movies, including Master of the Flying Guillotine) doesn’t want to break her heart, so if she can gain Wei-Fung’s hand in marriage — and he pledges to never leave — he may live. However, if he doesn’t come back with the list of spies, his entire family will be decapitated. And what does the praying mantis have to do with an entire new style?
Unlike so many Shaw Brothers martial arts movies, the fighting is part of the story instead of the entire tale. It naturally comes out of the human drama within the movie, making Shaolin Mantis a movie worth discovering. It also has a shock ending that made me love this film.
88 Films U.S. blu ray release of Shaolin Mantis has a high definition 1080p presentation of the movie with both English and Mandarin audio, along with newly translated English subtitles. There are two audio commentaries, one with Asian cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema as well as one with Frank Djeng. There’s a feature on the film with David West, an interview with actor John Cheung, the Hong Kong trailer and the U.S. trailer for its western title, The Deadly Mantis. You can get it from MVD and Diabolik DVD.