Alexander Fu Sheng was another in the line of martial arts actors who could have been the next Bruce Lee, yet he died unexpectedly in a car accident during the making of this movie.
Fight-choreographer-turned -director Lau Kar-leung (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Legendary Weapons of China, Challenge of the Masters) remade this film — based on the legendary Yang dynasty — as a tribute to the star and an attempt to make the most action-packed film possible.
As this was one of Shaw Brothers’ final all-star martial arts epics before they ceased filmmaking altogether, The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter may be recognized as Lau’s masterpiece, yet he made so many, it can be hard to select just one.
The Yang family patriarch and all of his children — except for Yeung Dak (Gordon Liu), Yeung Chiu (Fu Sheng) and Yeung Kei (Kara Hui) — have been murdered. Yeung Dak has given up the ways of violence and is studying at a monastery. When he learns that his sister has been taken by the same people who murdered his father, he must renounce the Buddhist way of life, taking notice once more of the physical world, and use the spear training to invent the 8 Diagram Pole Fighting style, which he can still practice inside the walls of the holy place.
If you value your teeth, this may be a tough watch. I’ve never seen more molars and incisors knocked out in a movie than this one. It’s awesome, however, with stylish fights and big drama. It’s sad that Fu Sheng is gone and would not be the hero of this film, but Gordon Liu has that certain something, an intangible quality that makes you notice him and say, “This is a star.”
The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter has a brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative by Arrow Films with the original lossless Cantonese, Mandarin and English mono audio as well as optional English subtitles and hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dub. It also has brand new commentary by Jonathan Clements, author of A Brief History of China; a newly filmed appreciation by film critic and historian Tony Rayns; interviews with Gordon Liu, Lily Li and Yeung Ching-ching; A Tribute to Fu Sheng, a short film commemorating the late actor that played before early screenings of The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter; The Invincible Pole Fighters alternate opening; the trailer, an image gallery, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Aspinall and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Terrence J. Brady. You can get this from MVD.