Hong Kong Cinema

Secret of the Shaolin Poles

Secret of Shaolin Poles
  • Made: 1977
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: PAL Reg 2
  • Release Date: Apr 24 2006
  • Company: 55th Chamber
  • Length: 95 mins
  • Picture: Full Screen 1.33:1
  • Sound: Mono 2.0
  • Language: English dubbed
  • Extras: Trailers
  • Classification: 15


Ulysses Au Yang-chun


Meng Fei, Yasuaki Kurata, Dorian Tan Tao-Liang, Chang Yi, Chung-erh Lung, Lau Kar-wing

Secret of Shaolin Poles - Fong Sai-yuk is a legendary Chinese folk hero who mastered martial arts at a very young age and joined the Red Flower Society that aimed to overthrow the oppressive Manchu government. Fong has been represented in film a number of times, often in the young and carefree mischief-making kung-fu master guise, though arguably the most famous of these is Fong Sai-Yuk starring Jet Li, released in the West as The Legend (1993). The Secret of Shaolin Poles (aka : Prodigal Boxer 2) is loosely based on the real life event where Fong fought a duel atop the poles and won, killing his opponent.

Secret of Shaolin PolesSecret of Shaolin Poles


Fong Sai-yuk has a price on his head for his rebellion against the Manchu government. He returns to town to find that Commander Ma has executed his two kung-fu brothers. Fong Sai-yuk also finds that a man named Fong Ting has been using his identity, but one swift ruck later and the two are firm friends. This can't be said for Dragon Lee who is a Japanese martial artist hired by Ma to kill Fong Sai-yuk, with the added incentive being that Sai-yuk killed Dragon's brother, Tiger Lee.

Dragon challenges Sai-yuk to a fight on top of 1000 shaolin poles, but they are booby trapped and Fong Sai-yuk barely escapes with his life, ending up training with a mysterious crippled fishmonger by the sea in the art of pole fighting. With his friends murdered and his girlfriend kidnapped, Fong quickly returns to face Dragon and Ma the way a kung fu master knows best.


Very much of its time, Shaolin Poles has come from the action/comedy period-set kung fu of the late 70s though the comedy is mostly confined to the first half. It comes through thanks to Meng Fei s decent performance as Fong Sai-yuk. With a grin suited to mischief he takes his martial arts in his stride, one good example being the scene where he toys with his would-be assassins.

Unsurprisingly the plot is the kind of thing you've heard a million times, all revenge and beating some bad guys, getting beaten by the main bad guy only to come out on top after some training with a grumpy old bloke, but it's hardly a crime for an old-school kung fu flick. So the real drawback is that the fight scenes aren't quite up to scratch compared to films out around the same time, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow being a prime example, they're not bad but they aren't that much better than average. This is a shame as the actors do make a decent fist of it, Meng Fei as mentioned, along with Chang Yi as the cunning commander Ma and the stereotypically evil Dragon Lee played by Yasuaki Kurata with a fair bit of relish.


The film won't offer a lot that you haven't seen before and is worth a watch, but it sorely let down by this wheezing, diseased beast of a disc. Whilst we are dealing with a film that is clocking in at nearly 30 years old and released on a budget label, it still doesn't excuse the sub-video quality of this release.

The picture suffers from constant marks and scratches to the print. The colours are saturated and bleed into each other and at times the whole thing seems out of focus. The film is presented in pan & scan which is bad enough when it was originally shot in widescreen, but the cropping fails to take into account the on-screen action and there are far too many instances of actors being cut out of the frame, leaving you watching nothing but an out-of-focus background. The only audio channel is the English dub originating from the bad old days of comical delivery whether the scene called for it or not. Added to this rather damp and ripe-smelling package is the trailer, the only extra worth noting.


Whilst Secret of Shaolin Poles is an enjoyable martial arts tale with a lot of 70s charm, the awful presentation of this disc makes it more of a chore than a joy to watch and can only put all but the most nostalgic fans off what is otherwise an average film.

Must try harder.