The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter Blu-ray Review


  • Director ‏ : ‎ Lau Kar-Leung, Chia-Liang Liu
  • Actors ‏ : ‎ Chan-Peng Chang, Lily Li, Ching-Ching Yeung, Lung-Wei Wang, Alexander Fu Sheng
  • Media Format ‏ : ‎ Anamorphic, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Run time ‏ : ‎ 1 hour and 38 minutes
  • Country of Origin ‏ : ‎ Hong Kong
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ Arrow Video
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ April 5, 2022


             Even when everything goes according to plan, it is often a small miracle films get completed. Given the troubled production that plagued The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, it’s amazing the film was even finished, which is what makes the quality of the film that much more impressive. Despite needing to change the film’s protagonist halfway through the shoot due to the passing of star Alexander Fu Sheng, The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter is one of the better martial arts films made by Shaw Brothers Studio.


            Directed by legendary Shaw Brothers filmmaker Lau Kar-Leung, The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter is based on the legends of the Generals of the Yang Family, though liberties were taken with facts. Even more changes were needed with the death of Fu-Sheng, who played sixth son Yang Liu-lang. The focus was then shifted to fifth son Yang Wu-lang, played by Gordon Liu. The film traces the Yang family as the seven sons and their father general Yang Yip are betrayed in battle by Song dynasty general Pan Mei (Lam Hak-ming), who collaborates with the enemy to eliminate the powerful family.


            When the fifth and sixth Yang sons survive, Pan Mei sends all his forces to eliminate them before his treachery can be revealed. Liu-lang is driven mad by the sight of his brothers and father being slaughtered, while Wu-lang escapes to a monastery in Mount Wutai. Rather than returning home, he trains as a monk, learning their ability to de-fang the wolves in the area with their skilled use of a staff. This pole technique is later used in battle when Pan Mei’s forces find the Yang son.


            The focus of Shaw Brothers kung fu films is clearly the martial arts sequences, but these fight scenes always work best contained in an engaging story. The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter has a simple story with familiar themes, which allows for fight choreography to take priority. The film opens with the explosive battle in which the Yang family is betrayed, and ends with a brutal revenge on those responsible using the pole technique used by the monks against wolves. When used against the men under Pan Mei’s control, it leads to the creatively bloody removal of most their teeth. While this is in many ways symbolic, it is also graphically violent and an utterly satisfying way to end the film.


            The Arrow Video release of The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter presents the movie in high definition from a new 2K restoration of the original camera negative by Arrow Films. The release also comes with newly commissioned artwork by Marc Aspinall, featured on the carboard sleeve and reversible insert sleeve. The opposite side of the insert contains the film’s original theatrical poster. Also in the package is an illustrated collectors' booklet with a new essay on the film by Terrence J. Brady, along with cast and crew info. Additional special features on the disc include the following:


    • Optional English subtitles, plus hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dub

    • Brand new commentary by Jonathan Clements, author of A Brief History of China


    • Newly filmed appreciation by film critic and historian Tony Rayns


    • Interviews with stars Gordon Liu, Lily Li and Yeung Ching-ching, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2004


    • A Tribute to Fu Sheng, a short film commemorating the late actor that played before early screenings of The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, presented via a German-dubbed telecine (the best available copy) with English subtitles


    • Alternate opening credits, as The Invincible Pole Fighters

    • Theatrical trailer


    • Image gallery


    Entertainment Value: 8.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10

    Historical Significance:  7/10

    Special Features: 8/10

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