THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN is widely considered to be one of the most influential kung fu movies of all time, and one of the best around. The story is an engaging one, taking us inside a Shaolin temple to see the makings of kung fu masters, and, in this case, a legend. We follow Liu Yude (played by Gordon Liu), a disillusioned student who grows tired of the brutal Manchu regime oppressing his village. After witnessing countless people murdered and tortured undeservedly, Liu decides he must travel to Shaolin to learn Kung Fu. The monks reluctantly allow him to stay, and, adopting the name of San Te, he begins his journey through the 35 chambers necessary to complete his training. Since its release in 1978, the film has been a favorite of many an action-film aficionado, including co-founder of Wu-Tang Clan (and ordained disciple of Shaolin), RZA.
RZA’s unapologetic love of THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN is nothing new; Wu-Tang’s 1993 debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), was named in part after the Shaw Brothers film. Further tribute to the movie and others in the action subgenre was presented through both the album’s lyrics and samplings.
RZA, who frequented a grindhouse theater on 42nd Street in Staten Island and became a martial arts fan from an early age, has long been a subject matter expert on all things kung-fu. As a young black man growing up in America, he found common ground in THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN’s story of underdog villagers battling oppression from a brutal regime. THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN and other Hong Kong martial arts films stuck with RZA throughout his life, eventually influencing the creation of the fantastical mythos that coalesced his 8-man crew into the Wu-Tang Clan. Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers dropped in 1993, achieving commercial and critical success, and going down as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time.
On November 10th, RZA will be paying tribute to the beloved kung fu classic at New York City’s Town Hall. RZA: Live From The 36th Chamber features a complete re-scoring of THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN (with all original dialogue kept intact) with music from Wu-Tang Clan’s entire catalog. There’s a lot of hype about this, and with good reason: RZA has previously proven his scoring chops by composing music for GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI, both KILL BILL films, and Afro Samurai, among other works. RZA: Live From The 36th Chamber should prove to be a treat for both fans of the Wu, and for Hong Kong kung fu enthusiasts everywhere.
Note: As of this posting, THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN is currently streaming on Netflix.
A.M. Novak is a California-based freelance writer, columnist, and staunch Halloween 6 apologist. Her horror film analyses have appeared on Birth Movies Death, Vague Visages, F This Movie!, and wherever they'll let her talk about scary movies. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter @BookishPlinko