Two years before Sammo Hung played one of Wong Fei-Hung’s most beloved disciples, karate expert Larry Lee took the role of Lam Sai-Wing in this standard kung fu film that features some nice action scenes.
A band of thugs have been terrorizing the town, extorting money from the local merchants. However, one man who dares not get involved is local pork butcher Lin Shih-Yung. Opening a local martial arts school, he gets in with dealing with the gang after one of his students finds himself in hot water with the gang.
When Lin stands up to the thugs, the crime boss Chang orders the school destroyed and in the process, Lin is seriously hurt. Luckily, three friends of Lin’s arrive to help him with his trouble. They are “Devil Kick” Chi, Ling Yun-Chieh, and Liang Kuan. When Lin is nursed back to health, he and his friends begin to stop the thugs without any killing. Chang hires a group of fighters called the “Yangtze Four”. However, what everyone doesn’t know is that Chang is actually a notorious criminal named Shao Pei-Li, the most wanted man in the area. When Lin and his friends discover the truth, they set a plan in motion to put an end to things once and for all.
Lam Sai-Wing is one of the most beloved disciples of legendary martial arts master Wong Fei-Hung. One of his famous students was Lau Chan, the father of the late action film legend Lau Kar-Leung. There have been a few films about Lam with Sammo Hung’s The Magnificent Butcher being one of, if not, the best film to feature the character. However, this 1977 film was one of the first to have Lam as the main character.
Larry Lee, a karate expert, plays Lam in this film. He plays Lam as a butcher and martial arts teacher who doesn’t believe in killing. For some of the film, he tends to be more of a pacifist. That is, until he is pushed over the edge. However, he still follows suit and does not believe in killing. Meanwhile, Bruce Lee provides a bit of comic relief as “Devil Kick” Chi as he and the othe two goons would go to brothels when not helping their friend out. Meanwhile Liu Tan is purely evil as Cheng, or Shao Pei-Li, a truly vicious criminal.
Wong Mei was in charge of the fight scenes and they are done pretty well. Bruce Leung definitely shows why he was one of the best kickers in classic kung fu films. Larry Lee gets to use both kung fu and elements of karate. This is evident in the finale, when he uses a weapon mainy used in karate, the tonfa, against the likes of goons and in his climactic battle against Liu Tan. San Kuai, Charlie Chan, Lee Hang, and Chu Chi-Ming do well as the “Yangtze Four”, each with a different style to combat our heroes. The climactic fight scene helps make up for some of the other lackluster fights throughout the film.
The Four Shaolin Challengers is a standard kung fu film, but it is quite fun to see a cast including Bruce Leung and Larry Lee in the role of Lam Sai-Wing. Truly one for hardcore fans of classic kung fu films.
WFG RATING: B-
A Gam Ma Film Co. Film. Director: Ngai Hoi-Fung. Producers: Charles Lowe and Cheng Hui-Chun. Cinematography: Charles Lowe. Editing: Hamilton Yu.
Cast: Leung Siu-Lung, Larry Lee, Wong Yuen-Sam, Jason Pai Piao, Eric Tsang, Lau Dan, Fung King-Man, Sammy Lau, San Kuai, Charlie Chan, Kwan Chung, Leung Siu-Wah, Wong Jing-Jing.