Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, The (1984)

Reviewed by Ken Hashibe
January 6, 2016


Gordon Liu • Alexander Fu Sheng • Kara Hui Ying-Hung • Lily Li Li-Li • Phillip Ko Fei • King Lee King-Chu • Lam Hak-Ming • Johnny Wang Lung-Wei • Liu Chia-Liang
The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter; Invincible Pole Fighter
Liu Chia-Liang
Liu Chia-Liang • Hsiao Ho • King Lee King-Chu
IVL/Celestial DVD, Mandarin with English subtitles, widescreen
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When most of his brothers are killed after being betrayed by General Pan Mei, the Yang 5th Brother (Gordon Liu) seeks refuge at a monastery where he becomes a monk and learns the 8 diagram pole technique. Meanwhile, the Yang 8th Sister (Kara Hui) decides to go on a journey to find him, but ends up getting captured by Pan Mei. When the Yang 5th Brother finds out about this, he decides to break his oath to not kill so he can rescue his sister and avenge his brothers.
thoughts on the movie

THE EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER is simply an amazing movie. It’s one of those kung fu movies that every self-proclaimed fan has to have seen. This movie is often considered one of the last great kung fu movies from Shaw Brothers. It was also made during a time when action comedies were all the rave, but this movie was instead more serious and was probably one of Lau Kar-Leung’s darkest films. It’s a unique movie in that sense, but there are many other aspects to admire about this movie.

Though this movie sports the revenge plot line that’s very common in kung fu movies, it’s done in a very refreshing and dramatic way. Rather than the main character being fueled purely by revenge, this movie instead displays themes about loyalty, brotherhood, and sacrifice. There’s also some downright superb fight choreography to go along with the powerful story. I did feel that there were a few scenes that were a bit slow that could’ve been left out or shortened. Also, I might argue that the ending is needlessly violent. But still, I feel that THE EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER is definitely a near perfect kung fu movie.

was it funny?
No. This movie is actually one of the more dark and dramatic Shaw Brothers movies. There are many scenes in this movie that are just depressing. There’s this one scene in particular towards the beginning where a traumatized Fu Sheng laughs maniacally while telling his family about his brothers’ brutal deaths in a disturbingly happy tone. There isn’t any comedy in this movie whatsoever (or at least nothing intentional). It has a very serious tone throughout.
How was the Action?

The action in this movie choreographed by Lau Kar-Leung is unbelievable. There are four main fight scenes in the movie: The opening fight, the fight with Lau Kar-Leung as a hunter, the fight between Gordon Liu and Philip Ko, and the insane finale. The middle of the movie mainly focuses on the training scenes with the poles that are very inventive and look fantastic. The other fight scenes in this movie are amazing and are made even better with the exciting story. The fight between Gordon Liu and Philip Ko towards the end is what I consider a perfect moment in a kung fu movie. It’s well-crafted and exhilarating. Nothing I say about it can possibly do it justice.

Despite most of this movie being relatively tame, as mentioned earlier, the finale is needlessly disturbing. Simply put, during the finale, this is when the monks put their ‘defanging wolves technique’ to use. This is probably the most extreme fight scene from a Lau Kar-Leung production. I know some people who don’t like this ending because of that, but it’s so exciting and unpredictable that many others have grown to love it. And though I would’ve enjoy a more tame ending, I still totally understand why people go crazy over this scene.

Standout performance(s)

Gordon Liu is great as the Yang 5th Brother. He gets to do some dramatic acting and handles the fight scenes tremendously well. And this is probably going to sound totally biased (and it is) but I thought Fu Sheng was terrific in this movie. Even though he has only a few scenes because of his untimely death, he still gets to show his dramatic acting chops. He’s enthusiastic and energetic, but this time without the comedy. He isn’t playing a fun-loving kid like usual. This time, he’s playing a traumatized, mentally-disturbed man who’s hungry for revenge. And he does a very good job playing his part.

Watch or Pass
6 Reasons Why You Should WATCH or PASS On This Movie
1. WATCH for the amazing fight choreography.
2. PASS if you like family-oriented kung fu movies.
3. WATCH for the powerful story.
4. PASS if you like uplifting stories.
5. WATCH for one of Fu Sheng’s finest/final performances.
6. PASS if you’re mainly into kung fu comedies.

I’m sure that most of you reading this already know that Fu Sheng had died in a car crash while he was filming THE EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER. But many people don’t know that he actually died in the middle of filming two movies. Though this movie is often considered his last, WITS OF THE BRATS (1984) is technically his last film. It was released a few months after EIGHT DIAGRAM, originally supposed to be Fu Sheng’s directorial debut, and starred him and his younger brother Cheung Chin-Pang. The only reason why THE EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER is considered his last film instead is because THE EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER is easily a much better movie.