Vivendi Visual Entertainment // 1978 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 16th, 2010
It's like every other kung-fu movie except the hero takes lessons from an insect.
Wei Fung (David Chiang) is an up-and-comer in the Han dynasty. He's got a good head on his shoulders and can beat up a Buddhist monk. This skill-set is more than enough for the emperor, who dispatches Wei to infiltrate a family that may be stirring up treasonous treason.
During his mission, he falls in love with one of the daughters and to prove his love he must pass a number of tests, all of which demand that he fight the uncles. The patriarch of the family suspects that Wei is a spy, so one thing leads to another and his girl is dead and Wei is exiled to a field, where he learns a new Shaolin fist from a praying mantis.
And yes, there is actually a training montage where David Chiang practices his new moves under the tutelage of an insect. Again, the camera zooms in on a praying mantis while it does kung fu and the film's hero watches closely and replicates its movement and this new style is enough to beat the holy hell out of trained murderers.
Which at least takes up the final thirty minutes of the film. You can say plenty about Shaolin Mantis, but you can't say there isn't a horn o' plenty of kung-fu. That there is friend, much kung-fu, though, as someone who's seen a countless number of these Shaw Brothers releases, I can't say I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs over this particular entry.
There are two memorable things about the film, both of which are dubious: 1) the aforementioned mantis training scene and, 2) the fate of the Final Bad Guy, who -- SPOILER! -- gets his guts ripped out (as shown via silhouette, but, still, I had to back it up a couple of times to make sure I saw what I saw).
The fighting action may appeal to true die-hards of Shaloin chopsocky, but to me, the bouts were methodical and contrived, over-choreographed to the point that all illusion of organic fisticuffs disappeared in a cloud of mantis fart.
The DVD: a fine-looking 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, two mono tracks (English and Mandarin) and zilch for extras.
Where's the Raid when you need it?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Mandarin)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Not Rated