Five Element Ninjas

8 01 2008

The Best of the Best (sorry Eric Roberts).So for the past few months, every Sunday night at my house means one thing: Kung Fu Night. Every Sunday we get a group of people together to watch some of the great Shaw Bros. films, as well as some of the “slower” Shaws which typically don’t go as well. We’ve watched many great films, but at last we watched one of the most entertaining films ever produced by the Shaws, and that is Five Element Ninja aka Chinese Super Ninjas. This movie is what actually peaked my interest in the genre when I was a kid, and one Saturday afternoon watched as 4 martial artists attached chains to a ninja, and from the tree tops lifted him up and pulled him apart. I didn’t even know what it was, (I wouldn’t find out the name of the film until years later) but I did know that I was addicted. While initially only interested in newer martial arts films, I have recently become obsessed with the older Shaw Bros. films for 3 primary reasons:

1) They are all being remastered by a private company called Celestial , making them increasingly easy to find.

2) They are about $10 each on the better sites (

3) My DVD player had a secret remote control code that made it region free, so I can now watch DVDs from any region (almost all of the Hong Kong releases are Region 3).

It’s opened up a whole new world that is nothing if not consistently amazing. Sure the story lines are very similar and the sets are all the same, but watching choreography at this level never gets old. In the jazz world, I’d compare it to listening to musicians playing standards: even though you’ve heard the song a million times before, the soloist is always striving to bring something different to it. And theres the whole thing about director Chang Cheh’s patented mix of cartoony violence, misogyny and ridiculous costumes. For whatever reason, this movie usually causes at least one person to fall on the floor laughing in a blend of disbelief and complete respect (if thats possible).

Despite the misogyny, my girlfriend gave this film a pretty good review here




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