The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter
AKA: Invincible Pole Fighter, Invincible Pole Fighters, The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, Eight-Diagram Pole Fighter, Magnificent Pole Fighter
Year of release: 1984
Genre: martial arts
Director: Lau Kar-Leung
Action directors: Lau Kar-Leung, Hsiao Ho, King Lee
Producer: Mona Fong
Writer: Ni Kuang, Lau Kar-Leung
Cinematography: Cho On-Sun
Editors: Chiang Hsing-Lung, Lee Yim-Hoi
Music: Stephen Shing, So Jan-Hau
Stars: Gordon Liu, Kara Hui, Alexander Fu Sheng, Lily Li, Lam Hak-Ming, Phillip Ko, Jue Tit-Woh, Johnny Wang, King Lee, Yuen Tak, Lau Kar-Leung
Not rated; contains IIB-level violence
Movie review index
By the mid-1980's, the "old-school" subset of kung fu movies had fallen out of favor with local audiences and were on their way out from being a staple of the Hong Kong film studios' output. So, in many ways, Lau Kar-Leung's 1984 Shaw Brothers picture The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter (aka Invincible Pole Fighter) can be considered a swan song of sorts for the genre, and, in that respect, it created a wonderful tribute to the style that still remains a vital and vivid movie, even after twenty-five years since its' initial release.
In keeping with the lean and mean mise-en-scene encompassed by the production, The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter's story is fairly simple. The brothers of the Yang family, well-known and feared for their formidable skill using poles, has long been one of the emperor's most staunch defenders, so a group of Mongols trying to take over China set up a trap to take them out. Only two of the seven brothers survive the attack, with one (Alexander Fu Sheng) left insane, and the other (Gordon Liu) heading to a monastery, both for solace and to eventually learn a fighting form that will allow him to get revenge.
Perhaps due in part to the Shaw Brothers' notorious tight purse-strings (a trait which was exacerbated by their dwindling returns at the box office at this time) there is very little in the way of wasted time presented here. There's not one scene or character that seems superfluous or out of place, giving the movie a tremendously tight pace, which leads to great bursts of kinetic energy thrown upon the screen. Lau Kar-Leung was long one of the Shaws' best directors, and he is at the top of his game here, giving us a product that many modern film-makers who are apt to bloating up their films for the sake of artistic input could and should take note of.
Of course, this is the sort of movie you're going to be paying close attention to the fight scenes, and The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter delivers in spades. You might think that a film where the action is delivered primarily through the use of poles wouldn't be all that exciting, but let me assure you, that is not the case here. Let's just put it this way: the technique Gordon learns from the monks is a way to de-fang wolves, and he starts to put it to use against men during the finale, which, like the film as a whole, is some of the finest martial arts action put to film you're ever going to see.
"The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter" has been released on DVD from Dragon Dynasty, and is available for purchase at Amazon. For more information about upcoming Dragon Dynasty releases, you can visit their pages on Facebook and Twitter.