Killah Priest (1977)

aka Shao Lin zu shi, Killer Priest, Kung Fu Exorcist, Shaolin Tamo Buddhist Monk
Article 3463 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-29-2010
Posting Date: 2-6-2011
Directed by Fu Di Lin
Featuring Chin Hai Chen, Lei Chen, Sing Chen
Country: Hong Kong / Taiwan
What it is: Mystical martial arts mayhem

A doctor is suspicious of a Taoist priest who has come to his village to solve their drought by praying for rain. The priest is not to be trusted… but fortunately, a Buddhist monk shows up with the mission of making the doctor his pupil and teaching him the 18 styles of Shaolin kung fu.

This movie first entered my list under the title KUNG FU EXORCIST; it remained so elusive (partially because the original Chinese title was unknown) that I finally consigned it to my “ones that got away” list. However, doctor kiss recently passed on new information to me about the original Chinese title, and was able to point me in the direction of finding the movie under the other English title (under which it had a VHS release in this country) listed in the heading. I think this may prove to be my first real encounter with the whole Hong Kong Kung Fu genre, though INFRAMAN may also qualify, and my hats go off to the hardy souls who research these movies; my head was swimming just trying to match the movie credits on the actual print with those listed on IMDB, as the variant spellings of names are mind-bogglingly confusing.

Of course, there was no way this movie was going to live up to the KUNG FU EXORCIST title, but I didn’t expect it would. The main fantastic content is a revelation towards the end of the movie, but it could be argued that the whole thing is a fantasy as well. The martial arts sequences are almost giddily unrealistic; they’re thoroughly unconvincing while nonetheless remaining fascinating pieces of gymnastics and choreography. I don’t know how many of these movies I’m going to see, but I’m willing to bet there are as many conventions to the genre as there are for sword-and-sandal movies. If I do catch more of these, I wonder how often I’ll run into the phenomenon of Sound-Enhanced Gesturing; a lot of the training sequences involve people making gestures to vivid sound effects. There’s also lots of flips and tree-jumping.

I’m going to hold off on a critical evaluation; I suspect I’ll have to see more of these movies to gain a perspective. Nevertheless, this makes for an interesting introduction.

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