For the initiated, the brothers were ostensibly responsible in one way or another for most of the kung fu features that made it to American audiences. Granted, there are most likely a wealth of other producers, directors and actors lost to time here in the States, but that can’t serve to diminish the influence that the Shaws were able to exert.
An early ‘80s, perennial favorite, though – alternately referred to as Fist of the White Lotus or Clan of the White Lotus – has been making the DVD rounds and deserves at least a cursory examination.
The narrative begins with the murder of the master of the White Lotus Society and the subsequent jailing of the band of men that orchestrated the assassination. A quick fast forward through time finds the imprisoned do-gooders released and on their collective ways home. The opening of jail doors was predicated on some briefly explained, serf upheaval. But since the White Lotus Society remains in existence with a new leader in place - Pai Mei – there’s revenge in the air from the outset of the film.
This one, key plot point – that of the revenge narrative – is pervasive in not just kung fu flicks and Tarantino features, but dates back to the earliest times of story telling. It’s even the basis for Macbeth.
As the freed men tread down some path, they’re ambushed with only a few survivors remaining. Hong Wending’s brother is one of them. And as the siblings – accompanied by their women folk – return home, the cohort is eventually greeted by the White Lotus Society with the recently freed man getting killed as well as Wendig’s woman. This then creates the second fold of the revenge plot: Wending must now avenge the murder of his family.
The only problem is his kung fu isn’t strong enough.
The rest of the film centers on Wending learning a feminine approach to kung fu – one that doesn’t create any air. But when Wending again fights the White Lotus’ leader, the lesser of the two learns that his opponent is able to suck his junk into his body to prohibit injury. An odd trick to be sure, but that only sends Wending into a frenzy of training and studying. He eventually returns, armed with acupuncture needles and sets about conquering his foe.
As with most kung fu flicks, Clan of the White Lotus is a bit short on plot, but the fight scenes are worth your hour and a half.