Heroes of the East | aka Shaolin Challenges Ninja (1978) Review

"Heroes of the East" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Heroes of the East" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Challenge of the Ninja
Director: Lau Kar-leung
Producer: Run Run Shaw
Cast: Gordon Liu, Yasuaki Kurata , Yuko Mizuno, Lau Kar-leung, Simon Yuen Siu Tien, Norman Chu Siu Keung, Cheng Miu, Hitochi Ohmae, Nobuo Yana, Yasutaka Makazaki, Kato Maozo, Manabu Shirai, Tetsu Sumi, Takeshi Yamamoto
Running Time: 107 min.

By Equinox21

Gordon Liu stars in this Shaw Bros. film about a Chinese man and a Japanese woman who get married (through an arranged marriage). When they start challenging each others’ martial arts, things begin to escalate. Eventually, she leaves to head back to Japan. He sends her a “challenge letter”, hoping it will bring her back to China, but instead is misinterpreted by her Ninja mentor as a claim that his Chinese Kung-Fu is superior. So, about 8 or 9 Japanese martial arts masters all head to China to take up the challenge.

The fighting in Heroes of the East is pretty slick. I’m guessing that’s the whole reason to see a movie like this, which is why I was a little disappointed at how long the lead up was to the actual challenges was and how quick some of the fights actually went. The Japanese so-called masters gave up far too easily in some cases, after taking a few licks they’d decide they simply couldn’t win and walked away. This was only a few of the fights, but it almost seemed to be done to put a negative spin on the Japanese mentality or their martial arts in general (of course, the whole movie was about that, seeing as a Chinese Kung-Fu student beats 8 Japanese Martial Arts masters using various weapons). It was still cool to see, and the fact that no one dies at all is pretty amazing for a movie of that sort.

Overall, I’d recommend it… to any non-Japanese martial artists.

Equinox21’s Rating: 7/10

By Mighty Peking Man

Finally, a kung fu flick that features Chinese and Japanese characters and guess what: they DON’T hate each other. However, they still fight, but for legitimate reasons. That’s what makes Shaolin Challenges Ninja so unique. You can almost call it “The War of the Roses” meets “Shaw Brothers” with its silly, but smart, plot that revolves around a newlywed couple – a Japanese woman (Yuko Mizuno) and Chinese man (Gordon Liu) who are constantly testing/fighting each other to prove which is better: Chinese Kung Fu or Japanese Karate/Ninjitsu.

Though it has a fair share of action, keep in mind that “Shaolin Challenges Ninja” is light-hearted. Don’t expect something like Chang Cheh’s ninja-epic “Super Ninjas” with blood-soaked ultra-violence. Not in this film. If fact, nobody even gets killed. On the bright side, at least you can watch this while babysitting or something.

A little low on brutality, but a real treat for anyone who can appreciate a good clean kung fu flick.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 8/10

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