"Shaolin Wooden Men" Japanese Theatrical Poster
AKA: Shaolin Chamber of Death
Director: Chan Chi Hwa, Lo Wei
Producer: Lo Wei
Cast: Jackie Chan, Kam Kong, Doris Lung Chung Erh, Chiang Kam, Miu Tak San, Liu Ping, Li Min Lang, Miu Tin, To Wai Wo, Weng Hsiao Hu, Chang I Fei, Lam Fai, Lee Siu Chung, Luk Yat Lung, So Kwok Leung, Yuen Biao, Hwang Jang Lee
Running Time: 103 min.
By David Bell
Lou Anne came into the Bistro and threw her lug wrench right into booth number four, where it hit a cushion, bounced up and dented the napkin holder. Lou Anne treats her tools better than most of us treat our kids so we all knew something serious was up.
Hey Lou Anne, what’s the problem?
“That lousy O’Malley kid!”
Jimmy O’Malley just turned 17 and bought himself a junker that he’s been bringing into the shop side of Crazy Willie’s 24 Hour Bistro and Diesel Station (on South Palo Verde) for the past few weeks. Lou Anne’s been helping him get it street ready.
What did he do?
“He said his father made him watch a Marx Brothers movie! He said he hated it!”
Big deal. You hate the Marx Brothers too.
“That’s not it! He said he hates all that old stuff made during our generation! I’m 32! The frigging Marx Brothers started in the 1920’s!” As Lou Anne went off to cry under the hood of a 1992 Taurus, Willie and I made an important discovery. Those napkin holders can take a fair amount of punishment.
While Lou Anne wept over the points and plugs, Willie and I watched ShaoLin Wooden Men. Jackie is this mute guy that gets lead platform shoes that the monks want him to wear to look taller when he goes to the discos. The other guys call Jackie Dummy not just because he can’t speak but because he has these weird flashbacks of the Elephant Man smacking his old man around. While Jackie is doing all the regular temple stuff like chop firewood with his hands and carry water eight miles instead of using the indoor plumbing, he sees some monks try to take some food to this prisoner that looks like Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead during methadone withdrawal.
Jerry Garcia yells and the monks split but Jackie gets the guy some food so Jerry offers to teach him some Kung Fu in return for some wine and any heroin he might have lying around. Meanwhile one of the other students thinks he’s ready for the outside world, but first he has to run the gauntlet of giant wooden Rockem Sockem Robots. They knock off the kids block and Jackie figures he needs the Jerry Garcia treatment. So Jackie trains and learns the vicious style that a nun says sucks and she offers to teach Jackie Grease Fu. She takes Jackie over to a pit of Oleo and jumps in singing “Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee” and shows Jackie her moves.
Jackie tries it but slips and slides and figures he either needs to learn more or get a couple chicks in bikinis in there and try to sell the show to the bars in Ft. Lauderdale. After some Rocky style training, Jackie is ready to take on the Rockem Sockem Robots but first Jerry Garcia asks Jackie to take this note out to Ken Kesey. Jackie kicks wooden robot but and wins the right to brand himself with a hot boiling pot in this place with candles that looks like the set of the “Every Breath You Take” video. Out in the world, Jackie finds Kesey who hasn’t had a good novel since “Cuckoo’s Nest” and gives him the note. Then Jackie save a family restaurant from six gang members who try to play Sharks and Jets with the daughter. Kesey gives the note to the other members of Jerry Garcia’s band who then bust him out of the joint. The Merry Pranksters go on a mad cap, whimsical tour of the small villages and towns, killing everybody they see. And they kidnap the daughter so Jackie volunteers to find her.
The ShaoLin monks catch up to Jerry Garcia and tell him “Free form jazz this, you dried up hippie” and they all fight. But Jackie comes to Garcia’s rescue and gets him out without the monks seeing. Jackie hangs out with Jerry until Jerry decides that the fish they all had for dinner was a little salty and kills a family. Then Jackie returns to find the gang released the girl. Then a guy picks a fight in the restaurant and Jackie recognizes the style from his flashbacks earlier in the fill so he thinks it’s the Elephant Man that killed his dad. But the guy splits. Then Jackie finds this guy that looks like the blind guy on the TV show “Kung Fu” that called David Carradine grasshopper.
The grasshopper guy tells Jackie he has to whale on Jerry Garcia, but not before he autographs a copy of the script because he has the far sight and can tell that “Rumble In The Bronx” will be big in the US in about 20 years. So the big showdown comes and Jackie has to take on Jerry Garcia but not before he finds out that the guy in the restaurant that fought like the guy that killed Jackie’s dad is trying to find the real killer. So Jackie saves him from Garcia, who does the same move and then Jackie speaks for the first time. “He says, “Hey man, this is one weak plot device” and proceeds to wipe out not only Jerry Garcia, but the Grateful Dead’s drummer and bass player too.
Willie and I thought that this was like three movies in one, with the temple one part, the helping the restaurant the second, and the final showdown with the evil guy third. Unfortunately none of the three parts is entertaining enough to want to watch. On the plus side Lou Anne came in during the final fight and said she saw some moves she’s going to try on O’Malley. “I’ll show that punk what my generation can do.”
David Bell’s Rating: 2/10
SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN – THE ONLINE CHAT SESSION
(Never actually happened but it’s fun to pretend)
JEFF: Yo everybody! It’s great to have you all online at the same time for the sole purpose of ripping into SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN! Check it out! DAVE BELL is here! Plus his friend PHIL! TIGERLILY is here! So is DAN-O! LOUIS STEVENS is on board! We got THE GREAT HENDU in the house! DANIEL is with us! NUMSKULL, as well! And…and…uh…who else? Oh yeah, that joseph yana guy. Say hello everybody!
DAVE BELL: Hello everybody!
LOUIS STEVENS: Nice to be here.
THE GREAT HENDU: Hello folks bla bla bla.
TIGERLILY: Hi everyone!
joseph yana: Greetings mortals. It is an honor and a privelege for you to review this film in my online company.
DAN-O: Hell-O! Pretty funny huh?
JEFF: Hey Phil, aren’t you going to say hello?
PHIL: I dunno. Yeah, I guess. Hi everybody.
NUMSKULL: What the fuck! I’ve been last in line ever since first grade when they made you line up to go to lunch.
JEFF: Uh…okay everybody, start your VCRs!
(Ten VCRs simultaneously go into action. Shortly…)
DAVE BELL: Poor bastard. Has to haul all that water before he learns how to kick the Elephant Man’s ass!
LOUIS STEVENS: Maybe he’ll drain his bladder in the well to get even, that’s what I’d do!
DAN-O: What the hell are you guys talking about? All I see is fighting!
THE GREAT HENDU: Stop kidding around, critiquing crap movies like this so nobody else ever makes the mistake of seeing it is serious business!
JEFF: “Nobody else” meaning those who are smart enough to hit my site! Everyone else is doomed! hahaha
joseph yana: “Doomed”? What do you mean? I think this movie is enjoyable! You wretched fools should try watching it through unbiased eyes.
THE GREAT HENDU: To do that I’d have to gouge out yours and stick them in my sockets, so count me out.
LOUIS STEVENS: Lord does this suck.
DANIEL: oh yeah. not much too it…
DAN-O: No way! This rocks! Tons of fighting! What are YOU watching?
JEFF: Quit clowning Dan!
DAVE BELL: Look here! Jackie is about to meet Jerry Garcia.
LOUIS STEVENS: I hate the Grateful Dead! They’re a shite band.
DANIEL: I agree, not much to their music…
DAN-O: Huh? Doesn’t look like Jerry Garcia to me…
DAVE BELL: Adjust the tracking then! Hey Jeff, who have we NOT heard from yet?
JEFF: Uh…Tigerlily, Numskull and Phil. You three speak up!
TIGERLILY: Hi Jeff!
JEFF: What do you think of the movie so far?
TIGERLILY: Boo! Let’s have some more action! That Jerry Garcia guy is awful rude. Kick his butt Jackie!
JEFF: OK, how about you Phil? Aren’t you going to offer us some words of wisdom about the movie?
PHIL: I dunno. Yeah, I guess. It’s not very good.
NUMSKULL: What’s that yellow shit?
DAVE BELL: Don’t you know Oleo when you see it?!?
DAN-O: I don’t see it…
LOUIS STEVENS: Come off it man!
joseph yana: The nun just said it was GREASE you puny mortals! Pay attention!
THE GREAT HENDU: SIR, YES SIR!
DAVE BELL: Hey, that nun is getting pissed! She’s trying not to show it though.
NUMSKULL: “Angry nun is always comedy.” -Jhonen Vasquez
DAN-O: Huh? What nun?
DANIEL: check it out here’s where jackie has to fight the wooden robots! not much else to it though…
JEFF: This shit is so fake. Look, you can see the people in there!
TIGERLILY: Talk about cheese! They call this action?
DAN-O: What wooden robots? I don’t see them!
DAVE BELL: Get serious you-
DAN-O: Oh wait, there they are.
daniel: check it out jackie just got hit in the stomach
NUMSKULL: I bet he shat blood that night.
DAVE BELL: Look at this…Jackie just graduated from Shaolin and they send him out into the real world without a degree or a letter of recommendation or a new suit or anything! He’s fucked!
THE GREAT HENDU: No, he’ll be OK. He has that note to deliver.
(Three minutes later…)
THE GREAT HENDU: All right, NOW he’s fucked.
JEFF: Oh check it out! Here’s where he meets that restaurant guy’s daughter! Man is she HOT!!! She can wait on my table any day!
DAN-O: What? Where? All I see is ass-kicking!
DAVE BELL: And of course there’s a clique of perpetually aroused men hanging about that want a piece of her.
LOUIS STEVENS: Wrong, mate. The woman always gets kidnapped, everbody knows that, it’s all the women in these shite films are good for.
JEFF: Hey, I wouldn’t mind rescuing her a few times!
TIGERLILY: If that were Michelle Yeoh from SUPERCOP she would be kicking all their butts!
DAVE BELL: This is getting more contrived than WWF Raw by the minute. Don’t you agree, Phil?
PHIL: I dunno. Yeah, I guess.
DAN-O: Hey, what gives? Mine just stopped!
NUMSKULL: Are you sitting on the remote?
DAN-O: No! Let me take the tape out and see what’s…HOOOLLEEEEE CRAP! All this time I’ve been watching the “Best Fights” tape that comes with Wooden Men in the 2-pack!
DAVE BELL: O, the mortification!
joseph yana: You pitiful peon! Didn’t you notice that it didn’t have a plot?!?
DAN-O: So what? Neither did Fantasy Mission Force!
NUMSKULL: AND LOOK WHO DEFIED THE LAWS OF MATHEMATICS BY GIVING IT AN 11/10!!!!
DAVE BELL: Play nice, kids.
DAN-O: Piss on you all! You’ve all been bitching about how much the movie sucks, right?
THE GREAT HENDU: Hmmmm…sure looks that way.
DAN-O: And all I’VE been seeing is non-stop fighting, right?
DAVE BELL: Um…right.
DAN-O: SO WHO’S LAUGHING NOW YOU BASTARDS!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
LOUIS STEVENS: Bloke’s got a point.
DAVE BELL: Yes, I think Mr. O has stuck all our faces in it.
joseph yana: Not me!
TIGERLILY: Hey look! Jackie is fighting Jerry Garcia!
DAVE BELL: How’d that happen? Did you catch it Phil?
PHIL: I dunno. But I was thinking maybe that guy was the one who killed Jackie’s father in the flashbacks because he’s the head of this evil gang that killed all those people and since Jackie’s father was a good guy who knew kung fu maybe he was friends with the Shaolin temple and that’s why they had him chained up. You think?
THE GREAT HENDU: Now you’ve lost me.
NUMSKULL: And me.
DANIEL: and me
TIGERLILY: And me.
DAVE BELL: And me.
joseph yana: Not me! I knew it all along. And that’s not even because I’ve seen this movie before!
DAVE BELL: Hey Jeff, we haven’t heard from you in a while.
JEFF: That’s because I’ve got my hands full trying to keep all these beautiful screaming women at bay!
DAVE BELL: Any Chinese among them?
JEFF: No! I only wanna see Chinese if they’re bringing me spare ribs! Hahaha! It’s all right, just go on without me!
DAVE BELL: Roger.
TIGERLILY; Finally some real action! Jackie’s kicking butt! Why couldn’t the rest of the movie be like this ?!?
DANIEL: oh yeah its a great match! not much else to say about it though.
DAV BLL: You know, h was kind of a pain, but now that h’s gon I rally miss Dan-O.
THE GREAT HENDU: Uh…could you repeat that?
DAV BLL: Crtainly, Hndu. I said, “You know, h was kind of a pain, but now that h’s gon I rally…what th hll? Oh for th lov of Jrry! Th “” ky on my kyboard is brokn, just lik in Stphn King’s “Misry!”
DANIEL: ha ha ha thats funny!
THE GREAT HENDU: Do we really have to sit through the rest of this crap? We all know Jackie’s gonna beat the bad guy.
NUMSKULL: Oh sure, go and spoil it for the rest of us!
LOUIS STEVENS: I hear you. Let’s wrap this thing up.
TIGERLILY: Hey Jeff, are you still with us?
JEFF: Whew! Yeah…I had to block the front door with the fridge and the side door with the couch, but I’m back. What’d I miss?
NUMSKULL: Bad choice of words. “Miss” implies that it was actually worth seeing!
JEFF: Oh well, I’ve seen it before anyway. Man did it SUCK! What does everybody else think?
THE GREAT HENDU: Pure crap. In fact, I’ve found LESS pure crap in the toilet bowl!
TIGERLILY: Boo! Not nearly enough action! Hey jackie, if you’re reading this, don’t even think about making more boring movies like this!
DANIEL: good fighting but the storey was to complicated. not much else to say about it…
NUMSKULL: This was a low point, even for LOW Wei! Get it? Huh? LOW Wei?
LOUIS STEVENS: I’m with that Hendu bloke, this film is pure shite. It ranks #47 on my JC film list!
NUMSKULL: Y’know, LOW as in “opposite of high”? LOW Wei? Guys?
DAV LL: This movi suckd, and that’s not vn counting th fact that I’m all pissd off at my “” ky ing rokn…what! Not my “” ky too! What th fuck!
NUMSKULL: I’m gonna go lie down…
joseph yana: This film is incredible! It’s one of the most original and creative films that Jackie has ever been involved with. I guess you need a graduate’s degree in film studies like me to appreciate this film. Lo Wei did a great job and if there were any justice he would still be hailed as a master film maker today. I give SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN a 12/10!
PHIL: I dunno. It was pretty bad. Not as good as Hudson Hawk.
JEFF: Well, your opinion is appreciated. Time to wrap things up, wouldn’t you say?
PHIL: I dunno. Yeah, I guess so. (Exit PHIL)
TIGERLILY: Bye everybody! Let’s try this again sometime, only with a REAL Jackie Chan movie with lots of action in it!! And let’s leave that dork joseph yana out of it next time!
LOUIS STEVENS: I’m with you there! If I have to listen to that bollocks spew any more shite about how Jackie’s worst movies are the Chinese versions of GONE WITH THE WIND and CITIZEN bleedin’ KANE I’ll lose me lunch!
(Exit LOUIS STEVENS and TIGERLILY)
joseph yana: I can’t stand the company of you pathetic mortals any onger! I have better things to do!! I’m out of here!!!
(Exit joseph yana)
DANIEL: if he goes i go!
DAV LL: Jff you gotta lp m man! If my kys r sk glkdxl qzr cvgo s !
JEFF: Uh-oh! Sorry Dave but that banging at the door is getting ouder! You’re on your own!
DV L: O ths ust ukin reat!
(Exit DV L)
(Only THE GREAT HENDU remains. His cursor closes in on “QUIT”. Then, all of a sudden…)
DAN-O: Hey everybody! I’m back! Sorry I bailed out on you all but that yana guy was really annoying the hell out of me. Is he gone? What did I miss?
THE GREAT HENDU: The movie’s over. He’s gone. Everyone’s gone except us.
(Somewhere in the distance, a cricket seeks out a mate)
DAN-O: So, uh…you seen any good movies lately?
THE GREAT HENDU: No…
For the record: I don’t know how Louis Stevens really feels about the Grateful Dead and I have no idea whether or not The Great Hendu has seen any good movies lately. No offense is intended and no familiarity is implied with either of them. The same may also be said of Dave Bell, Tigerlily, Dan-O, Phil, Yummyspam, Sang W. Park, Victor Nguyen, and Andrew. Thank you and goodnight.
Numskull’s Rating: 4/10
By Marcia Franklin
Given that we’re still talking about a Lo Wei film here, it’s not too bad. The mute thing is almost cute — watching Jackie nod his head overenthusiastically to get his point across, for example. There is something of a plot, though it’s completely formulaic; what else do we expect from this era of kung fu movie? It seems to be my nature to take these films with a huge grain of salt, so given the fact that it falls in the “bad kung fu movie” genre, it’s pretty good. One thing that really stood out for me though: this is the first Jackie film I remember seeing with the red flashback filter to inform you that what you’re seeing is actually a memory. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last…
Marcia Franklin’s Rating: 5/10
By The Great Hendu
I wonder… if Lo Wei could have only gotten his act together and produced ONE film that incorporated all the GOOD aspects of Chan’s early stuff might he have made Jackie a star a long time ago? I say yes. This film does what no other Lo Wei film ever did. It actually, successfully provided a plot that was coherent, understandable, and likable. Unfortunately the traditional stuff that Jackie is known for is missing… Not much fighting, not much humor, and Jackie only speaks at the end. If only Lo Wei knew what we know now, “Let Jackie do HIS thing and you’re guaranteed a hit”.
Oh well, no use crying over Lo Wei. The one thing that rather bothered me about this film was the uncanny likeness that Jackie had to Bruce Lee. Maybe it was the hair, but I think Lo was trying to cash in on THE LOOK. What ever the case, I hold no grudges against JC personally. Lord help anyone who does, ’cause Jackie could kick their collective butts into next year!)
The Great Hendu’s Rating: 5/10
This was your usual Kung Fu theater quality film. By “Kung Fu Theater” I mean that there are lots of training sequences set to old style music, a shaolin temple, a few flashbacks, and revenge. There were really only two things that distinguished this film from others of its type: first there was the throng of wooden robots that the shaolin used as their final test for membership. These “Shaolin Wooden Men” actually reacted to trainees trying to pass through their ranks, which was amusing. The second thing that made this film different from the rest was that the protagonist (Jackie Chan) didn’t speak throughout most of the film. He had to express himself entirely through his actions and expressions, something most actors would have difficulty with…
Andrew’s Rating: 6/10