“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