I’ve seen a lot of kung fu movies. A lot of them have the destruction of the Shaolin Temple as a plot point. Sometimes it’s the events leading up to the actual destruction of the temple, sometimes it’s the aftermath. This 1977 film starts with several students from the Shaolin Temple fleeing the slaughter. Kuan Tai Chen is one the students and his master is killed by the evil Priest Pai Mei (Lieh Lo) and naturally wants to avenge his master.
Chen and his fellow remaining students decide to hide as traveling performers while they plot their revenge. Chen runs into Lily Li and they get married. Eventually they have a son and Chen returns to training for his revenge. He is a master of the tiger style of fighting. Li is a mistress of the crane style and she has trained her son in this style. She also wants her husband to train in crane but he refuses believing that his tiger style will beat Pai Mei.
If the name Pai Mei sounds familiar that’s because he was the white eyebrowed, white mustache and bearded villain in several kung fu films. Most notably Quentin Tarantino used the character as Uma Thurman’s kung fu teacher in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. According to the DVD case for Executioners from Shaolin this film was Pai Mei’s first screen appearance but IMDb claims that he appeared in the film The Shaolin Avengers in 1976.
As I’ve said before I’ve seen and enjoyed a lot of kung fu movies but I don’t really recall too many films where getting kicked in the nuts is an important plot point. In fact despite all the training, all the different martial art styles I don’t think I’ve ever seen any finishing move that involves getting kicked in the balls. But in this film apparently one of the tiger style finishing moves is getting kicked in the balls.
Well it doesn’t matter because the evil Pai Mei can counter this most devious and ingenious kung fu move. Pai Mei has mastered the secret technique of sucking his vitals into his body. If your going for his eyes or his genitals, Pai Mei can’t be bested. So despite training for ten years, when Chen finally confronts Pai Mei, he can’t help going for the kick to the crotch which only spells his doom. Once you kick Pai Mei in the crotch because of the lack venerables there he can trap your foot, drag you around and then finish you off. It’s quite a thing to see.
As far as Shaw Brothers kung fu films go it’s not bad, nothing ground breaking. But Lieh Lo would go on to star as Pai Mei two more times, including a film he directed in 1980 Clan of the White Lotus.