A lot of the times with these older Kung Fu films, whenever comedy wasn’t integrated, the whole structure of the film relied heavily on the plot. You can have fantastic fight choreography, but if that’s all you have and the story is just your basic student searching for revenge sort of affair you have no chances of your film being anything other than “good” in the eyes of the fans. At least here in North America. It’s the script that really sets apart films like Five Venoms and Master Killer, sure they have great Kung Fu and the impact they had was legendary but I’m of the opinion that if those films wouldn’t have come close to that impact had it not been for the strong storytelling that comes with them. Eight Diagram Pole Fighter is probably one of the most impressive in terms of telling a story and expressing the plight of the characters. Few characters are as shallow as one would expect from a Kung Fu flick, with both Gordon Liu and Alexander Fu Sheng (who was originally to be the star of the picture, but passed away before finishing his scenes) both stepping up their performances and creating passionate characters that are seldom felt like they are in this particular film. The film is also one of the most visually stylish Shaw Bros. productions I can think of right off the top of my head. This might have been because it’s one of the few Celestial restored Shaw films I have seen so far (but watched with the English dub, thank goodness for FanEdits!) but there really is a tremendous amount of style infused into the film. From the crane shots to the awesome lighting during the night scenes, it’s just an awesome thing to witness. With the classic Shaw sets, where although you can tell it’s obviously fake and not a real mountain setting – that isn’t the point. Like a play or a musical, there’s a state of heightened reality sustained throughout the Shaw productions. Something a little stripped down and basic, but so over the top that it becomes something entirely different and new. This goes for the elaborate costumes as well, which although not as wild as some of Chang Cheh’s productions – anything made by the Shaw studio generally had some really impressive looking costumes.All of that is nice and all, but I’m sure most are probably curious about the fight scenes. Well, you will not be disappointed. As I said earlier, I’m not even a fan of weapons based Kung Fu – but they really pulled it of with Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. The use of wires in the choreography is very limited, but it helps create that level of heightened reality that takes the movie from something ordinary to something extraordinary. The final fight sequence, which I will do my best not to spoil, takes place atop five stacked coffins and features Gordon Liu essentially fighting an army to get to the top of them. Absolutely classic Kung Fu choreography and without a doubt one of the best old school fight scenes out there.