Nothing like seeing a pristine copy of a Shaw Brothers film on the big screen. I think the colors were a little less saturated and the picture was a little more crisp than those on the DVDs I have; I expect the digitization process accounts for both of those. I wouldn’t really say I prefer either. Either way, I’m getting the superb kung fu and the dramatic period pieces and all.
Executioners From Shaolin is one of the inspirations for Kill Bill. Tarantino’s Pai Mei looks precisely like the Pai Mei from Executioners, down to the beard stroking gesture. This Pai Mei was somewhat less sympathetic, though, being the type of person who’d burn down the Shaolin Temple and work towards eradicating every last escapee. Tarantino’s Pai Mei might have done that kind of thing, but you didn’t see any of that on screen. Plus in Kill Bill, it’s the villain who kills off Pai Mei, not the hero.
The cool thing about Executioners is that it takes place over what has to be 30 or so years. Hong Xi-guan flees the temple as a callow youth, but in the next two hours he finds true love, gets married, and has a family. And, of course, does a lot of kung fu.
Plenty of good fight sequences, including a really good pole fight on a staircase about which I will say no more lest I ruin it. There’s an extended period of domestic kung fu which is right up there with the funniest Jackie Chan scenes. Finally, the early noble stand against ridiculous odds, brought to us by the sublime fists of Gordon Liu, is also top notch.
Edit: there was a special trailer for Man of Iron before Executioners. It made me wanna see it — cool period Shanghai piece directed by Cheh Chang. Yeah.