Picked this one up blind at the library. This is apparently the film that launched the 70's kung fu craze in America, but it must have just been at the right place at the right time, because this film didn't do much for me. I'm not a huge student of old school martial arts films, but I've seen a few I enjoyed more than this one.
Of course, part of this may be since I'm more of a Jackie Chan fan, and this flick is not of the "goofy student becomes a stud" model that many of Jackie's early movies were. But neither does the lead character here, Chao Chih-hao, have the kind of coiled spring intensity of a Bruce Lee. He's just kind of there, not really showing much intensity anywhere, even in the poses where his fists glow red to show his inner strength. The plot is fairly standard - two schools, one good and one evil, plan to compete in an upcoming tournament, and the evil one tries various tricks to cause the best student for the good school to miss the contest. The good school wins, but at the cost of many of its students and its leader, and the final fight has the hero beat the evil school's champ.
It's all pretty standard and kind of slow in building, at least until the evil school brings in some Japanese assassins. Not much of the tournament itself is shown, which kind of makes the build up to it relatively meaningless. But the final fight, where Chih-hao takes on the evil school henchmen and then the Japanese big boss, is pretty well done. The style here is the old school "men-jumping-on-trampoline" type of fighting, with the sudden switches to bright blue sky in the middle of nighttime fights being the kind of continuity error that brings a smile to my face.
In the end, I suspect this film is more respected for its historical significance than for the film itself, but that may be my relative inexperience with the genre. It probably says something that I recognized the siren sound from Kill Bill here rather than the other way around. But as I said, I'd have to rate this film lower than other films of the same genre, so I'm going with two stars here.