Challenge of the Masters (1976)

It’s no stretch of the imagination to state that Director Lau Kar-Leung’s Challenge of the Masters is a revolutionary statement of how martial arts movies ought to be done. The resulting film is an impressive feat, with strong character development for its main character and a training segment which would be tirelessly copied for the next three decades.

The film does a number of things that - in 1976 - simply weren’t being done when it came to kung fu films. Thanks to Arrow Video, Chia-Ling’s second film can be wholly appreciated with a 2K upgrade as it is now included with their release of SHAW BROTHERS PRESENTS: FOUR FILMS BY LAU KAR-LEUNG, a 2-disc set which includes Executioners Of Shaolin, Heroes Of The East, and Dirty Ho.

"With school rivalries rounding out the story, Challenge of the Masters is wuxia at its finest"

Lau Kar-Leung was no stranger to the studio mindset of the Shaw Brothers. He had worked tirelessly on some of their biggest hits, choreographing epic fight sequences for most of their staple players during the 1960s and the 1970s. His unique vision for fight scenes were both stylistic, using the body’s movement to impact force, and full of humor, making his work truly crowd pleasing when it came to mass appeal.

One need only look here for the evidence of Kar-Leung’s work as Fei Hung (Gordon Liu in his screen debut) attempts to sneak up on his master, Master Lu (Chen Kuan-Tai), for a surprise attack. It’s been months of training, but Fei Hung is still making mistakes. This moment is one of them, but he will learn quickly not to mess around. Master Lu is not out-witted and, in a great balancing act when the first strike comes, manages to smack his student twice in the face with the book he is reading before resuming his relaxing smoke.Challenge of the Masters (1976)

You see, Master Lu is a family friend of Wong Kei Ying (Chiang Yang) and, as Wong’s school is being threatened by fugitive named Ho (Liu Chia-Liang), he agrees to train Wong’s helpless son (who truly is an oaf) for two years, but on the day he takes Fei Hung, the evil Ho attacks and kills Yu (Lau Kar-Wing), a family friend of Wong’s, with his well-armed feet. It is a nasty move and revenge must follow from the Wong family.

But Fei Hung is nowhere near being ready for the fight.

He will be, though. It’s just going to take a lot of work to get him in shape. He has to learn how to properly balance his attack with a strong defense, and then there’s all the work that needs to be done with the pole. Lots of dishes are going to be broken in the next two years of training.

But both Liu and his director are up for the task, making Challenge of the Masters quite a character piece. It’s dynamic, bold in its use of character, and full of the classic Shaw Brothers production details. And it looks better than ever thanks to Arrow Video’s crisp handling.

With school rivalries rounding out the story, Challenge of the Masters is wuxia at its finest.

5/5 chops

 Challenge of the Masters (1976)

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Arrow Films
Available on Blu-ray
- October 24, 2023
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
: English; English SDH
Mandarin: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; Cantonese: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; 2-discset
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Lau's second film, the thrilling and deeply personal Challenge of the Masters, draws upon the legend of the real-life Cantonese folk hero Wong Fei-hung, played here by Lau's soon-to-be-legendary adoptive brother Gordon Liu in his first starring role. Having choreographed the action for many of Chang Cheh's 'Shaolin Temple' films, Lau took on the same historical legends in Executioners from Shaolin, jam-packed with extraordinary fight scenes and unforgettable characters, not least the evil Bai Mei, the White-Browed Hermit!


Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Challenge of the Masters is beautifully presented on 1080p from Arrow Video. Interiors are strong. Colors pop throughout, but it is the blood effects - burning bright in the transfer - which seal the deal on this one. It’s full of great atmosphere thanks to the quick-footed script and looks visually eye-popping due to the 1080- upgrade. Black levels are strong throughout, bringing out nice details in both the loud and quiet moments of this epic adventure. The tracking shots are glorious to behold in 1080p. Blacks are solid and shadows maintain their lines. Even the costumes are noted stitch by stitch.


Fans of the genre get uncompressed Mandarin and English original mono tracks, plus Cantonese mono for the film.


Get ready to duel to the death with these supplemental items!


  • See Special Features for the breakdown.

Special Features:

Disc One - Challenge Of The Masters / Executioners Of Shaolin

  • 2K restoration of Challenge of the Masters from the original negative by Arrow Films
  • High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
  • Uncompressed Mandarin and English original mono audio for both films, plus Cantonese mono for Challenge of the Masters
  • English subtitles for both films, plus English hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dubs
  • Appreciation of Lau Kar-Leung by film critic and historian Tony Rayns
  • Interview with star Gordon Liu, filmed in 2002 by Frédéric Ambroisine
  • Interview with star Chen Kuan-Tai, filmed in 2007 by Frédéric Ambroisine
  • Textless opening credits for Challenge of the Masters
  • Alternate English credits for Executioners from Shaolin
  • Trailers
  • Image galleries for both films

Disc Two - Heroes Of The East / Dirty Ho

  • 2K restoration of Dirty Ho from the original negative by Arrow Films
  • High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
  • Uncompressed Cantonese, Mandarin and English original mono audio for both films
  • English subtitles for both films, plus English hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dubs
  • Commentary on Heroes of the East by Jonathan Clements, author of A Brief History of the Martial Arts
  • Appreciation of both films by film critic and historian Tony Rayns
  • Interview with Heroes of the East star Yasuaki Kurata, filmed in 2003 by Frédéric Ambroisine
  • Alternate opening credits for Shaolin Challenges Ninja, the international version of Heroes of the East
  • Alternate English credits for Dirty Ho
  • Trailers
  • Image galleries for both films

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars

 Film Details

Challenge of the Masters

MPAA Rating: R.
97 mins
: Chia-Liang Liu
Kuang Ni
Chia-Hui Liu; Kuan Tai Chen; Yue Wong
: Action | Drama

Memorable Movie Quote:
Shaw Brothers
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 7, 1976
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 24, 2023
Synopsis: Teenager Wong Fei-hung is sent to train in the art of hung gar kung fu from his father's teacher, Luk Ah-choy. With training complete, Wong must fight an assassin and regain the honor of his school.


Challenge of the Masters