I love martial arts films. I do not have the best knowledge of the genre, and there are many, many films that I need to see, but that does not dissuade my love for them. When it comes to martial arts films, there are some names that everyone knows, such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li. However, if you really want to get into martial arts films you have to dive into the catalog of Shaw Brothers studios. One of the stars in their stable is Gordon Liu, who stars in the film Heroes of the East. Liu is probably best known for starring in 36th Chamber of Shaolin, aka Shaolin Master Killer, and has recently been seen in both Kill Bill films, but his other work should not be ignored. Prior to this DVD release, I had never heard of Heroes of the East. Am I glad I know about it now! This movie is an absolute gem and should not be overlooked by anyone interested in kung fu cinema.
As the film opens, Ah To (Gordon Liu) is a young Chinese man who is about to meet the woman who is to be his wife, Kung Zi (Yuko Mizuno). When he was a young boy, his father had set up this arranged marriage with a Japanese family in order to increase their respective standings, as well as promote unity between the two cultures. Of course, Ah To is not exactly happy with the prospect, that is until he lays eyes on the lovely young woman. In short order, they are married and the movie begins to take off.
What follows is an escalating battle between the two, a battle which hangs primarily on cultural differences. Kung Zi is a practitioner of Japanese martial arts styles such as judo, karate, and ninjitsu. Ah To practices a variety of Chinese kung fu styles, including the great Drunken Boxing. Both of these individuals are fiercely loyal to their nation and their styles, insisting that theirs is the best. This drives a wedge between the two which leads to Kung Zi returning home to Japan.
In an effort to get her back, Ah To composes a challenge letter to Kung Zi, but their problems only escalate when the letter is intercepted by a Japanese ninjitsu master, and competing suitor, Takeno (Yusuaki Kareto). Kung Zi returns to Japan with Takeno and a full compliment of Japanese masters to answer the challenge.