For the uninitiated Pai Mei is the Sith Lord of the Kung Fu world. Basically, don’t ever fu*k with this guy. He cannot be beaten. Even a kick in the balls won’t work cos he has none.
According to legend Pai Mei was one of the five elders of Shaolin and also supposedly betrayed the Shaolin Temple leading to it’s burning down by the imperial government. The character has become famous in Kung Fu movies as the unbeatable white eyebrow villain. Most of the films relate to the story of how he was eventually beaten. Here are the films he has appeared in.
I’m less fond of this movie than some are. I guess in retrospect I might have gained more love for it but at the time I just thought there were too many feet getting stuck in the space between Pai Mei’s legs. A generation of a family train to take on Pai Mei and almost all of them get their asses severely kicked. Pai Mei here just seems too invulnerable to anything which makes him a rather frustrating villain. Unlike the later ‘Clan of the White Lotus’ where new attacks are gradually developed after each defeat this movie and it’s training scenes are rather pointless since Pai Mei claims that he can move his weak spot around his body at will which is just cheating if you ask me. His ultimate downfall is rather unsophisticated and hastily done. Some versions of the ending even have a dubbed in line to explain that he was defeated. Meh!
Abbot of Shaolin AKA The Slice of Death
Lo Lieh again and it’s again a highly entertaining film. There isn’t much story to this one. A monk who survives the burning of the Shaolin Temple travels to the south to raise money to rebuild it, on his travels he gains some further insight into his training (although there isn’t any real training in this) and attracts a group of followers around him . The film is mostly building up to the final fight with the big boss, Pai Mei, and all his underlings the Monk and his group fight are just getting us buttered up for the Pai Mei final.
Clan of the White Lotus
This is the best Kung Fu movie featuring the character, although technically it’s not Pai Mei but an identical classmate of his (i don’t know either). The opening of the movie is amazballs and while at times there are a few slow moments it’s almost always related to how to defeat the white brow master. While this is a work of fiction the thinking behind white brows defeat can get technical with each step taken another challenge is then presented. The white brow master is the one that even helps suggesting how he defeats his opponents and how they could possibly defeat him. He is so gods damn awesome that he tells people why they can’t beat him because from his point of view he is just handing the keys of his Porsche to a baby who couldn’t possibly learn how to drive it. Right?
Having Lo Lieh and Gordon Liu pair off against each other is a Kung Fu fight to behold, putting the actual fighting aside we have two actors that are superior on their own merits and it’s not just the action of the fight but the method of how to fight a character like Pei Mei that is really interesting and fun. If you like Kung Fu movies then you must watch this.
He appears briefly in this movie at the beginning and again mid way through but there is no final fight with the character. But Shaolin Rescuers is still a movie very much worth watching. There are some fast and furious fight scenes and it’s an entertaining edition to the Shaolin Cycle.
He kind of bookends the start and end of the movie. Shaolin Avengers is an interesting Kung Fu movie as it cuts between the present and past of our heroes throughout the movie. At times it can be somewhat confusing as in the scenes at the present moment they are all fighting a battle yet have time to remember the good ole days. Pai Mei doesn’t have much to do in this movie except watch on to figure out his opponents weaknesses. This seems like a clever thing a tactician would do. Unfortunately when Pai Mei finally does make his move he goes down like a punk.
Wu Tang vs. Ninja
Also know as ‘Ninja Killer’. It’s easy to be impressed by this movie until you realize it was made in the late 80s and is sorely outclassed by films that did the same story a decade before in far finer fashion. And Ninjas? The fu*k? Yes, we have kung fu movies with Ninja’s showing up but why here? Why is Pai Mei and Ninja’s teaming up? Especially when the title says ‘Wu Tang Vs Ninja’. In China they had the equivalent of Ninja’s which were called Jiān. Why not use those instead?
Pai Mei is not actually named here. He is just called White Priest. He is bad ass enough to have parts of the theme from PSYCHO playing when he shows up but he lacks the charisma of previous Pai Mei’s that have graced our screens.
The plot of the film covers old ground, the story of Pai Mei, destruction of the Shaolin Temple and Pai Mei’s defeat (except for the whole Ninja subplot). There are some rather awkward sex? scenes too that don’t really show anything but are fairly embarrassing to watch. You don’t need to see this.
Kill Bill Part 2
It’s a real treat to see Pai Mei pop up in this movie and also to see him closer to his Lo Lei incarnation. This time Gordon Liu expertly takes on the role of the white priest adding some humor to the character. His scenes are brief but the character is a key part of this film and the overall story of the Bride. While Kill Bill part one was spot the movie reference game part two comes across as something more fully formed and the Pai Mei we see here is a fabulous homage to the Shaw Brothers movies.
There are many other Kung Fu movies out there featuring a white hair and eyebrow villain but never under the name of Pai Mei. Like all good villains he is ripped off a lot. As for the future, will we ever see Pai Mei again? Does a beard twirling villain like him have any place in today’s gritty movie world? I don’t know. I hope one day he’ll be back in some form and be as unbeatable as ever.
Favorite Quote: “Your so-called Kung-Fu… is really… quite pathetic.” – Pai Mei