|Mad Monkey Kung Fu (1979)|
|Starring:||Liu Chia Liang, Hou Hsiao and Kara Hui.|
|The Plot: Chen (Liu Chia-Liang) is a stage performer, specializing in monkey Kung Fu, who puts on shows along with his sister. Tuan (Lo Leah) is a rich man who takes a shining to Chen’s sister and desperately wants to bed her. When he invites the brother and sister duo to his home, he has a plan of trickery that will see him nab this woman up for his own. His plan involves getting Chen drunk to the point of passing out, and then placing him in a room with Tuan’s wife who pretends to have slept with the drunken man. Tuan then pretends to be enraged, threatening to have Chen killed for this crime, which prompts Chen’s sister to offer herself as a concubine/slave in retaliation for her brother’s transgression. Despite already winning the prize he so wanted, Chen’s sister, Tuan also adds to the stipulation a demand that Chen’s hands be crippled via a severed beating. After the crippling, Chen is forced into living as a street performer, taking up a life of poverty. While wandering the streets he meets a fellow urchin in the form of Monkey (Hou Hsiao) who looks and acts like a monkey. Monkey has a lot of promise, as he has all of the movements down, but he has much to learn. Chen soon takes him under his wing and begins teaching the young man what he knows about Kung Fu. Will Chen have his revenge through his new pupil?|
The movie opens up strong, with a sequence that inevitably leads to a quick showdown between Liu Chia-Liang and Lo Lieh. Chia-Liang in this lead role is really fantastic in terms of the fight choreography. Although he always looks good when he is doing his own work, he looks especially good here as he really sells the monkey style. With this role, it is easy to see why so many have continually praised his portrayal of monkey-fist. He is so nimble and limber in his movements, especially during this first fight sequence where he gets to show his most in-depth work. His character punches, kicks and becomes so heavily involved in the conflict that he ties his opponents up like pretzels. The initial fight with Lo Lieh is interesting because we actually get to see Liu Chia-Liang drunk whilst fighting off all of these goons, so in essence he begins to use a drunken monkey style of Kung Fu which foreshadows his eventual feature film Drunken Monkey! Lo Lieh is great here as well, but comes across seemingly sluggish in comparison to Chia-Liang. It works for him though, similar to Jimmy Wang Yu or Sonny Chiba who never had a “pretty” style but always came across as effective.
The movie isn’t without its problems however, as you can maybe guess. This is a monkey style Kung Fu film about vengeance, so just how original can it really be? The answer is that it’s not. As is the case with many of the better martial arts titles out there, you have to sort of accept the stock scripts and the reliance on film cliches. Such is the case with Mad Monkey Kung Fu as well. What makes the film exciting and fun however are the things that it does with spectacular originality, such as the fight sequences or the use of humor throughout. These are films about escapism and we generally judge that escapism depending on how entertaining something tends to be. Here we have the amazing choreography that I’ve already mentioned, as well as the excellent training sequence that takes up a good portion of the running time. Liu Chia-Liang, thanks in no small part to his work with The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, is ostensibly the father of training sequences in martial arts and he doesn’t let the audience down with this film either. His use of two simple ropes in the film, for Hou Hsiao to demonstrate his skills upon, is rather ingenious to say the least. Then we have the impossibly long, and questionable in their effectiveness, handstands that both Liu Chia-Liang and Hou Hsiao endure whilst training so that they can use such handstands later on during their fight sequences. Is it ridiculous? Sure, but the entertainment factor is through the roof!