Old Dirty Kung Fu | Varied Celluloid

Old Dirty Kung Fu

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 18 - 2012

Old Dirty Kung Fu (1979)
Director: Chien Yuet San
Starring: Cliff Lok, Simon Yuen, Chan Lung, and Lee Hoi San



The Plot: Lin is about to kill himself because his daughter is being forced to marry a rich aristocrat – and if he says no this proposed marriage, his whole family will be massacred. When Bamboo Stick (Simon Yuen) wanders upon him, he takes pity on the man and offers to help him get rid of the would-be suitor. So, Bamboo Stick’s awesome plan is to dress up like the girl, cover his face with a veil, and then marry the suitor in place of the girl. Yeah, this is literally his plan, and it almost works. When Bamboo Stick goes through with the wedding vows, the young husband freaks out to find that his young wife is truly a sixty year old bum. A fight ensues and the young man is accidentally killed. This sends the young man’s father (Lee Hoi San) into full blitzkrieg mode. Skip forward a bit and we find another young man (Chan Lung) who happens to be on the run from the law. This young man also happens to be the last student of Bamboo Stick, and he quickly teams up with a wandering martial artist (Cliff Lok) who claims that he is trying to create his own style of kung fu. Unfortunately, this young martial artist is hardly a kung fu practitioner, and it will be up to Bamboo Stick’s final student to try and make him into a solid fighter so that they may eventually take out the aristocratic lunatic who searches for Bamboo Stick.


The Review
For the most part, this Kung Fu Christmas has been about exploring the classier areas of Hong Kong martial arts cinema. We’ve covered plenty of Shaw Bros. titles so far, and our coverage of Sun Chung’s filmography has been a lot of fun. Still, something has been missing. Something a little trashier. The sort of movie that could be found at my local mall for about $2.00 USD. That’s right, today we are going a bit old school. Sure, the Shaw Bros. movies are oldschool as well, but a movie like Old Dirty Kung Fu still looks like the nasty bootlegged fu movies that most of us grew up watching. There are no classy restorations from Celestial pictures to be found here, no sirree. We’re watching this in 4:3 full frame ratio with muddy picture quality and a terrible English dub. This is everything that one expects from a VHS dupe that was pasted onto a DVD! Granted, I have seen clips from widescreen editions of the film (clips that were actually subtitled and in their original language), yet for a movie as traditionally exploitative as this one is, I find nothing wrong with enjoying the campy English dubbing or taking pleasure from the nostalgia I find in the poor visual quality.

The title that Old Dirty Kung Fu was originally best known for would likely be Mad, Mad Kung Fu, but the film was retitled to Old Dirty Kung Fu (or Ol’ Dirty Kung Fu, as the DVD case announces) in order to tie it in with the Wu Tang Clan. I understand the Old Dirty reference, both as an allusion to the Beggar character that Simon Yuen often played and also the excellent Wu Tang Clan rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but in doing this the waters become very murky when researching this film. Not that these cheapola independent productions have been very well taken care of throughout the years (the “Digitally Remastered” headline on the DVD case is laughable), but the retitling creates another niche layer of obscurity that the movie did not need. Yet, despite its troubles and despite how utterly silly the movie is, this is one that still holds some interest for martial arts film fans. Simon Yuen, despite only having a small role in the movie, receives top billing, and that is certainly enough to draw the interest of many fans. After Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master, audiences loved to see him play the drunken martial arts teacher. While Yuen does not play his traditional Beggar Su role by name, he does ostensibly fill the same shoes. He’s a dirty old beggar who teaches a young man kung fu in the least traditional way possible, sound familiar? Yet, Yuen doesn’t take so well to the action, and his stunt doubles are very obvious. Thankfully, Lee Hoi San, Cliff Lok, and Chan Lung all fill their roles in great fashion. Lee hoi San, who plays the bald villain with the grandiose white eyebrows and Fu Manchu mustache, is absolutely spectacular in his role. He is both the perfect catalyst for revenge, due to his ornery personality, and is a huge physical presence within the film.

Kung fu and comedy are often fiercely tied together in the realm of martial arts cinema, yet the mix of kung fu and comedy in these older films are less than subtle. Old Dirty Kung Fu is certainly a guilty party when it comes to mixing this broad form of humor. Indeed, everything that audiences might expect from a seventies martial arts comedy makes an appearance during this film. You can expect vulgar jokes made on occasion, men being dressed in drag, plenty of characters who sport hairy moles on their face, and even the requisite crossing of the eyes in moments of true “hilarity.” Not nearly as entertaining as the filmmakers had hoped their movie might be, the broad comedy is exceedingly loud and obnoxious. There comes a point in the film where the audience no longer even expects any sort of natural interaction between the characters onscreen. Indeed, every small movement within the film is played in the most broadly and extroverted way possible. This is the Peking Opera style, but without any sort of formal adaptation for the screen.

Although Simon Yuen and his Beggar Su/Sam Seed character is the genesis for our film, we ultimately move away from him. While not as big of a jump as The World of Drunken Master, which barely featured Simon Yuen at all, the movie doesn’t rely heavily on Yuen’s extraordinary talents. Instead, the movie follows Cliff Lok and Chan Lung as a duo of morally questionable buffoons who aren’t above a good scam. While the pair are very solid when it comes to their action, and their comedic chemistry seems on-point, but some audience members are bound to suffer a bit of disappointment that Simon Yuen only really shows up to book end the film. Yuen didn’t have a lot of time in most films, but he was a charismatic actor at his age and he somehow drew an audience. This cheap ploy to gain viewers is a classic tool of Hong Kong producers, and I partly expected Yuen to make seldom appearances in the film. Unfortunately, my expectations were incorrect, but the movie is nutty enough that it actually manages to work.


The Conclusion
Overall, Old Dirty Kung Fu is a fun romp that is best viewed by a audience who isn’t looking for anything groundbreaking or even well made. This is a bare bones kung fu movie that relies on numerous contrived plot mechanics, but the action is solid and it is filled with numerous peculiarities that are guaranteed to spike up some interest. I give it a three out of five. It probably deserves a two, but as per usual, I’m being generous.




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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