Starring Carter Wong
Directed by Lee Shi Chieh and Lee Geo Shu
The movies in the collection are numbered, which is nice for me because otherwise, I wouldn’t know where to start. The numbering is neither alphabetical nor chronological. It’s completely random.
Kung Fu Arts is #1. It’s not led by a big star like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. It’s not even a very good movie (the IMDb score is 5.0) But for my purposes, it gives me a decent starting point.
The movies in this collection (well, I need to explore further, but based on this one) are dubbed, not subbed. Now, I’m not a film purist who hates dubs. When I’m watching, say, a Hayao Miyazaki film, I’d much prefer the dub because that allows me to focus on the gorgeous animation. Also, Miyazaki’s films tend to get top quality dubs.
But here, a film dub can be an annoyance, at least at first. My friend Chris told me that after some time, bad dubs become endearing. And I was able to eventually get used to Kung Fu Arts’ dub, but even afterwards, there are moments that are so bad, they throw you off.
Kung Fu Arts kicks off with a fight scene so poorly lit you can’t see anything. Our hero is King Chi, who is engaged to marry the daughter of the Emperor. While trying to fight off the Emperor’s wicked right-hand man Pei Yeh Hu, he picks up a poisoned dart and tries to throw it at him, but he hits the princess instead and has to flee town.
The princess falls into a coma, and the Emperor issues a decree stating that anyone able to cure her will get to marry her. King Chi tries to sneak into town in disguise and with his pet chimpanzee, but his disguise fails and he is chased out of town once more. But King Chi’s monkey is also equipped with medicine. In desperation, the monkey is brought to the princess and the medicine works.
But this means… dun dun dun… the princess has to marry the monkey!
Now this is an entertaining plot twist, but if I were fucking Emperor, wouldn’t I have the power to not have my daughter marry an ape? Oh well. The princess and the monkey are hitched, and then promptly are shipped away on a tiny boat out to nowhere.
Now here’s the strange part- the princess and the monkey find an island and pretty much become a functional couple. The princess gives birth to the son King Chi fathered, and he grows up raised as both human, but with monkey mannerisms learned from “uncle monkey”. Since he’s a jungle boy, he wears a leopard print toga a la Tarzan. The princess is somehow able to preserve her royal clothes.
Meanwhile, King Chi works hard on a mountaintop improving his Kung Fu. Cue slow-motion shots of him breaking the shit out of clay pottery.
Also meanwhile, the wicked Pei Yeh Hu kills the Emperor, and is somehow able to blame it on King Chi. With no apparent successors, Pei Yeh Hu becomes emperor.
Ten years pass. The princess, the young prince and the monkey continue their life on the island. King Chi finally descends from the mountain and reunites monkey, who is unceremoniously offed by a python right as he meets it again. King Chi doesn’t even try to save it with is now-great Kung Fu skills. Bastard.
At this point, I noticed a plot hole- if the monkey was King Chi’s, how did nobody in the court recognize it when it delivered the medicine? Hell, why didn’t they recognize that SOMEBODY must have equipped the monkey with the medicine, and that the monkey didn’t actually find and deliver the medicine himself? One again, oh well.
Of course, the movie ends with a triumphant rematch between King Chi and Pei Yeh Hu. These fight scenes are obviously the film’s raison d’etre, and everything else is really just stuff that leads up to it. I’d say the movie needed more fighting.
The hard thing for me right now is that I need a kind of standard. I couldn’t compare this movie to something like Kill Bill, but I think I can compare other movies in the collection to this. On a scale of zero to four, I’d give this movie two egg rolls.