AKA Kung Fu: Monkey, Horse, Tiger
DIRECTED BY: Lee Shi Chieh, Lee Geo Shu
FEATURING: Carter Wong [as Huang Chia-Da], Cheng Shing, Sida the French Monkey Star
PLOT: A princess marries a chimpanzee, amidst intrigue in the Chinese imperial court.
WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE: Any film featuring “Sida the French Monkey Star” is at least a little weird. The main obstacle to Kung Fu Arts cementing a place in the list of 366 is that it’s coming out of the weirdest movie genre of all—those short lived 1970s “chopsocky” movies made quickly, dubbed badly, and exported to the West to cash in on the popularity of Bruce Lee. When the average entry in this genre features fists that cut the air with a loud swoosh, heavily stylized but amazingly choreographed fight scenes between men wearing brilliantly colored robes, and silly dialogue that surrealistically refuses to keep up with the actor’s lips, the threshold to be considered “weird” rises significantly. Kung Fu Arts adds monkeys to the formula: monkeys who are addressed by the ensemble as if they were mute actors with a perfect understanding of Cantonese, but monkeys nonetheless. This is creates a fairly high weirdness quotient, but in the end I decided not to make Kung Fu Arts a finalist, because I have faith there were even more deserving entries out there. But don’t be surprised to see this movie reconsidered and placed on the list some day in the future.
COMMENTS: If you’re tuned in to the chopsocky wavelength (and you should be), Kung Fu Arts is an entertaining little picture. Although it’s somewhat light on fighting, it has wonderful costuming, an intriguing fairy-tale plot, and a reasonable amount of chuckles stemming from the straight-faced acting directed at the primate stars. From the moment the imperial guards fall to their knees and plead with Sida to come down from the rooftop with the king’s pilfered royal proclamation, to the final battle where a small army of primates help the hero to defeat the evil usurper to the throne, Kung Fu Arts supplies plenty of silly smiles, some intended by the filmmakers, and many unintentional.
Kung Fu Arts is available as part of the Mill Creek 50 Martial Arts Movie Pack. Because the movie is in the public domain, it’s available for download from Public Domain Torrents.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: ” The plot is completely nonsensical (though possibly based on some sort of Chinese myth), and it seems like the film was designed mostly for children with some potty humour thrown in for good measure.”–Doug Tilley, Movie Feast (DVD)