April 30th, 2009

THE 36 CRAZY FISTS (1977) **

I’ve sat through a lot of Bruce Lee rip-offs in my time but I think this my first Jackie Chan rip-off.  Die hard Jackie fans will be disappointed to learn that he doesn’t really “star” in this movie.  He was merely the fight choreographer and only appears in some behind the scenes footage for about five minutes at the start of the film. 


You know, if we use this kinda criteria for releasing movies, then I’m sure we can put some behind the scenes footage at the beginning of The Matrix and re-release it as an action flick “starring” Yuen Wo Ping.


I understand WHY the video company would advertise this movie as a Jackie Chan flick.  Mainstream movie watchers wouldn’t stomach an obscure Kung Fu flick unless a star’s name was in the credits.  That still doesn’t make it right though.  The tacky narration at the beginning is particularly dubious at convincing us why we should even bother with the flick:  “Jackie explained that because he is bound by a contract, he is unable to appear in this film; and hopes that you’ll excuse him.”  The narrator later goes on to say that since Jackie’s heart and soul are in this movie, that makes it “far greater than any film in which he’s acted in.”


Dude, I don’t know what you’re smoking, but this ain’t no Legend of Drunken Master, that’s for damn sure.


The plot is an old hat.  A duo of Shaolin monks save a dude from the getting his ass handed to him by some gangsters.  They try to get their teacher to train the hapless guy so he can avenge the death of his father.  He also studies secretly with a drunken master to receive the skills necessary to kick some ass.


The dubbing is terrible (everyone speaks in Cockney accents for some reason), the Kung Fu scenes are OK (Jackie Chan may have choreographed the action, but these actors are certainly no Jackie Chan), and the comedy portions are painfully unfunny (again, these guys are no Jackie Chan).  So why should you watch The 36 Crazy Fists?  I don’t know, I was asking myself the same thing.  It’s not a BAD movie or anything (there’s some unexpected titties, which is always a plus) and if it wasn’t promoted as a Jackie Chan flick, it might’ve skated by with a ** ½ rating.  Right now though, I’m still pissed at being cockteased into thinking this was a “real” Jackie Chan movie so… **.


AKA:  Blood Pact.  AKA:  Master and the Boxer.


After the Japanese captures a quartet of multi-national generals, China sends in a commando (Jimmy Wang Yu from The One-Armed Swordsman) to rescue them.  He’s given free rein to recruit his squadron of soldiers and he handpicks a ragtag bunch of scoundrels and thieves for the dangerous mission.  Jackie Chan also stars as a conman wrestler who periodically crosses the fighting force's path and grudgingly helps them save the day.


That plot description doesn’t tell you shit.  There’s enough random weirdness in this thing for two movies.  I’ll try to do my damnedest to let you know just how fucking strange Fantasy Mission Force is.


Let’s start with the opening scene.  It’s fucking hilarious.  We see Chinese government officials sitting around and discussing who the best man to lead the mission is.  To help them in their decision, they play a slide show of possible candidates.  First we see James Bond, then Snake Plissken, and finally Rocky!  They finally settle on Jimmy Wang Yu though.  (I would’ve personally wanted to see Snake in there, but according to China’s top brass, he died three years ago!)  Another early 80’s flick Fantasy Mission Force references is Raiders of the Lost Ark, as the film’s heroine partakes in a drinking contest that’s very similar to the one in that film.  (Except this one features contestants shooting the clothes off a woman.) 


Incorporating characters from American movies is just the tip of the iceberg.  Once the action kicks into gear, things start to get really weird.  At one point, the platoon encounters a bunch of Amazon women wearing KKK hoods.  Never mind that this movie takes place during WWII.  Never mind that the characters are supposedly in Luxembourg.  We’re talking Amazon women in KKK hoods here people!  


Still not goofy enough for ya folks?  How about the commandos' side jaunt through a haunted house where they bump into skeletons, ghosts, and severed arms that menace the team of soldiers?  If you still need an insanity fix, then let’s talk about the music.  The score to this flick is nothing more than an orchestral version of “Camptown Races”.  I’m not kidding.  Except for the more suspenseful scenes, that is.  Then they just use musical cues from Halloween 2.  (That’s right; there are not one but TWO John Carpenter homages in this movie!)  I’m not even going to tell you about the impromptu musical number either.


Although he’s technically the “star” and “hero” of the movie, Jackie’s not in a whole lot of the film.  (I’d say his only got about 25 minutes of screen time in this 85 minute movie.)  Apparently Jackie only did this flick as a favor to Jimmy Wang Yu, who saved his life from a gang of thugs once.  Even though Jackie was only appearing in this movie out of an obligation to his friend, he looks like he’s having fun.  You should too.  During the course of the film Jackie battles a Sumo wrestler, fights a bunch Amazon women while holding a chicken (!), and gets into an impressive swordfight with Yu.


On the downside though, the flick really falters whenever Chan isn’t on screen.  Despite the amount of sheer lunacy that happens in this film, there are lots of dull spots in between the zaniness.  Although doldrums set in from time to time, there is an abundance of random ass nuttiness here to make any fan of WTF cinema happy.  We got Nazis, machine gun battles, Kung Fu, Amazon women, swordfights, and haunted houses; all rolled up into one movie.  I still say there weren’t nearly enough scenes of Jackie kicking ass for me to give it Three Stars, but any time you get to see Jackie Chan battle Jimmy Wang Yu, you’re winning in my book.


AKA:  Dragon Attack.  AKA:  Mini Special Force.

FEARLESS HYENA 2 (1983) **

Fearless Hyena 2 has to be the greatest title ever for a Kung Fu movie.  It’s probably one of the greatest titles of all time too; ranking right up there with such classics as The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, I Dismember Mama, and Bodacious Ta-Tas.  The movie doesn’t quite live up to its title the way that those films do, but that’s OK because it’s a halfway decent Kung Fu flick.


Jackie Chan stars a lazy guy who spends his days swimming naked in a pond, stuffing fish into his shorts, and stealing chickens.  His father gets tired of putting up with his slothful ways and forces him to get a job in a restaurant where they make drinks from tiger balls.  He quickly loses the job when he drops a bunch of dishes and then spends a lot of time fooling around and kicking quarters in the air and catching them on his nose.  Meanwhile, two karate warlords are looking to kill Jackie because he’s the last of the Ying Yang Clan, so he teams up with his long lost brother to defeat those evil bastards.


Reportedly, Jackie got so pissed during the making of this flick that he walked out halfway through the production.  This left the director scrambling to edit outtakes and other assorted footage from the first film together along with the minimal new material in order to create this makeshift movie.  The result is pretty much a goddamn mess.  Granted, it’s a sporadically entertaining mess.


I’ve read a lot of scathing reviews of this flick on IMDB but I enjoyed this flick more than most.  Many of the complaints stem from the fact that this sequel recycles footage from the original.  I don’t know about all that, since I’ve never seen the first Fearless Hyena.  All I know is that the Kung Fu sequences that actually involve Chan are pretty great.  I especially liked when Chan used his smelly shoes to beat the crap out of somebody. 


Most of the time however, they use a lame double, Game of Death style (one fake Chan even wears a beard just like the fake Bruce Lee did in that film), and those scene are nowhere near as good, so I guess a lot of the bitching and moaning on the IMDB is justified.  To add insult to injury, the flick is a little heavy on the padding in between the fight scenes and the slipshod paste-up editing is jarring.  (It’s obvious that some scenes are taken from entirely different movies.)   


There are a lot of little weird touches that I liked though.  Like how Jackie’s boss called him a “hippie” even though the flick takes place in ancient China and hippies won’t be invented in America for several hundred years.  The fuzz tone guitar music was also excellent and was much cooler than the usual “traditional” music found in the genre.  Much of Fearless Hyena 2 is extremely hard to follow and a lot of it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’d rather watch this again than say, The Accidental Spy.


AKA:  Super Fighter 2.