Monkey Fist (HK 1974?)

Rating: *(*)
Review Date: 4/10/04
Cast: Chan Sau Chung, Kien Shih

A bad, by the numbers kung fu piece, that's only interesting because of the exhausting showdown between the diminutive Chan Sau Chung and the villainous Kien Shih (Mr. Han himself). Supposedly based on the story of real-life monkey fist master Koo Sai, the film begins with Chan wanted by the army, which forces him to take refuge in a sympathetic martial arts school. He befriends the master and teaches his son kung fu, but the town's crime lord Charlie Ming (Kien Shih) soon comes around to stir up trouble, which leaves Chan in jail and the martial arts school at Charlie's mercy. Things go from bad to worse, and when Chan finally gets out of jail, revenge is just around the corner.

While the majority of the film is terrible, the kung fu scenes are entertaining. They range from average to good, and fortunately they get progressively better throughout the film. Chan Sau Chung is an interesting fighter. He's essentially a midget, maybe four feet tall, but his monkey forms are excellent. While the force he delivers may be questionable, his technique and expertise cannot be denied. Apart from the "midget monkey fighter" angle, there's nothing memorable about the film. The direction, choreography, cinematography, and editing are unremarkable, and the english dubbing is among the worst in the genre. The original Chinese soundtrack is used for most of the film, giving way to extremely low quality overdubs whenever anyone talks. Sometimes they don't even bother and just let the characters rattle along in Mandarin for a while. It's even more disconcerting when they insert the original Chinese sighs, coughs, and laughter in between the dubbed dialog. Very odd.