Written by: John White on February 16th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1979
Director: Liu Chia-Liang
Cast: Kara Hui Ying-hung, Lo Lieh, Liu Chia-Liang, Hsiao Hou
DVD released: March 30th 2004
Approximate running time: 109 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin
Subtitles: English, Chinese
DVD Release: Celestial/Shaw Brothers
Region Coding: Region 3 NTSC (Hong Kong)
Retail Price: HK$85
Synopsis: Chen and his sister are Peking Opera Stars and are being patronised by local gang boss Tuan. Tuan has his eye on Chen’s sister and sets a trap where a drunken Chen ends up caught in flagrante with Tuan’s wife. Faced with punishment for his lewdness, his sister sacrifices herself to be Tuan’s mistress and Chen has his hands crippled so he can not use his martial arts again. Some time later Chen is making a living as a street performer with a performing monkey when he takes a pupil, called Little Monkey, to teach him how to take on local ruffians. Once Little Monkey does he finds success in fighting the small-time hoodlums but is soundly beaten by their boss, Tuan. Little Monkey lets Chen know that Tuan has tricked him and his sister and Chen and Little Monkey plot their revenge.
This was Liu Chia-Liang’s first leading role after some years of directing and choreographing films. It is fair to say that this added responsibility doesn’t weigh too heavily on the effectiveness of this film as it is a slight rather carefree tale of revenge. The finest moments are where Lo Lieh as Tuan faces off against Chen and where Chen trains Little Monkey. The fight choreography is first rate and Chia-Liang makes a natural teacher for the witty and well done training sequences.
As with most Kung Fu films, the comedy is not quite as well executed and although Chia-Liang’s Drunken Kung Fu is well done it is far from hilarious. Lo Lieh is the best of villains in these films and his devilish intent is obvious at the start to everyone bar Chen. My favourite role here though is Hsiao Hou as Little Monkey who is engagingly fresh and equally at home at slapstick as he is when he has to kick butt.
Mad Monkey Kung Fu is a fun revenge romp and if not in the top rank of Chia-Liang’s films is a welcome addition to the growing number of his films available.
The Celestial disc is the usual affair with very good anamorphic print which has been transferred with a lack of sharpness. The sound is the usual 5.1 mix which is not greatly separated and really consists of stereo with a few sound and music effects in the rear speakers. The film comes in either Chinese language option with good if not great subtitles.
The extras are some film notes in English and Chinese, and trailers for other Celestial releases.
Mad Monkey Kung Fu is enjoyable stuff but not a classic of the martial arts genre. If you like Chia-Liang’s other movies like Legendary Weapons of China and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin then you will probably want to give this disc a spin.