August 22, 2016

Speaking of THE BEAST

No doubt fuelled by a subconscious suggestion from the Laird, I suggested that the family sit down to a pleasant viewing of Kung Fu Hustle last night.

I've noticed in recent years that some of my old favorites - Airplane, for example - have lost a little of their luster.  The kids, having grown up watching dozens of films and shows that steal its tropes, thought it very funny...but it doesn't have the same impact for them as it did for me.  One day perhaps historians will study it and wonder why people ever thought it was funny in the first place.

So I approached Kung Fu Hustle with considerable trepidation.  I need not have.  What a movie.  It's not as good as you remember:  it's better.  In 2010 Bill Murray called it "the supreme achievement of the modern age in terms of comedy."

But even the second time through, I am discovering, I did not get all the jokes.  It turns out that one of the best gags in the film is when the identity of The Beast is revealed:

Now, I am sitting there going "that's a weird looking guy."  But everyone over 40 in Hong Kong is going "HOLY SHIT IT'S LEUNG SIU-LUNG!"  It would have been as big a shock to them as an American audience seeing Henry Fonda's first appearance in Once Upon a Time in the West, if Fonda had been out of the movie business for 15 years.

You see, Bruce Leung was once the Third Dragon, as they called him back in the day, after Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.  And, until The Beast, he was always the good guy.

Here he is showing his moves in The Legendary Fok (1981):

His filmography, up until he quit the business in 1988:
  • The Invincible Eight (1971)
  • The Yellow Killer (1972)
  • Lady Kung Fu (1972)
  • Kung Fu, the Invincible Fist (1972)
  • Deep Thrust (1972)
  • Rage of Wind (1973)
  • Kung Fu Powerhouse (1973)
  • Blade of Fury (1973)
  • Call Me Dragon (1974)
  • Hong Kong Godfather (1974)
  • Bruce Lee, D-Day at Macao (1975)
  • The Fighting Dragon (1975)
  • Hong Kong Superman (1975)
  • The Return of the Condor Heroes (1976)
  • The Legend of the Condor Heroes (1976)
  • Million Dollar Snatch (1976)
  • Bruce Against Iron Hand (1976)
  • The Dragon Lives Again (1977)
  • The Four Shaolin Challengers (1977)
  • Broken Oath (1977)
  • Magnificent Bodyguards (1978)
  • The Tattoo Connection (1978)
  • The Incredible Kung Fu Master (1979)
  • Enter Three Dragons (1979)
  • Ten Tigers of Shaolin (1979)
  • The Fists, the Kicks and the Evil (1979)
  • Black Belt Karate (1979)
  • My Kung-Fu 12 Kicks (1979)
  • The Fighter Dragon vs. Deadly Tiger (1980)
  • Shaolin Kid (1980)
  • Be the First (1980)
  • The Legendary Fok (1981)
  • Return of the Deadly Blade (1981)
  • Gang Master (1982)
  • Legend of a Fighter (1982)
  • Ruthless Revenge (1982)
  • Showdown at the Equator (1984)
  • The Eight Diagram Cudgel Fighter (1985)
  • Rich and Famous 2 (1987)
  • Vampires Live Again (1987)
  • Ghost Hospital (1988)
There are lots of other old school Kung Fu types in the film, too, like the landlord of Pig Sty Alley, Yuen Wah (one of Bruce Lee's stunt doubles) and tailor Chiu Chi-ling, who appeared in (says Wikipedia) "such well-known Kung Fu style movies as Snake in the Eagle's Shadow [and] Duel of the Seven Tigers..."  (Also: "he currently resides in Alameda.")

The film is riddled with stuff like this.  IMDB:  "The Landlord and Landlady announce to the Beast that their names are "Yang Guo" and "The Little Dragon Maiden" in the original Chinese, which is a joke nod to Louis Cha's famous novel Return of the Condor Heroes, adapted many times for television and film."  (One of those starred Bruce Leung.)

Wonderful stuff.  When The Chosen One appears, he comes dressed as Bruce Lee:

And what about the Buddha's Palm, you ask.  Well...


Blogger Laird of Madrona said...

A truly great film, probably in my top 5 comedies.

August 22, 2016 at 8:00 AM  

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