Stars: Siu-Hung Leung, Michelle Yim, Lau Chan
A young man decides to learn kung fu to avenge the death of his father, a peaceful shopkeeper who was murdered by Manchurian gangsters for not paying protection money. At first he is rejected by his teachers because he is weak, but through persistence, and some help from other students and a mysterious drunk, he learns the skills he needs to avenge his father.
So “The 36 Crazy Fists”, or as the VHS version I own calls itself, “Jackie Chan and The 36 Crazy Fists”, has Jackie Chan in it at the start for about one minute and that’s it, no more Jackie. He’s not even in the actual film, it just shows some awful quality footage of him doing some fight choreography in a pair of crap cut-off jeans. It actually stars someone I’ve never heard of before and a few people you seem to see in nearly all these old school kung fu films as the supporting cast. So I wonder why they have Jackie Chan on the front cover and in the title, what possible reason could they have for doing this? Oh I see, the distributors have used the name of one of China’s biggest kung fu actors to dupe people into buying the film, as they’ll think he actually stars in it, and they’ll gain more cash. Great idea, I like your style guys (I bought this from Poundland anyway). There’s also a weird voice-over stating that Chan actually directed the film. He didn’t, it was another man. In fact, when this was made, Chan was hardly a household name in China, let alone around the world. He’d done little more than the odd stunt and appeared as an extra every now and then. Luckily though, this opening footage was for whatever reason filmed, and is the main reason that this cult kung fu classic got a wide release.
The film starts with our hero, Wong, getting twatted by a group of thugs. Two Shaolin monks see this and decide to help out, so they chin the whole gang with great ease. Already the dubbing is ridiculous, it’s that over the top American/cockney vibe. If you’ve seen many kung fu films, you may understand. You’ll also understand that Shaolin monks are well hard and basically shouldn’t be messed with. Not very peaceful at all really. So they take Wong back home and as soon as they clock his sister, they’re basically all over her like two horny leeches. I’m pretty sure that they’re breaking Shaolin rules by acting like complete perverts. Anyway, this scene is obviously very comedic, but then the sister tells them that these thugs killed their father, and we see a flashback of him being beaten until blood sprays out of his mouth and he eventually dies as she’s caring for him. The tone of this film is all over the place.
The two monks eventually say they’ll help Wong learn kung fu, basically as a way of prolonging their perversion on his sister, so they take him to see the abbot at their temple. The abbot, who for some reason keeps hiccupping, tells Wong that he’s too weak and so he can’t learn their style. As they’re leaving, they bump into another of the students who comes up with the idea to take him to Master Hsi Tak who might train him, but when they ask him, he’s insulted that he was their second choice. They eventually convince him that if he teaches Wong to become a top fighter, it would prove he’s a better teacher than the abbot, so he agrees to train him.
At first, The Master has Wong doing all the crap chores like Miyagi makes Daniel do in “The Karate Kid”. One day, he’s fetching water from a stream and on his way back, a drunken tramp trips him over and he gets drenched. Wong obviously kicks off and tells the hobo that he’ll destroy him next time with his new kung fu skills. The tramp laughs at this and calls him a woman, so Wong storms off as some unknown guy looks on from a distance, smiling and nodding. Wong goes to see the Master and tells him he’s sick of all the cleaning and stuff and wants to get down to the whole kung fu learning, so the master agrees to teach him, but instead he basically just beats him up. Wong complains about this treatment but the master just says he’ll have to learn to take it if he wants to be any good.
Wong’s back down at the stream again, washing his clothes, when someone lobs a rock into the water right where he is. Yeah, it’s the drunkard again. Wong chases after him and this time attacks him, but he can’t get near him and the old tramp eventually hits Wong a bit with a stick. After the tramp gets bored and walks off, Wong realises that he’s just been taught some kung fu techniques, so he goes back to practice them on his master. Although he get’s some hits off this time, the master still basically annihilates him before demanding to know where he learnt his new moves. He blags him and tells him he practiced on his own.
So Wong’s out and about again gathering sticks or something and well of course he meets up with the bloody tramp again. This time, Wong is all respectful and asks if he can learn more kung fu. The hobo agrees and tells him to look behind him, and as he does, the guy who was watching him before and nodding attacks him. The drunken bum explains that it’s Shan, his star pupil, and he’s going to practice with him. After getting twatted once again, Wong’s back challenging his master… again. Yeah, this film can be described as bum numbingly repetitive. After Wong tells him he wants to leave, the master says he can if he beats someone he describes as “one of the toughest men around here, but not the best fighter”. He says this right in front of the guy, well I laughed anyway. So the guy batters Wong with one arm behind his back, literally, and so the master takes him back and punishes him by hitting him on the arse with a big piece of wood.
Wong does a runner anyway and when he gets home, he blags sister Wong that he’s learnt all the kung fu styles in six months. She tells him that the thugs have been going around causing all kinds of trouble, so he heads off to beat up whole gangs of them. Surprisingly, he manages this, taking on six to eight men at a time, until the main boss thug challenges him to a fight in the middle of town and starts kicking his arse. The townsfolk stop them however because they’re knocking over stalls and stuff, so they decide to fight in Moon Valley in two weeks time. Wong goes home to sulk as he realises he’s not quite good enough to fight head thug (that’s how he’s credited on IMDb) and decides he must return to the temple and see the master.
After the master tells him he’s an embarrassment and kicks him out of his gym, Wong goes to visit the perverted monks for advice. They decide that if they each teach him everything they know, he should be able to beat head thug. So they do, and he does, but this just causes more grief as head thug’s brother wants to avenge head thug’s defeat, and this guy fights with weapons. Head thugs brother is played by one of my favourite kung fu actors, Hark-On Fung. Pick any two random kung fu films from the 70’s and 80’s and he’s probably in at least one of them, he’s never the star though, he usually plays a random baddie. Anyway, he’s got this chain thing and he’s really getting the better of two knives Wong, so one of the monks pretends to get ill in a ridiculous fashion. No, I can’t even begin to describe the fake fit he’s having, all I can say is it’s the opposite to Oscar worthy. So the fight is stopped and rescheduled for three days time.
After cheating his way out of the jaws of defeat, Wong’s all, “what am I gonna do?” again. As the monks perv on his sister some more, they come up with a plan that involves blackmailing Master Hsi Tak using a prostitute. They pay the crazy whore to go into his room as he’s sleeping and take her top off. When he wakes up, she starts wiggling her tits about and this seems to scare him. He tries to escape, but she grabs him and the sister perving, hooker funding monks walk in and say they’ll tell everyone about this if he doesn’t train Wong for the fight. The master obviously agrees and shows Wong some dirty tricks involving wrist and shin protection. Wong deploys these dishonest tactics and murders the clean fighting head thug’s brother. The amount of cheating going on by our hero is bloody disgusting.
Soon enough, Wong is being challenged again, but this time it’s the real business as now the boss of the Men Tang gang wants to fight him. Apparently he’s pretty handy and he’s known as the eight armed man. The master basically tells Wong he’s going to die, but decides to train him anyway after a lot of begging. Talking of begging, the drunk old beggar turns up to one of their training sessions and batters the master for no apparent reason, then Shan chins him too. It seems Wong learns a lot from this and the tramp tells him he’s arranged something for fight day. What do you think that is then? Well when the end boss has mullered Wong and is about to kill him, Shan turns up and they both twat and kill him. Wong is basically crap and if it wasn’t for severe rule bending, he’d have been killed long ago. There was some freaky experimental music playing during the end fight though, I enjoyed that. The hiccuping abbot turns up and randomly out of nowhere, the master asks him who’s his older brother. Of course it’s the beggar who happens to be a kung fu grandmaster. The abbot agrees to teach Wong and yeah, it ends.
Well that wasn’t terrible, it was actually quite funny and random in a lot of places, it just got too repetitive at times as we saw the same people fighting in the same place multiple times. The story seemed like it was made up as they went, and the initial revenge aspect just didn’t really matter as Wong never even mentioned his father, plus his performance was too comedic for it to be in any way vengeful. Wong himself never actually got trained properly in the course of the film and had to rely on his mates to bail him out of trouble, but hey, if I wanted to see tense drama and quality acting, I wouldn’t have watched an old, 70’s kung fu film. I just wanted to see some face-kick porn and awfully dubbed dialogue, and this was one of the finest examples of that I’ve seen. Result! Cheers.