Kung Fu Fridays: The Crippled Masters
Okay, so I know… really, I do. You come here every Friday to get a recommendation on a solid Kung Fu flick to check out and here I go presenting a movie entitled Crippled Masters with a picture of two men with physical deformities. And for real deformities, not movie special effects. And you think to yourself, “Self, what the actual fuck? This isn’t the sort of shit I expect to see out of a Kung Fu Fridays post. I expect style sure, some great action obviously, a plot that I know I’ve seen before, but not this.” And honestly, every other week, you’d be right. Except this film needs a spotlight. I promise, I’m not taking the piss to borrow from the British colloquialism. I truly believe this to be a film worth watching. Not for the plot which is as generic as can be and not in a laugh at it kind of way. No, Crippled Masters is a film that encourages you to laugh with it, all while being amazed at the things these two can do. (sort of like Evil Dead 2 if Bruce Campbell were an armless and/or legless Asian man who knew Kung Fu and used that to kill Deadites) I cannot guarantee that you will enjoy this movie but I can assure you that you will never see anything like it. (unless you watch the sequels, which you should absolutely not do)
Directed by Joe Law and released in 1979, the Crippled Masters stars two men, Frankie Shum and Jackie Conn, who were actually disabled. It’s a standout point as movies where the main characters were “crippled” had come before this, but the actors in the main roles were not themselves disabled. Shum was born with no arms and Conn lost the use of his legs due to complications in childbirth. The fact that these two men were able to perform in a movie like this, awful special effects aside, is a testament to the human spirit. (and yes, I do mean that genuinely) The movie itself is absurdist at best though expecting anything else from a movie title Crippled Masters would be downright silly. The plot follows that Lee Ho (Shum) has angered local crime boss Lin Chang Cao, for reasons that remain unclear at best. As punishment, Ho’s arms are chopped off. He is left to wander the village a beggar with no hope. He ends up at a coffin maker’s shop that is attacked by the two evil henchmen of Cao, Black and White. (yes, really) Meanwhile, the person who did the actual chopping off of Ho’s arms, Tang, is punished by Cao for possessing too much information about the goings on of his evil organization. Tang is punished by having acid dumped onto his legs rending them useless. Tang is left out in the wilds of China to die only instead he happens across Ho. A fight, naturally, ensues. But, in the smoothest of plot turns, a mysterious old man shows up and offers to train the two newly crippled men to take their revenge on Cao and his cronies. What follows are some of the more incredible, and incredibly silly, training scenes ever put to film. (seriously, Shum twirling a bo staff without arms must be seen to be believed) Ho and Tang eventually make their way back into town and fight Black and White, and Cao’s other henchman Pow. (yes, really) Black and White are killed but Pow is left alive to run and tell his master what is coming for him.
There is more that happens afterwards including some business with eight jade horses that have been stolen that also happen to show secret Kung Fu moves and a double crossing government agent and did I forget to mention that Lin Chang Cao also has a hunchback and a metal plate that protects his hunchback and that our heroes need to find a way to defeat Cao and his metal hunchback, but really, what more do you need? Highbrow this is not, not even close. But it is something that no fan of Kung Fu cinema, or absurdist cinema, should miss. Even if you fast forward to the fight scenes only, the work on display from Shum and Conn is amazing. Amazing in this instance meaning something that is hard to be believed not amazing like a scone you got a some hipster bistro over on 7th. I whole-heartedly encourage you to give this film a moment of your time. The trailer, presented below, does not entirely do it justice. Watch it first though, so you know what you are getting yourself into and then head here to check out the whole flick. And if you still want to talk to me afterwards (you will, don’t worry) you can follow me on twitter and instagram, @geekadedan, and let me know what you thought. And don’t forget to check back next Friday when we get back into the swing of serious Kung Fu with Kung Fu Hustle. Until then…