Mad Monkey Kung Fu (1979)


mad monkey poster

Director: Lau Kar Leung

Starring: Hou Hsiao, Lau Kar Leung, Kara Hui, Lo Lieh

116 Minutes

When a Chinese opera performer (Lau Kar Leung) falls into an orchestrated trap by a devious kung fu master (Lo Lieh), he ends up losing his sister (Kara Hui) and is dealt a terrible injury, nearly destroying his martial arts ability. Sinking into despair, he ekes out an existence as a street performer. There he meets and befriends a young vagabond (Hsiao Ho) who turns into a student, learning his Monkey Fist technique. With new skills, he sets out to protect the locals from gangs extorting money, not knowing that they answer to the very man responsible for crippling his master.

With solid direction by the great Lau Kar Leung, Mad Monkey Kung Fu stands out among its contemporaries because of the training sequences. A staple of the genre, Hsiao’s acrobatics and ability are on full display in some of the most inventive and physically demanding scenes in Shaw Bros. history. Lau Kar Leung is good as the old master, he has great moves and is as imposing as ever. He does offer a much more vulnerable side than is typical and it may be one of his more nuanced performances. Lo Lieh is pretty devilish as the villain, and he seems to have a lot of fun in the role. Kara Hui is a bit of a minor character,  but she does have a solid fight scene and is a welcome addition to any cast.

The film is pretty humorous except for some shocking deaths. They come pretty quickly and seem at odds with the film’s generally lighthearted nature. Production is good with colorful costumes and use of Shaw Studios larger sets. Music is typically good with staples of the studio’s score heard throughout and clean nostalgic sound effects for weapons and strikes.

Mad Monkey Kung Fu is one of the better Shaw Bros. martial arts comedies. With solid choreography and some of the most entertaining training sequences put to film, it is sure to satisfy the most discerning of kung fu film watchers. While it won’t have much to offer for those looking for drama, it is one of the better acted martial arts comedies and features a strong cast. A lot of fun to watch, it delivers what the trailer promises and should be one of the standards of kung fu cinema. Though somewhat an underrated classic, it is a solid entry in the storied filmography of the great Lau Kar Leung.

You may like the film if you enjoyed: Heroes of the East, Magnificent Butcher, Drunken Master

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Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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