- Director : Mar Lo
- Actors : Chiu-Sing Hau, Siu-Tung Ching, Hui-Huang Lin, Feng Kuan
- Media Format : Anamorphic, NTSC, Widescreen
- Run time : 1 hour and 29 minutes
- Release date : March 22, 2022
- Studio : 88 Films
- Country of Origin : Hong Kong
- Number of discs : 1
Monkey Kung Fu feels like a Jackie Chan film in the way the fight scenes were choreographed. Not only are everyday items integrated into the fight scenes, but there is also a comedic tone to the entire endeavor. It makes for a highly enjoyable and entertaining experience all the way through, while also being one of the more impressive of the Shaw Brothers kung fu films. Released as Stroke of Death in North America, Monkey Kung Fu is hardly the most famous Hong Kong martial arts movie, but it deserves to be better known. Hopefully the new 88 Films Blu-ray release will introduce the 1979 film to new audiences.
Directed by Mar Lo, Monkey Kung Fu follows the misadventures of Wei Chung (Ching Siu-Tung), a rambunctious prisoner who comes into possession of one half of a wooden coin after choosing the same cell as a one-eyed master who is about to be executed. Rather than the traditional mentor relationship seen in kung fu films, Wei Chung basically just picks enough fights with the master to pick up a few tricks and impresses him enough to be the recipient of the half coin.
When the coin is nearly taken from him, Wei Chung escapes the prison with the help of accomplice and fellow prisoner Zhou (Hau Chiu-Sing), who is revealed to possess the other half of the coin. This pair form an unlikely partnership, and the movie delves into buddy action comedy for much of the remaining runtime. Together the pair discover that the coin reveals the location of a book containing the secrets to a legendary kung fu technique. This leads to the film’s training montages, which are among the most creative in any kung fu film.
What makes Monkey Kung Fu so enjoyable is an element of fun. There is little about the movie that takes itself seriously, even to the open-ended final frame. Nearly everything leads to a battle, but they are creative and comedic enough to keep even the violence lighthearted. There are plenty of scenes that sidetrack the story for a bit more extraneous fun, including a battle Wei Chung has with a prostitute in her bed. The fights become slightly more serious when a gang of martial artists hunt down Wei Chung and Zhou in search of the coin, and then the book, but not by much. Tonal consistency is one thing this film has going for it. One among many.
The Blu-ray release by 88 Films includes a high definition presentation remastered from the original 35mm negatives. Along with the original Cantonese language audio and newly translated subtitles, the dubbed North American soundtrack is also included. The additional special features include:
- Audio commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon of the Podcast On Fire Network
-Stunting Around - An Interview with Choreographer Tony Leung Siu-hung
-Slipcase and reversible sleeve with new artwork by R.P. “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien, with the original artwork on the opposite side of the sleeve.
-A booklet insert with artwork and an essay by Andrew Graves.
-A double-sided foldout poster
Entertainment Value: 8.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Special Features: 7/10
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