Director: Wilson Tong Wai Shing
Producer: Alex Gouw
Cast: Peter Chan Lung, Cheng Hong Yip, Ching Chu, Hsiao Ho, Hui Ying Ying, Lee Hoi San, Cliff Lok Kam Tung, San Sin, Wilson Tong Wai Shing, Tsang Choh Lam, Wong Yat Fei
Running Time: 84 min.
By JJ Hatfield
This film is directed by Wilson Tong who should know enough about films at the time this was shot he could have made it a bit more entertaining but then our hero would not be on screen so often. It’s difficult to tell if this is a spoof or just a poorly done movie. Either way it tends to be all over the place. The production values are about as low as you can get, and I have seen a lot of old school low budget martial arts films. No matter if the movie is good, or there is some bad ass fighting going on it still needs something between fights. What little there is turns into a drawback.
The movie begins with the self proclaimed “Genius” (Clint Lok) showing his skills he has recently learned from a book (yes one of those books) as his slightly slow mischievous side kick watches. The Genius then burns the book as he says he has it all in his head. He always has this smirk on his face that take this way past a spoof. I could empathize with the bad guys as after awhile I wanted to wipe that smirk right off his face.
Genius and side kick decide to open a new Kung Fu school and call it the Genius School. Naturally the other martial arts school, the Spiritual Kung Fu is wary but the Master says they should be left alone. Unfortunately the gambling den next door doesn’t appreciate the new school and trouble brews.
One of the great things about this flick is Hsiao Ho (Hou) of “Feng Hou” Mad Monkey Kung Fu. Cliff may have talent but as soon as they start fighting you can see the superior fighter, even though he’s supposed to be a bad guy. I have seen Cliff fight before and he usually does pretty well but obviously is not enough to hold up a movie as the star. He just doesn’t have that screen presence.
Along the way two different characters receive blows to the head that make them mentally challenged. Some people may be offended by the portrayals but it’s just part of this crappy movie. I don’t care what anyone says, the “Duck” form may be entertaining but I bet there is no school for it. I really tried to make this movie work, either as straight or satire. It still doesn’t do anything for me.
Hsiao Ho is the real star and I found my mind wandering when he wasn’t on the screen. Damn that guy is amazing! With open hand or weapons he is fantastic and it’s worth the cost of a cheap disk just to see him.
There is a bit more to the skeleton plot but nothing worth going into if you are going to see the film. Actually it’s not really worth going into anyway. I simply could not see Lok as a great martial artist or stunt man, much less a master of all forms. He doesn’t have what it takes to be the lead.
Wilson Tong could have added more but it certainly seemed as if someone wanted Lok to have his own personal break out movie. So much so that someone arranged for Hsiao Ho to stop filming MMKF and the Shaw Brothers “loaned him out” for this movie. I have not been able to find anything else on the matter.
If you want to see more of the highly underrated Hsiao Ho check out “Mad Monkey Kung Fu”, “18 Legendary Weapons of Kung Fu” or “Disciples of the 36th Chamber”.
For the main story and mind numbing acting I cannot recommend this movie. If you have a giant poster of Cliff Lok you may like it. The real reason to see this film is for Hsiao Ho.
JJ Hatfield’s Rating: 3.5/10
By Joseph Kuby
A classic sequel to a classic film!
This is the sequel to Duel of the 7 Tigers. It actually manages to top the original, in spite of not sharing the predecessor’s grand scale. I suppose you could say that the limited geographic scope allowed the director to focus on intimate characterization.
Cliff Lok unwittingly proves very much so that he is to Kung Fu movies what John Wayne was to Western action cinema. He may not have the physical prowess of the late ’70s troupe of fighting greats but he shows tremendous spirit. Something that can’t be said about a lot of martial arts actors who may display tremendous skill but don’t exude much in the way of charm or charisma.
Cliff has more heart to him than a lot of the stone-faced robotic martial arts protagonists that flooded cinema screens in the mid-to-late ’70s. It’s hard to imagine him playing a villain. Cliff’s sense of character makes him equitably as endearing as Jackie. His interaction with a child conveys warmth to the point I wonder why he never got the chance to play Jackie’s big brother or uncle. They would have made for a compelling match-up.
Like John Wayne in his lighter fare, Cliff exudes an aura of hospitality. If I was a casting director in the Hong Kong film industry, I would certainly want Cliff to play a father or some other kind of friendly elder.
The company who made this film is Goldig and I swear every film I see of theirs just keeps on getting better and better. The stories are gradually becoming more original, the scripts are tightly written with spots of genius peppered throughout and the production values are noticably higher (this is almost like watching a Golden Harvest film).
Even the visual quality of the film print is better. I’m assuming the more films they made that became successful, the more screen prints which were being preserved more. The increasing star power is becoming strikingly evident and the fight scenes are steadily increasing in magnitude. I can remember going on the Hong Kong Film Services Office site a few years ago and being surprised that they were still in business and now I can see why.
As I said before, the film’s star power has improved immensely so we start to see more famous character actors from the era of Hong Kong cinema of which this film was made in. Examples here include Lee Hoi San, Peter Chan Lung and Hsiao Hou (from the Lau Kar Leung films and Sammo Hung’s Eastern Condors).
Hsiao Hou, who plays one of the spiritual boxers in this movie, was an actor working at Shaw Brothers at the time Kung Fu Genius was made. I’m surprised the company executives lent him out to Goldig. Maybe they lent him out in the same way Lo Wei lent Jackie to Seasonal. Perhaps, it was a case of being payed a lot of money to lend out one of their stars at the time.
The action was choreographed by Wilson Tong (the last villain to be seen in this film) who also choreographed the fight scenes in Snake in the Monkey’s Shadow. The fights in this are top notch, eminently so in the case of the duck fist scene which will obtain the status of classic once this film gets viewed by more people. I lent this film to a fellow Kung Fu student (who’s more into Japanese cinema than Chinese) and he couldn’t get enough of the duck fist scene.
Just like Duel of the 7 Tigers, this film has one of the best soundtracks assembled (if not composed) in a HK film. The introductory credit sequence remarkably opens the film with a bang thanks to the rip-roaring soundtrack (the effect is akin to the way Leone’s Dollars trilogy opened). During the opening training sequence, a music cue from Rocky 2 can be heard. One of the best comedic music cues utilized here is the one from the Popeye/dream sequence in Jackie’s Half a Loaf of Kung Fu and Sammo’s Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog.
Considering the allusions I made to Westerns, this film has the feel of a western and it would be nice to know if there were more films with Cliff that had been made which featured the same character.
Cliff Lok is becoming one of my favorite actors. He makes for an enthralling presence. His acting ability and charisma are such that his martial arts ability is merely a supplement than the focal point. Martially, he manages to be a tad more adequate than his rival Jimmy Wang Yu. Cliff’s career pretty much came to an end in the mid ’80s with the exception of a one-off film role in the early ’90s. I find it alarming that, out of all the old-school actors employed for Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow didn’t hire Lok for an appearance.
Kung Fu Genius is the sort of film that can be evenly enjoyed by genre aficionados and general film viewers. The interactions between the characters is enthralling and you get the sense that the director is genuinely interested in telling a story.
If anything, it’s a apt example of how the Western genre influenced the Kung Fu genre.
For those eager to see more of Cliff Lok, check out the camaraderie he has with Simon Yuen in Mad Mad Kung Fu. For martial enthusiasts, you can’t go wrong with Ring of Death (a.k.a. Bastard Kung Fu Master) which was a Seasonal production with Hwang Jang Lee, Roy Horan and Shih Kien (from Enter the Dragon) in the cast. Corey Yuen worked with Hsu Hsia and Meng Hoi for the fights hence why I recommend watching that movie as primary Lok viewing before venturing into his other output.
Joseph Kuby’s Rating: 7.5/10