Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Kung Fu of the Damn Dirty Apes (part 1)

With all the ape frenzy due to the King Kong remake, I thought I would jump on the chimp bandwagon with a few notes on simians in kung fu films.

Monkeys seem to come up quite regularly in my life. I find them a source of constant amusement but not the point of chasing after those office calendars with chimp faces and human slogans. One weekly monkey detour is the Dave the Spazz show on WFMU, where the DJ spins old R'n'R in a control room full of monkeys. You can listen to old shows in the WFMU archive - check out the great Halloween shows for ghoulish hip shakin'.

And more recent monkey ramblings can be found on the hilarious Ricky "The Office" Gervais' podcast with their segment called "Monkey News".

Ever wonder how good apes are when it comes to kung fu combat? The answer can be found in BRUCE LEE THE INVINCIBLE (aka DIE GELBENAUGEN DES GORILLAS) when Bruce Li aka Chung Tao, meets a guy in a rather ragged and flea bitten costume, who seems to have knocked off a few years in the Shaolin Temple. Li plays a kung fu student who goes to Malaysia to bring to justice a former student who has become a thug. When the love interest is kidnapped, Li and his mentor, Chen Sing (one of the unsung founding fathers of 70s kung fu cinema and also known as "Kung Fu Bronson"), must battle these grappling gorillas.

Sadly, that is the only high point in the film. Of course after much leaping, the apes go down, one with blood foaming from his eyes and the other with his scalp ripped off. And sadly there is NO dialogue like, "Those apes. They know kung fu!" Is there such a film?

Bruce Li always got a bad rap. He wasn't too bad of a martial artist, but shameless producers never let him do his own thing until later in his career, by which time he was tired of being passed off overseas in ads as a Bruce Li imitator.

"You may call me Ho Chung Tao or James Ho. I don't like to be remembered as Bruce Li or Li Hsiao Lung because producers manipulated that for the market-place. I want to be myself."

Sadly, there is not the same pride in being a Bruce Lee impersonator as there is in being an Elvis impersonator. Heck, even a poor Elvis impersonator is embraced! Ho Chung Tao now runs a gymnasium in Taiwan. For more info, visit the Bruceploitation Trilogy. And I found a torrent for the film here.


Anonymous said...

Gungfu apes also appear with Bruce Li in BRUCE LEE IN NEW GUINEA and in the Carter Wong wuxia SHAOLIN INVINCIBLES. Can't remember if either has dialogue describing the absurdity of the scenario.

Colin said...

I knew there were some others. I only have one lobbycard for SHAOLIN INVINCIBLES and I don't think it has an ape on it... I think that is were the lines come from. Our friend from SHE would play that trailer all the time...

Poptique said...

Movies with ape suits in are big favourites, so kung fu gorillas are like crack to me.

The suits in Shaolin Invincibles are especially good as they're a wee bit too short, and stop at the performers ankles.

Bruce Li in New Guinea's gorilla is pretty pointless - he runs about on the beach a bit and Bruce doesn't even get to fight him (as far as I can remember).

Finest performance by a chop-sockey ape is clearly provided by the Shaw Brothers epic BATTLE WIZARD, where the hero must first eat a glowing frog in order to defeat a mean-looking monkey. (He does this by chopping off his arm).

Sounds like a fever dream (especially when you consider this is intercut with a fire-breathing wizard on stilts), but all this and more happens in that particular obscurity!

I've got a few frame grabs I'll have to sort out for you.

(Great site, by the way!)