Enter the Fat Dragon & The Incredible Kung fu Master

Enter the Fat Dragon (1978): Directed by Sammo Hung
The Incredible Kung Fu Master (1979): Directed by Joe Cheung

An absolute icon of Hong Kong cinema, Sammo Hung has acted with Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and many other martial arts superstars as well as directing, producing and working as a fight choreographer.

Here he stars as Ah Lung, a young pig farmer who, on the order of his father, is told to move to Hong Kong to help his uncle run his food stall.

Lung is a Bruce Lee fanatic and strives to copy the great man in as many ways as possible. As you can imagine from the title, though, while Lee was a sinewy powerhouse of a man, Lung has the look of someone whose nearest encounter with sport is maybe chucking a few darts down his local. He gets called variations of Fatty by just about everyone he comes across.

He’s also clumsy, headstrong, naive and has a truly terrible bowl haircut but looks can be deceiving. Lung is surprisingly supple, he can kick beyond his height and he packs the kind of mightily hard punch that can send an opponent across a room.

He’ll need these skills as he’s about to come across two different sets of thugs, one lot who refuse to pay for their meals at the food stall; another with connections to a highly eccentric (and pervy) antique dealer Professor Pak, a man with a hairstyle that makes Lung’s look like a high fashion cut.

Enter the Fat Dragon

Although the title riffs on Lee’s biggest success – and Sammo was the first opponent of Bruce Leed in that film – the plot here is as close to Way of the Dragon and Game of Death as it is to Enter the Dragon. The climax, for instance, is surely a nod to Game of Death, with Sammo taking on three opponents possessing distinctive fight skills one after the other.

The film parodies Lee movies while also paying homage to him – and Hung was a friend of Lee. It also parodies the Brucesploitation trend that I mentioned in my previous post and, through a family friend, Lung is invited to take part as an extra in one of these movies which is called Death Appointment. Critical of the arrogant star and his lack of Lee-style skills, he ends up going head to head with him on the movie set and shows him how to should fight like the great man.

Lung is hugely likeable throughout and the fight sequences often dazzle. My personal highlight being Lung seeing off some troublemakers at a fancy do while blootered – a nod to Drunken Master I would guess.

The humour throughout does regularly veer towards the ‘so bad it’s good’ variety and there’s even a pratfall involving a banana skin. It’s also spectacularly un-PC. Pak has three personal bodyguards, each one as I pointed out earlier, having mastered a different fight style. There’s a local who specialises in kung fu, a Westerner who is expert at boxing and kickboxing, and then there’s an American who is a karate seventh dan, clearly based on Jim Kelly, the blaxploitation star who appeared in Enter the Dragon. He’s played by Lee Hoi Suk.

If this kind of thing offends you, go elsewhere. It’s not the only incident that would be unlikely to make its way into any modern-day movie.

At it’s best, though, Enter the Fat Dragon is highly amusing with some of the best fight choreography of any kung fu comedy. This is up there with Hung’s best work such as Winners & Sinners and My Lucky Stars.

The Incredible Kung Fu Master, which stars Stephen Tung Wei, Philip Ko and Hoi Sang Lee alongside Hung isn’t as good. The first half drags and the funniest thing about it is the comedy dubbing that accompanies it, most of the characters sounding like they were auditioning for some third rate English drawing room drama from the 1940s which they had no chance of ever securing a role in.

The pace does pick up when Sammo as Fei Chai, a martial arts master who also runs a little wine shop in the countryside, takes on Sei Leng Chai aka Kung Fu Ching as his pupil. Played by Stephen Tung Wei – who also appeared briefly in Enter the Dragon as Bruce Lee’s young student – he is put under enormous pressure by a hard taskmaster.

Watching the gruelling training scenes is great fun, especially if you’re relaxing with a coffee and slice of cake – I guess my calorie intake is much nearer Hung’s than the average martial arts maestro.

Incredible_Kung_Fu_Master

The climax features a battle between Ching and a troupe of acrobatic Manchurians while Fei Chai takes on former town bully Yeung Wai (Lee Hoi Sang) with Ching joining in halfway through the fight.

Fantastic stuff that just about makes up for the lacklustre first forty-five minutes or so.

* Another martial arts movie titled Enter the Fat Dragon will be released soon. I’ve read that it is remake of the 1978 film, although lead actor Donnie Yen has stated that it is not ‘necessarily’ a remake, while co-director and producer Wong Jing explained that ‘The title doesnt really matter. Many film titles could be recycled for new projects.’