Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog (1978)

Oh boy, are we in for a treat today!

Sammo Hung is one of my all time favourite action stars. He has produced some of the finest examples of the martial arts genre ever and it was with much excitement that I'll be talking about one those movies. Lau Kar-Wing co-stars as a bounty hunter tasked with bringing Sammo back to his elderly wife. During his hunt he discovers Sammo possesses the "Invincible Armour" a chain mail vest which can withstand even the sharpest of blades.

It's not long before Sammo is tricked out of his vest by a female pickpocket and he teams up with Kar-Wing to recover it. Que plenty of top-notch Kung Fu ass kicking and broad slapstick in what has to be one Sammo's more underrated starring roles.

First of all, you have to appreciate the sheer amount of talent involved here. Not only is it a film starring Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-Wing. You also have Karl Maka serving as the director and Eric Tsang as writer. It's mind boggling how this film is often over-looked in favor of other titles such as The Odd Couple and Pedicab Driver. It's not a perfect film by any stretch but it deserves to held in much higher regard then it is.

With the gushing praise out of the way we can get to talking about the film itself. Story wise it's very A-typical of Kung Fu comedies that were being made round this time but to Sammo's credit you can see he's having a heck of a time making the film alongside Kar-Wing. Silly faces are pulled, villains laugh in the manner they always do and people get kicked in the face. What makes this different however to films like The Master Strikes is that Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog is actually funny. In an extremely goofy way without a doubt but it did elicit the odd chuckle now and then.

I think what it comes down to is the chemistry between the actors. Sammo and Kar-Wing have made many films together and you can see the trust they have in each other not only during the fight scenes but in some of the physical comedy as well. A rather amusing scene sees Sammo being forced to hold some vases to avoid alerting a sleeping bad guy and you get the feeling Kar-Wing is trying to stop himself from laughing just at the sheer sight of it. They are by far the best thing about the film and it really raises it above other kung fu comedies of the late 70's.

Regardless of how the story may seem though, it's nothing if you don't have good villains to back it up. We not only get one main villain but in fact three. Played by Dean Shek, Lee Hoi-San and Jason Pai Piao respectively. Dean Shek is, well, Dean Shek. If you've seen any of the other films he was in round about this time then you'll know what to expect. Over-exaggerated face pulling and awkward martial arts fighting were his trade-mark and he doesn't miss a beat here. Sadly. Pai Piao on the other hand doesn't say much except grin deviously like he's plotting to drown his neighbor's dog for no reason and Lee Hoi-San rocks the white brows and beard.

Yet those aren't the only familiar faces making an appearance. Watching it you'll be surprised at how many actually crop up. That's always part of the fun when watching a martial arts movies from the 70's. Seeing how many faces you recognise. Which wasn't difficult given how many films were being made and the industry at the time being quite small. There's a lot of fun to be had if you know your Hong Kong movies, that much is guaranteed. 

This were the movie gets good. The action. Like I said before Sammo is one of any all-time favourite action stars and also one of the best fight choreographers of his day. He's able to seamlessly blend empty handed exchanges and excellently paced weapons fighting with relative ease and makes great use of the actors involved. There's a particularly nice bout which takes place early on in the film that sees Sammo thrown down in a gambling house. He uses traditional forms and some simple stunt work which sets the tone nicely for the rest of the film.

Lau Kar-Wing also shows his flair for swords in a short but tightly put together exchange. Kar-Wing has always been most impressive during his career. Brother of Shaw Brothers legend Lau Kar-Leung, he worked under him as well as being an action director in his own right on many of the prestigious studio's productions. This allowed him to make his own reputation and establish a career out of the shadow of his brother. Here he gets to do his thing and proves why he deserved the successful career he had worked for.

This of course all leads up to the final reel and not only do we get one stand out finale but two. The first is Sammo and Kar-Wing against big bad Lee Hoi-San. Here they use traditional Wing Chun and other assorted acrobatic movements against what can only be described as Crab Style. What I always found interesting about Kung Fu movies were all the strange and unusual animal styles that were created for films. Wether it was Jackie Chan's cat style in Snake in the Eagle's Shadow or Kim Won-Jin's scorpion style in Operation Scorpio. There's always been something visually entertaining about seeing a man imitate an animal while at the same time bust some heads.

After we get that fight out of the way, we're awarded by an excellent tussle between our two stars. It makes sense plot wise and we get a really good weapons fight that should really be seen by anybody who loves their weapons films. Here they use bo staffs which quickly segment into three section staffs and if you've seen these in action before, you know what you're about to see.

So, in closing Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog is an absolutely fantastic classic Kung Fu film that should be watched by anyone who is a fan of either Sammo Hung, Lau Kar-Wing, classic weapons fighting and just ass-kicking in general. You'll get more then you bargained for.

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