I hate to say it, but of the half-dozen Shaw Brothers films released stateside by 88 Films in the past few months, John Lo Mar’s Monkey Kung Fu is my least favorite. It’s a shame because the director went on to helm the classic wuxia horror classic A Chinese Ghost Story. There’s quite a lot of comedy here, and a few really funny bits, but it overstays its welcome by the end.
Wei Chun (Ching Siu-tung) is an unlikable, lazy lout who, by circumstance, ends up with the key to learning the legendary gibbon fists kung-fu technique. One problem: He’s in prison. So he teams up with another inmate to escape, and the two end up on an adventure filled with action and fun stunts.
There’s just something about this film that did not click with me besides one great, acrobatic sequence on a bed when a prostitute does a ton of awesome somersaults. Small pleasures make it less interminable, but it feels otherwise unexceptional.
88 Films’ package, however, is on par with the rest of its excellent restorations. The HD presentation is as clear and crisp as ever, although the stage-bound “outside” material doesn’t exactly benefit from the added definition. Both original Cantonese-language and English dub tracks are available. An audio commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon provides historical context for those new to the film, while an interview with choreographer Tony Leung Siu-Hang gets deep into some of the more impressive stuntwork.