One of the
terrific things about Netlix streaming is the function that compares movies
you've seen and develops "Like this" lists for you, like a kind video
store employee before that once noble profession was overrun by snarky
teenagers. After searching for Hercules Unchained, one of my favorite b-movies,
I discovered a movie called Hercules Against Karate, an
Italian/Australian/Chinese production about a dim-witted strong man that is
sent to China to rescue the son of Chinese-Australian restaurateur. It's a
decent yarn with some goofy "didn't know my own strength" antics, but
more importantly it led to the discovery of this week's inaugural DITC entry:
1976's goofy, cheesy, and eminently likeable King Kung Fu.
The film plays like a silly homage to the classic Hollywood giant ape movie, only instead of a giant ape created by then state-of-the-art special effects, King Kung Fu is a man in a gorilla suit. And instead of kidnapping Fey Wray and climbing the Empire State Building in New York, he kidnaps a Pizza Hut waitress named Rae Fey and climbs the tallest building in Wichita, Kansas: a Holiday Inn. So, they didn’t exactly break the bank when financing this little oddity, but the low budget and slapdash parody is part of the charm.
The story begins with Jungle Jumper being lectured in China by his kung-fu teacher, a comically stereotypical fu-manchu wearing old man. After the teacher tries to steal a banana from our hero, he picks up the teacher and spins him around like a pinwheel. The teacher decides maybe it’s best if his student is out of his hair and sent to America, where he can inflict his skills on a different population. Once he arrives, Jungle Jumper is taken prisoner, renamed King Kung Fu, and exhibited in chains for the citizens of Wichita.
This becomes a popular story on the local news and it inspires two low-budget filmmakers to spring King Kung Fu from captivity and make a film about it. You can tell they’re serious because they have old movie posters on their walls. Of course, things do not go as planned and the King escapes, falls in love with the girlfriend of the lead filmmaker, the aforementioned Pizza Hut Waitress, steals her away, and is pursued by the inept Wichita police department, headed by a man with a distinctly homage-heavy speech pattern, Mr. J.W. Duke. After many comically slapdash action scenes, including one where the our hero apehandles a minor league baseball team, the story winds up at the Holiday Inn where Duke and his deputy, Pilgrim, attempt to rescue Rae Fay from Kung Fu’s clutches.
What sets King Kung Fu apart from many low budget spoof movies is the heart and goofy sensibility on display. It would make a great double feature with another low-budget romp, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, which also uses its economic restraints for its benefit. Most of the jokes in King Kung Fu are vaudevillian sight gags, complete with cartoonish sound effects straight from the Hannah Barbara library of wacky sounds. J.W. Duke’s terrible-but-great John Wayne impression is a consistent highlight, and the stop-motion animation during the conclusion is actually well done. Or, at least I was surprised to see something that complicated after watching a man in a gorilla suit toss dummies around in sped-up-motion for an hour.
this movie for anyone that has a penchant for low-budget, ridiculous fun. Hell,
I’d rather watch this movie that Peter Jackson’s bloated remake from three
decades later. There’s no one in King Kung Fu that approaches the level of
annoyance created by that wimpy sailor kid, but that’s a rant for a separate