Deadly Fist of the Hedgehog (USA, approx. 1982)

August 27, 2009

American producers have been putting their own spin on Hong Kong action cinema for decades, re-cutting and dubbing cheaply-purchased films to better suit an English speaking audience. Few though can be more bizarre than the curio we discovered in crate 7, Deadly Fist of the Hedgehog.

It was perhaps not surprising to see the name of enterprising smut producer Roy Avenue (b. Stanley David Hergesheimer) in the credits. Avenue was particularly adept at combining existing footage with newly shot sex scenes, most infamously when he used two episodes of the popular British sitcom That’s Your Funeral! as the basis for his 1975 hardcore farce Cuties in Coffins. By the time the series’ producers ITV got wind of Avenue’s actions the film had already vanished from Times Square’s porno theaters, but not before Avenue had banked a tidy sum.

What we found in crate 7 was evidence that Avenue either purchased the rights to or simply stole the footage of an unfinished movie from Taiwanese independent filmmaker Lee Tso-nam (Mission: Kiss and Kill, The Invincible Kung Fu Legs). Some time around 1978 – the exact date is sadly as lost as the original film – Tso-nam invested much of his own money into a pet project provisionally titled Scorpion Kick vs. Sea Urchin Kung Fu. Starring Cliff Lok (Kung Fu Genius) and legendary superkicker Hwang Jang Lee, the film was never completed, perhaps because co-star and action director Wilson Tong’s (Snake Deadly Act) fanciful sea urchin combat style was bizarre even for a 1970s kung fu film.

At first it seems that Deadly Fist of the Hedgehog is simply going to be a vaguely chopsockey-themed porn movie, as a young man named Chew (Tom Byron, b. Thomas Bryan Taliaferro) seeks out Master Hedgehog (Ron Jeremy, b. Ronald Jeremy Hyatt) and asks to learn kung fu. Master Hedgehog’s unique training regime involves nothing more than having sex with a variety of women, which somehow (the film is not specific) confers great fighting skills on the male participant. Hedgehog demonstrates with his wife (Kay Parker, b. Kay Rebecca Taylor), before breaking an obviously polystyrene ‘brick’ with his erection.

Hedgehog magnanimously allows Chew to ‘practice’ on his daughter (Kristara Barrington, notably the only Asian in the American half of the production), before the film cuts to a fight scene from the Lee Tso-nam footage. Here we begin to appreciate Avenue’s thought process: Cliff Lok is dressed in a spiny costume to represent his sea urchin style, and wears a face mask (Tso-nam’s original script apparently had the Sea Urchin as a mysterious Robin Hood-style vigilante). With Byron’s voice dubbed over the footage, Avenue clearly hoped the audience would believe this was Chew in disguise. And of course I hardly need mention that hedgehogs are spiny, like sea urchins.

As to the fight itself (featuring choreographer Wilson Tong as the antagonist), it’s a well-done affair. For kung fu fans this will be the main area of interest in Deadly Fist of the Hedgehog, particularly as all footage from this production was thought to be lost. Indeed, the only way we were able to identify this footage at all was thanks to the rare still photographs of the urchin costume from David Bordwell’s excellent book, Taiwanese National Identity and Shaolin Invincible Sticks: The Films of Lee Tso-nam.

The film then proceeds in this fashion, fight scenes alternating with sex scenes featuring a couple of familiar faces from the early-80s adult scene, Dorothy LeMay and Crystal Dawn. The final confrontation between Cliff Lok and the main villain, played by Legendary Superkicker Hwang Jang Lee, is intercut with another sex scene so the smut fans don’t get too restless. This final encounter is between Parker and Barrington, who seem unconcerned that they are playing mother and daughter. One may infer that this is a reference to Parker’s ongoing role in the popular incest-themed Taboo series of films.

Avenue’s attempt to cash in on both the kung fu craze and Ron Jeremy’s ‘hedgehog’ persona seems to have made little impact on either smut or chopsockey fans. Perhaps the cuts between the cheap indoor porn footage and the more professional, sweeping outdoor kung fu scenes is simply too jarring. Perhaps it’s because the hastily-applied ‘occidental’ makeup worn by Jeremy and Byron keeps falling off during the sex scenes (the female performers aren’t so adorned). Deadly Fist of the Hedgehog is far from a classic, but as a testament to the ingenuity of Roy Avenue, it has little equal.

NB. despite the title, the film does not contain any scenes of fisting.


One Response to “Deadly Fist of the Hedgehog (USA, approx. 1982)”

  1. Blake said

    Oops…put my comment on the wrong review. I’m glad that the title “Legendary Superkicker Hwang Jang Lee” is catching on.

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