Schizofrantic Kung Fu (Hong Kong, 1986)

July 3, 2012

Schizofrantic Kung Fu was released by a small Hong Kong distribution company named Genuine Kung Films. From the brochure taped to one of the canisters, it appears that they had the rights to no fewer than 11 films starring Burce Lee. The odd spelling is so consistent that I have to assume that it is “correct”. The description of Schizofrantic Kung Fu therein is “Burce Lee is master of schizofrenic marital art. Watch him tear enemys in two with power of split brain!” While enthusiastic, that’s not entirely accurate.

The film is dubbed into English, but none of the voice actors are credited. There are titles and credits, but none of us read Chinese. Well, there was Sen, but his internship ended before this movie was cataloged… Additionally, the movie begins and ends abruptly, leading to speculation around the coffee machine that the legitimate ownership of the film has been removed.

The story begins with Lee (whom I can only assume is Burce Lee) performing minor street cons, stealing fruit from vendors and getting strangers to quarrel so he can pick their pockets. Then he goes to a posh inn and changes into expensive garments. He goes to the governor’s palace for a formal dinner, where he is introduced as “the government agent”. Apparently there has been some difficulty from rebels in the area.

I should mention here that the time period for this plot is anybody’s guess. It’s some time before the British came to the area, but the emperor is never named and the rebels are never identified. Perhaps there’s a hint in the set dressings, but the production values were similar to those of a high school play so I’m guessing they just used whatever they had access to.

At any rate, Lee is tasked with either destroying the rebels or simply looking into the situation. The governor simply states “These rebels. They are real trouble.” Then Lee nods and remarks “I will see about that.” Then there’s a martial arts demonstration, and while two men are dueling with javelins they lunge toward the governor. Lee leaps into action, taking the javelins from the assassins and thrashing them. The governor demands that they be killed, but Lee overrules him and has them locked up for questioning.

Later that night Lee breaks into the cell of the assassins and sets them free. He’s wearing garb similar to theirs, and they accept him without question. The three of them race across the rooftops. Guards pursue, there’s a brief fight that’s hard to make out, and Lee escapes with the assassins. This is the last we see of the assassins and the entire rebellion plot is never mentioned again.

Lee next wanders through a forest. He now wears a monk’s robe and a vest that appears to be made of quilted foil. He meets a hunter that’s leading another man by the leash. The man has patches of fur stuck to his hat, and his nose is painted black. Lee asks the hunter what’s going on, and he is informed that this is the hunter’s dog. That the man is an actual canine is never questioned. Instead, Lee engages in a ridiculous set of challenges to prove himself superior to the “dog”. After proving himself better at pointing, fetching and serving tea (!), Lee concludes that he is now the owner of the dog-man and chases the hunter away.

There follows a long stretch in which the movie seems to settle on a plot of sorts. Lee and dog-man wander through the forest, meeting a variety of people along the way. Each one is asked about his business and explains how what he does is a benefit to society. As each one talks, Lee and dog-man are shown performing the labor described. There’s a lot of clowning around during this section of the movie, but it’s pretty dreary stuff.

At long last, Lee (inexplicably on his own) arrives at a hidden city. He again seems to be a beggar, and he gawks at street performances and steals produce. It isn’t long (in movie time) before he’s brought before the governor. The governor tells Lee (even while other actors are apparently delivering lines) that he has committed serious crimes against the Lost City of Zin and must face death at the hands of the Executor. That’s with the stress on the second syllable, as in “executor of the estate”. The Executor is a large man with a black hood and two fake arms anchored on his back. The fake arms are also attached with a line to his wrists, so that they sort of move while he throws punches and blocks.

Here, at long last, the special kung-fu promised by the marketing material makes an appearance — kind of. Lee the beggar freezes and a broad cartoon outline appears around him. There’s a tinkling sound mixed with what might be a distorted hair dryer, and then the scene changes. The Lee outline is super-imposed onto a sandy “outdoor” set. Lee pops into frame, not quite in the same pose and wearing only a pair of white pants.

The fight between Lee and the Executor is intercut with clips of shirtless Lee fighting the same mob over and again. Eventually, the Executor falls, but the film ends suddenly on more footage of Lee fighting the endless stream of four or five martial artists.

Kung Fu films containing clips from other movies are common enough. What’s baffling about this one is that the only attempt to join the material is the bit with the outline of Burce Lee. It’s possible that some small part of this movie had been shot as a new Burce Lee vehicle, and that it wasn’t finished for whatever reason. I suppose we’ll never know unless the remaining Burce Lee films are discovered somewhere in the archive.

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