Issue #207a         HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES                April 12th, 2004

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Mad Monkey Kung Fu
(1979; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Fung hau
Mandarin: Feng hou
English: Mad Monkey


RATING: 7/10


Peking Opera performers Chan (Lau Kar-leung, who also directed) and his sister (Kara Hui Ying-hung) are invited to dine with the affluent Mr. Duan (Lo Lieh). However, it's a trap: when Chan gets drunk and passes out, Duan's wife falsely accuses him of raping her. In lieu of having Chan executed, his sister offers to become Duan's concubine. Duan accepts but still orders his men to smash Chan's hands. Chan tries to eke out a living as a street performer, with a trained monkey as his main attraction. One day, he is attacked by some extortionists and the animal is killed. After bemoaning his fate, Chan comes to the realization that his limber, hyperactive friend Little Monkey (Hsiao Hou) could be the perfect substitute. The two create a successful act but are, again, robbed by the gangsters. Chan decides to teach the boy kung fu and the pair spend the next few months in the mountains practising monkey style combat. Deciding that he is ready to head back to the city, Little Monkey returns and beats up the graft artists. They turn out to be employees of Duan, and Little Monkey is no match for the man's kung fu. Although he barely escapes with his life, the lad manages to learn how Duan deceived Chan. After more intensive training under Chan's instruction, master and pupil are ready to return to Duan's brothel for revenge.

Kara Hui (left), Lau Kar-leung Lo Lieh Hsiao Hou (left)

An outstanding acrobat and one of the most talented performers in Lau Kar-leung's stable of regulars, Hsiao Hou receives an excellent showcase here and his comic travails during the various training sequences are also quite enjoyable (particularly when Chan forces him to practice his balance by sleeping on an outstretched rope!). Bouncing around the various sets and exteriors like a somersaulting superball, Hsiao is amazing to watch and it is a shame that he didn't receive more lead roles. The training sequences are amusingly offbeat and Lau (taking the starring role himself) proves to be an ideal onscreen teacher in the traditional "old master" style. The stock score (which consists mainly of overstated "comic" cues and themes that would be more at home in a blaxploitation thriller) is a liability but the film's strengths still shine through, particularly the thoroughly impressive climactic battle.


The presentation is very clean and colorful. While not as sharp as it could be, the picture is otherwise complaint-free, and the remixed audio is not problematic (apart from the addition of some obvious crowd foley FX). The usual supplementary materials are included (promo spots, photo galleries, and bios/filmographies) but the package also promises "The Three Styles of Hong Fist." That footage is not included here (and shouldn't be anyway) but can be found on the DVD for THE BOXER FROM SHANTUNG (reviewed in issue #200a).

Hsiao Hou Lau Kar-leung Kara Hui

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC -- Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd #102257
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Cantonese and Mandarin Tracks
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 109 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: M 15+
  • Great Britain: 18 (cut)
  • Ontario: R
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Singapore: PG
  • Contains moderate violence and cruelty to animals


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful