Jackie Chan did not return
for this follow-up to DRUNKEN MASTER (reviewed
in issue #214), but director Yuen Woo-ping and wily old Simon
Yuen Siu-tin did and the result is one of the best kung fu comedies
of its era. After a trip across country, slovenly martial arts master
Beggar So (Simon Yuen) returns home to find that his wife (Linda Lin
Ying) has adopted a son named Foggy (Yuen Shun-yee). Much to So's
chagrin, the boy is a total klutz who cannot even perform the most
basic kung fu moves. Although his wife orders him to instruct Foggy,
So torments him instead with meaningless and painful training exercises.
Rival kung fu great "Rubber Legs" (Hwang Jang-li), master
of the Northern Drunk Mantis style, soon tracks So down, with the
intention of killing him in a duel. Although Sam dominates the bout
at first, Rubber Legs eventually bests him with his hybrid style.
Before he can finish So off, the old mans son intervenes and
saves him. While out to get herbs to treat his wounded father, Foggy
encounters the "Sickness Master" (Yam Sai-kwoon), who instructs
him in his technique: an unusual variation on the drunken boxing style
which can defeat Rubber Legs, if properly mastered.
While it follows the customary "eccentric
master(s)/young student/ invincible villain" Old School formula,
DANCE OF THE DRUNK MANTIS boasts some outstanding kung fu. The highlight
is the initial fight between Hwang Jang-li and Simon Yuen, which starts
off with simple hand movements and gradually progresses to an all
out duel (a similar but shorter sequence can be found in Lau Kar-leungs
DIRTY HO from the same year). The training sequences are first rate
too, with a number of intricate workouts that run the gamut from painful
to humorous (Yuen Shun-yee trying to catch squares of tofu without
crushing them is the best example of the latter). Like most films
of this type, the stock music (which includes a brief excerpt from
Tangerine Dreams score for SORCERER) is overbearing, emphasizing
the jokes to an unnecessary degree, but the traditional martial arts
mastery transcends this annoyance. Yam Sai-kwoon (probably best known
for playing the villainous monk in Yuen Woo-pings IRON MONKEY)
deserves special mention for excelling in a rare benevolent role.
Corey Yuen Kwai (who co-directed the action and plays Rubber Legs'
equally unscrupulous student), Dean Shek Tien, Chin Yuet-sang, Brandy
Yuen Chan-yeung (as a Beggar So impersonator who has the extreme misfortune
to cross paths with Rubber Legs) and actor/director/editor David Wu
Tai-wai also appear.