Straight kung fu films are usually an exercise in the absurd. When it's deliberately played for laughs, the results are plain strange. And then there's THIS film. Describing The Good The Bad And The Loser as a "broad" comedy is unkind - this elaborate martial arts parody on not just Sergio Leone but Western pop culture in general is a multi-layered free-for-all characterized by Carry On style smut, jarring anachronisms, silly voices, and a barrage of pigeon profanity ("Don't give me that crap! Sh*t!"). Funny? As in "funny in the head", perhaps. Needless to say, this is one of the greatest royal ripoffs I've had the pleasure of witnessing.
Kung fu movies were always Eastern noodle varieties of westerns, spaghetti or otherwise, and here popular comedian Kar Mak (or Karl Maka), directing and writing his first film, effortlessly transposes The Good The Bad And The Ugly to Dynastic China. The Bad is classic kung fu villain Carter Wong, he with the arched eyebrows and horse face, decked out in a cool black outfit and matching veil. He discovers a golden Buddha statue floating through the countryside with no discernible owner and, naturally, wants it for himself. So does The Loser, or comedian Roy Chiao in the obnoxious Eli Wallach role, a drunken libertine posing as a Buddhist monk who manages to take on an entire cathouse in a wine-smeared blur, and who is reluctantly tied to his occasional partner-in-crime The Good (Lau Kar-Wing, a Shaw Brothers regular often appearing in films directed by his more famous brother Lau Kar-Leung) who, once paid, always sees the job through. Sound familiar? And so begins the ever-shifting alliances between the titular anti-heroes as they head for the Golden Buddha temple and cemetery (no Boot Hill in China, see) for the iconic three-way face-off. It's virtually scene for scene, with sticks and swords in place of six-shooters.
Generally acknowledged as the first real kung fu comedy, much of Kar Mak's humour is reduced thanks to the atrocious dubbing to a series of frantic gestures and goofy visual gags. The ludicrous nature of the project, however, manages to save the day, and hell, I'm a perennial sucker for silly voices (who isn't?). And seriously, where else will you hear finger harps plucking out Morricone's musical punctuation while a village elder does a Marlon Brando impression in front of a vindictive dwarf in a wooden corset? I mean, seriously..
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