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"Kung fu's like a laxative - it all comes from the inside."
While it seems most of Hong Kong's talent were jetting around the world in a fit of co-production mania, director Bitto Albertini took his Italian crew on holidays to the Orient and resumed his successful Three Fantastic Supermen series with a new set of costumed heroes plus Shaw Brothers superstar Lo Lieh and rising star Shih Szu.
Hopeless FBI agent Captain Robert Wallace (Robert Malcolm) is called away from his marriage ceremony (`I'll send you a postcard!') and sent to Bangkok to investigate the disappearance of six American expatriates. After innumerable travelogue scenes showing the beauty of Thailand in springtime, a mysterious woman in a cocktail dress (Shih Szu) follows Wallace to a Thai martial arts match and tells him to find the kung fu master Tang. Convinced he has enough Siamese scenes in the can, Bitto takes the next plane to Hong Kong where Wallace fronts the US ambassador, played by French comedian Jacques Dufilho as a strange creature obsessed with Richard Nixon (he even has a framed portrait in his executive bathroom) and his own failing bowels: `Kung fu's like a laxative... it all comes from the inside!'. The ambassador hints at a secret weapon - all he will say is it has something to do with longjohns.
Still in the pursuit of Tang, Wallace heads to the local kung fu match where he meets two old thieving acquaintances from Italy, Max (Antonio Cantafora) and Jerry (Sal Borgese, the only cast member from the series). Wallace unwittingly ends up in the ring with the champion (Lo Lieh) while the mute Jerry, known as "Monkey Face", makes sympathetic grimaces and whooping noises. Wallace gets his arse kicked in the ring (no pun intended), it turns out, by none other than Master Tang. That's Lieutenant Tang of the narcotics squad, on the trail of superbaddy Chen Loh (Tung Lin)and his army of black-clad goons, who Wallace also suspects are behind the kidnapping. Tang and the mysterious woman (who turns out be Tang's girlfriend) give all three wide-eyes a crash course in kung fu, while Wallace picks up the elusive longjohns, and the Fantastic Super Five head to Taiwan for an extended showdown with the low-down Loh. Once the red body suits and head masks are on, making them impervious to all weapons, they tear through a market like a pajama whirlwind, at one point bouncing up and down in slow motion while Loh's goons empty countless rounds into them.
`Crash, Che Botte!' is technically superior to most of Albertini's action comedies, which is hardly surprising considering his Italian crew were in the spiritual homeland of silly actioners. Bitto quickly learns the patented Shaw Brothers crash zoom and uses it with as much subtlety as Quentin did in Kill Bill Volume 2; to be fair, other shots actually add to the action with some effective victim-cam and slow motion you don't often see in chop sockeys. And utilizing the local talent (Jackie Chan, still two years away from starring roles, appears in a blink-and-you'll-miss role as a stuntman), Bitto at times makes the break from knockaround comedy to bona fide action scenes. While Lo Lieh is slicing through a scene with Shaw Brothers precision, the whitebread superheroes are taking on the baddies Terence Hill style, and yet there is no real culture clash - slaparound films are like a bowl of noodles, tasty with either soy or spaghetti sauce. Bitto still can't help littering his script with more risqué than usual innuendoes, poo poo jokes, poorly-conceived topical references (Max to Tang: `So, you're the Last Tang in Hong Kong?') and the ever present cultural insensitivity (peasant to a Wallace in his bad Oriental disguise: `If you're Chinese, I'm Little Led Liding Hood!').
The credits finish with a reprise of `Crash, Che Botte!', easily the most demented theme song ever, Euro B-film or otherwise. The Nico Fidenco tune is recycled endlessly through the film in almost every conceivable musical genre, even played on a violin by the flatulent US ambassador whilst seated on his porcelain throne! Sung almost in English, you never quite know if the first line's `Call me Ping Pong, I'm the boss from Hong Kong' or `Playing ping pong on the bus in Hong Kong...' There's no doubt over the second verse: `I smack 'em, I whack 'em, I scratch 'em, I pack 'em, I cream 'em, I ream 'em, and then I redeem 'em... I dash 'em, I smash 'em, I grind 'em, I thrash 'em, I pound 'em, I ground 'em, and then I surround 'em.' Incredible - 100 minutes of plot distilled into four lines of infantile Euro-alliteration. Bravo.
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