HALF A LOAF OF KUNG FU
Review by Michael Jacobson
Director: Chi-Hwa Chen
Audio: Dolby Mono
Video: Pan & Scan 1.33:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: Bonus Trailers
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: December 17, 2002
Iím lying, Iím a son of a bitch!Ē
fans of Jackie Chan have been waiting a long time for the chance to own his
earliest effort at kung fu comedy in its original scope widescreen format.
Unfortunately, we have to keep waiting.
Despite the sticker on the front of the package of the new Columbia Tri
Star release of Half a Loaf of Kung Fu assuring that the widescreen
version is included, it isnít. Somebody goofed.
opening credits, as has been the case with previous video releases, IS in
widescreen, and the credit sequence alone is worth giving this 1978 pre-mega
star Jackie Chan title a look. Throughout
the 70s, it was common for Hong Kong martial arts films to have opening credits
showcasing their starís abilities with kung fu and weapons while having
nothing to do with the story.
Half a Loaf of Kung Fu, the tradition is turned hilariously on its ear.
Amongst the scenarios are Chan battling a wooden dummy only about a foot
high, a swordfight in which he easily dispatches a team of bad guys before
turning to the camera and saying, ďNo way!Ē, a bit of him playing an old
master whose students suddenly turn on him, and a hysterical musical cue (only
present in the Chinese language track, for some reason).
clear from the start that Chanís purpose was to make a kung fu spoof, and
having been given creative control for the first time in his career by legendary
Hong Kong producer Lo Wei, he set out to do just that.
A genre that was considered sacred by many gave Chan his first
opportunity to showcase the sense of humor that would very soon after help him
become an international star.
plays a wanderer who gets into one troublesome situation after another.
He knows very little kung fu, so he ends up getting his behind kicked in
one fight scene after anotherÖeven the women beat him up pretty good!
But he dreams of being a fighting starÖliterally, in one memorable
sequence, when he dreams heís fighting a gang of rogues.
He finds some spinach, and while the Popeye theme plays, he turns into a
master and dispatches of the goons!
he finds himself learning more and more kung fu, thanks to an unlikely old
master and his flatulence-prone top student, and even serving as a bodyguard to
a clan (and its masterís beautiful daughter) as they try to transport a sacred
treasure through hostile territory.
slow learning process gives this movie the best of both worlds.
Early on, Chanís attempts at action are comic and inept, and generally
very funny. By the end, though, he
fights like the Jackie Chan we know, in a couple of spectacularly acrobatic
scenes. Chan even gets to
experiment with a technique he would later become famous for:
using anything and everything around him to fight with.
He even throws the beautiful daughter around with dexterity as a weapon!
of Chanís humor and willingness to take chances with such an established,
rigid movie form, Half a Loaf of Kung Fu remains arguably the most
entertaining of his films prior to his achieving super stardom.
Unfortunately, producer Lo Wei didnít agree at the time.
Enraged by Chanís blasphemous spoof, he shelved the picture for several
years. It didnít see the light of
day until Jackie Chan broke big in the early 80s!
fact, this is one of Chanís only early Lo Wei films that still earns his
recommendation. In his
autobiography I Am Jackie Chan, he promises fans that itís at least
worth a rental. Though Jackie would
continue incorporating humor into his pictures throughout his career, he never
did so again with such an obvious eye for parody, so I have to agree with
himÖthis is one worth checking out.
is probably the best home video version Iíve yet seen for this filmÖsad,
though, because the lack of widescreen keeps it substandard.
Film preservation was never prominent in Asia, so many of these old kung
fu films look quite bad, but Half a Loaf of Kung Fu actually benefits
from less softness, better and more truer colors, and a generally clean print
with only a few minor flaws here and there.
The panning and scanning mutilates some of the fight scenes, though,
especially in group fights. You canít see everyone on the screen at the same time, and
sometimes punches and kicks come from outside the viewing area!
can only believe that the studioís intent WAS to release this movie with a
widescreen version, and since something obviously went wrong, I hope they intend
to revisit this title soon and make it right.
can choose original Cantonese or English dubbed mono soundtracks.
Since none of these early Hong Kong films recorded live sound, either one
is acceptable. To be honest, part
of the enjoyment of watching old kung fu films for me has been the atrocious
English language tracks, though make sure you at least listen to the Chinese
track during the opening credits so you donít miss the amusing musical cue I
disc contains only two bonus trailers, for Jet Liís The One and Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon.