And yet again, Sunday is here! Quite grateful for this day; but just like Theater Thursdays, I plan to focus on the art of Kung Fu on Sundays. I don’t know when my love for Kung Fu officially started. I can’t remember if we watched Bruce Lee inspired flicks before or after my endoctrine into Leroy Green aka The Master aka Taimak. However, I remember watching it with my sisters in our living room-we would act out the fight scenes a la Cheng Pei Pei . I believe my dad would be the ref and we’d kick and scream and wrestle until…well, until my mom would come in and tell us to knock it off. I never won though…I was a such a wimp. Too sensitive to really get down and dirty with it. But I never knew that there were women featured in these Kung Fu flicks until later in life.
The Shaw Brothers & The Women of Kung Fu
The Shaw Brothers studio productions featured films by King Hu, Lau Kar-leung and Chang Cheh. Chang Cheh is probably the real hero of these films. His films featured a female protagonist. Check out The Girl with the Thunderbolt Kick aka Golden Swallow featuring the bad ass Cheng Pei Pei.
Apparently (through a little research) The Shaw Brothers produced the first Kung Fu flick with sound. I never liked the dubbed-over version of the films. Sometimes the voices would be way off-sorta like a mix between Geoffrey Holder and Berry White. But I do love the narratives; the story of good vs. evil where the underdog has to avenge his brother or sister’s death. The true honor and respect given to ancestry, family and mentors. The romance of said good guy/closeted hero plays a huge part in these avenge stories. The man finds romance and before he takes over said evil he must elicit a passionate kiss. This of course is staged where the man grabs the woman by her arms, pulls her close to him, she tilts her head slightly to the left (or right) and he plants a big one on her. Their bodies careen to the underscore of a funky soundtrack or in this case a-Let’s-Get-It-On bow chica-wow-wow version of a love song-no tongue action of course (wasn’t necessary). The costume choices (Bruce Lee in the white suit in Chinese Connection is a perfect choice when he digs through the muddy dirt and rain trying to save his buried master.) are by far my favorite, the expansive location specific set designs and lastly the fighting but not just any fighting but the composition of the fights.
I loved how skilled these men AND women would have to be in order to leap, fly, and turn in 360 degrees to annihilate their opponent in these death-defying scenes. You never saw the cables or cords that would hoist the Samurai but you were just in awe of the sheer capability-all make for great theater. So enjoy and check back next Sunday for another feature Kung fu epic!