Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Chop-socky zombies are the order of the day in 1983's KUNG FU ZOMBIE, a supernaturally-tinged kung fu mess from director I-Jung Hua. Loaded with broad, slapstick humor and featuring hopping ghouls similar to those in Tsui Hark's MR. VAMPIRE, the film's a prime example of the frenetic tedium that marks so many low-budget martial arts films.

The plot defies a mere synopsis (and the rapid-fire, barely legible subtitles make it impossible to follow, anyways), but from what I can gather it's about a hired killer who's struck by lightning--a delightfully bad optical--and in need of a fresh corpse for reincarnation. (And how--with his bushy eyebrows and mutton-chop sideburns he's not exactly a fearsome figure.) With the help of a shifty magician, he finds one in the body of hero Billy Chong's father, which sets up the increasingly crazy series of hand-to-hand contests.

Though the supernatural aspect lends the film some atmospheric digressions, it's still not a very interesting pic. The action is what you'd expect from cheap, grindhouse-era jung fu movies, though the climactic fight between Chong and a fire-fisted vampire (!?!) is unique and visually exciting. But the combination of kinetic editing and horrid pan-and-scan transfer feels like a subliminal sales tactic from the folks at Excedrin.

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