Gar Bo Productions are responsible for Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog which was released in 1978, taking a respectable HK $2,457,000 during a 13 week run. It was in possibly the Golden Year of Hong Kong Cinema, where other offerings included Drunken Master, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, Shaolin Challenges Ninja, Five Venoms, 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Warriors Two.
It marked the first collaboration between Liu Chia-Yung and Sammo Hung, and is possibly the least well known (see Warriors Two, Knockabout and Odd Couple). It also features Dean Shek, playing the second of his two kung fu characters. The first character was in Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master as the weedy and sadistic kung fu instructor, both alongside Jackie Chan. Yet, when working with Sammo, he played the weedy and devious advisor to the main bad guy (see also Warriors Two and Iron Fisted Monk). He made both roles his own throughout his career, although many do find his characters a touch irritating at times.
The other notables include the ubiquitous Lee Hoi San as the Crab fist fighter and Meg Lam (Shanghai Express) as Multi-Hand Chick (I'll explain later on!), plus director Karl Maka, who I believe plays the policeman in this.
Double Hook Sword in action
The inimitable Dean Shek
Sammo shows off his Invincible Armour to a knife wielding Yuen Biao (left)
Multi-Hand Chick escapes capture with her fake arms!
Crazy Frog (Sammo) has married an ugly old rich woman in order to steal her family treasure, the 'Invincible Armour', which is invincible upper torso chain mail. Sammo disappears and happily gets into fights with knife wielding thugs as they cannot defeat his armour (erm... it is worth noting that these knife wielding thugs never go for Sammo's arms, legs or head, as this would maim him very quickly). However, Multi-Hand Chick manages to con Sammo out of his armour. (Multi-Hand Chick gets her name because she uses two fake arms allowing her to escape whenever she is being held - see left).
Then Sammo is kidnapped by Dirty Tiger (Liu Chia-Yung) who is being paid by Sammo's wife to return him. It is only when Dirty Tiger realises that Sammo is chasing after the Invincible Armour, that they join forces in search of Multi-Hand Chick. The following scenes involve Sammo and Yung trying to outwit each other and Dean Shek with his master (Lee Hoi San) taking an interest in the armour. By the end of things Sammo has beaten Shek into imbecility, which is very amusing and Lee Hoi San has knocked off Multi Hand Chick and taken the armour for himself. Sammo and Yung then work together to defeat the Crab fist master with the invincible armour followed by more twists and turns than is worth mentioning here!
The piece is well directed and has a nice flow, but many will find the comedy and convoluted story a disappointment. The action at the end is magnificent and rescues the movie. What slightly disappoints is Sammo's first major fight. It takes place in a casino and Multi-Hand Chick frames Sammo as a wallet thief and he is then assaulted by a bunch of heavies. In amongst these thugs you will spot Yuen Biao, Lam Ching Ying and Mars, but none manage to help elevate the scene beyond mediocrity. The same can be said for Liu Chia-Yung's opening fight, where he fights Chicken (Yueh Sheng Chien) and his buddies who are looking for revenge after Dirty Tiger killed Chicken's mate, Turkey! The weapons on display are enough to make most fans salivate, including a cutlass, double hook sword, rope dart, double axe and double tonfa. Unfortunately the pacing is very predictable and you feel that Liu Chia-Yung is carrying the scene a bit.
Yung and Sammo let rip with the poles
Things toward the end get a lot more interesting and although there are a few skirmishes before the finale, the fighting with Yung and Sammo against Lee Hoi San is good value for money. Few other films have depicted the crab fist well and Lee Hoi San does what Kurata did in Shaolin Challenges Ninja. It is a bit of an old school fight with Biao doubling for Yung in many of the more acrobatic moments, it reminds me a bit of Executioners of Shaolin where the two good guys 'fight as one' to defeat the bad guy. The fight does involve a bit of slapstick, such as the fight beginning on a barren mountain, then after 50m of running it suddenly restarts in a heavily vegetated forest. Plus the invincible armour is defeated by unravelling after being caught on a tree branch (not actually that invincible methinks???).
However, this film precedes The Victim in having several twists late
on, and the most prominent is where Sammo and Yung decide to have a fight
over their remaining money. The beginning is a very tight pole fight,
but these are no ordinary poles! Halfway through the fight both turn their
poles three section staffs, and they both spend as much time trying to
look flash and showing off as they do actually fighting. But it looks
cool and this end fight is what makes this film one step beyond the average
run of the mill flick. I won't spoil the next handful of twists, or tell
you who wins the fight but as expected it finishes on a comedic note.
This is a superb Mei Ah disc, when considering its cost and quality of print. This puts most US discs to shame and only lags clearly behind Hong Kong Legends, but is about half the price. It is a letterboxed print and the colour and quality is high. There are English subtitles which are better than average and Dolby Digital 5.1. It does lack on the extras, with little more than a synopsis and cast list but with a good and inexpensive disc you cannot complain.
The end 20 minutes are pretty much the only reason to buy this movie, the rest of the movie is enjoyable rather than enthralling. The only reason this movie cannot be seen as a classic is largely due to the sensational contributions that Sammo and Yung produced in the ensuing 5 years. It is rather a piece that tracks their rise to kung fu perfection with such movies as Knockabout and Warriors 2. For that reason it is interesting to see glimpses of the new style of kung fu that was soon to reshape the genre. The disc is the minimum standard to which all kung fu should be distributed and it helps add to a pleasant watch with a genuinely climactic finale.
Crab fist fighter takes on all
A fast moving 3 section staff encounter