Buddha’s Palm (Part 1)
aka 如來神掌(上集) aka The Young Swordsman Lung Kim-fei Part 1
Written by Sze-To On
Story by Shangguan Hong
Directed by Ling Yun
In Kung Fu Hustle, Bruce Leung’s The Beast character’s name translates to Dark God of the Fire Clouds. While that name is awesome in it’s own right, it’s also borrowed from Buddha’s Palm (and the pulp wuxia serials that Buddha’s Palm is based on.) That is an example of the lasting influence the Buddha’s Palm films have had on Hong Kong entertainment, particularly wuxia and martial arts cinema.
Though far far far from the first wuxia pian tale to be translated to the screen, the Buddha’s Palm series heavily influenced later films with the fantasy effects and memorable tales. Having seen about a dozen of the old black and white Cantonese wuxia films, I can say that the Buddha’s Palm series just feels bigger than the others. It’s like Star Wars compared to one of the cash in scifi flicks that finished out the 70s. Though some of the later wuxia films attempted to be as creative, they didn’t have the resources available to compete, and soon the whole deal was eclipsed by Shaw.
For some of this background information, I am handicapped by the lack of information in English about wuxia tales and their authors. So some of this is conjecture, and may be inaccurate. Feel free to drop some knowledge on me if things are wrong. That’s how we all learn.
The tale is largely taken from two sources – Taiwanese author Liu Canyang’s Heavenly Buddha Palm (天佛掌) and Cantonese author Shangguan Hong’s Thousand Buddhas’ Fist. The general plot seems borrowed from Liu’s tale, while the characters are from Shangguan Hong’s stories (and he is the name listed in the credits.) Thousand Buddhas’ Fist was serialized in Ming Pao Daily, which was the place to be a serialized wuxia tale. It was founded by Louis Cha Leung-yung, better known to wuxia story lovers as Jin Yong (the author of the Condor Trilogy) How much the movies’ “borrowing” from Liu was legitimate, I cannot say, as there do not seem to be translations of the stories available. Some of the original stories have been adapted into comic novels.
The Buddha’s Palm films work because they are a grand adventure. There are battles, but there are also a enormous amount of special effects. One of the memorable features are the hand-drawn effects as characters blast away at each other, or control rings and chains and beams that battle in the air. Art director Lo Ki-Ping was the man responsible for the look of the series and most of the hand-painted effects. He also designed the various monster costumes that help spice up Buddha’s Palm. While obviously men in suits, they have a level of B-movie appeal that lame CGI creatures will never match. The effects action enhances the choreography done by action director Simon Yuen Siu-Tin.
Series director Ling Yun went on to direct the three followups The Furious Buddha’s Palm (1965), Buddhist Spiritual Palm (1968), and Buddhist Spiritual Palm Returned (1968). The latter two feature a largely new cast. The Buddha’s Palm franchise was updated in 1982 with Shaw Brother’s Buddha’s Palm, and there has been at least two television series based on the stories. Kung Fu vs. Acrobatic was also a detailed love letter to this series and similar films. With the current trend of remaking everything, I would not be surprised if someone dusted off the Buddha’s Palm tales to bring back to the big screen.
The wonderful DVD set comes complete with no English subtitles. But here at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! Some character names I used are taken from synopses that may or may not be a good translation. But that just adds to the fun!
The meeting of two families is an even full of ceremony and pompous circumstance – especially since it looks like the two sides are barely tolerating each other! The patriarchs sit at the table while their children hover around. The visiting Kau father is joined by his two daughters, Kau Yuk-wah and Kau Yuk-kuen, while the other hosting father is joined by his daughter and her new husband, Auyeung Ho. Auyeung is one for being a loudmouth. Things get heated for a second when scar-faced Lung Kim-fei wanders into the palace. He’s told to get lost by the dad of the couple.
Later some of the men meet in the courtyard, a character played by Sai Gwa-Pau shows off how he can burn his palm into brick. Another guy throws a tiny palm into the wall via effects. The two guys combine to blast an X into the wall. I’m sure the host loves all this vandalism of his home…
Don’t worry, Auyeung Ho then fixes one of the damaged paint sections….but then he blasts a shrubbery with a ray, and also trashes a gazebo. Auyeung Ho then humiliates Lung Kim-fei and his poor kung fu. Lung is saved by the Kau sisters, who then argue with Aueyung Ho over his bully ways. The fathers come out to see what is the matter, and the host father ends up yelling at Lung some more.
Lung storms off, but Auyeung’s buddies chase after with weapons and harass Lung some more, kicking him around. Lung’s number is up…until a guy in a bird suit shows up! Yes, he’s supposed to be a real bird. He’s the magical Condor, and he’s come to beat these fuckers up and rescue Lung, flying away with him.
Condor takes him to see his master, who we know is cool because of the zen sun ray effect he’s given. Master Ku Hon-wan, the Wicked God of Fiery Cloud, explains that he’s blind, having mutually suffered that affliction while battling the Capricious Flying Ring, Suen Bik-ling, long ago. Ku says he will train Lung in kung fu.
Don’t worry, Suen Bik-ling is still alive and is the matriarch of the Kau family the two sisters are from (she’s their grandma!) We only see her in shadow now because she’s disfigured.
In the time it took for that brief scene showing Suen Bik-ling, Lung has mastered the Buddha’s Palm technique and can palm blast trees. He’s so grateful he goes to look for the cure to Master Ku’s blindness. Oddly enough, at the very same time, the Kau sisters are also questing for the cure. What are the odds? There is even two other random guys (one dressed in white, one dressed in black with paint on his face) in search of the cure as well. See, if you wait 30 years to go look for a cure, it’s going to get so popular you’ll have to wait in line.
The two random guys palm blast the sisters, but Lung blasts the two guys. The place their looking for is the Dragon Chamber – it looks like a jaw and the rest of the face is carved into the cave. The door to the Dragon Chamber opens and everyone runs in.
Inside is….a Yeti Unicorn Thing! And a Shaggy Bat T-Rex! This is the greatest movie ever!
Yeti Unicorn Thing can spit lasers that turn you into a skeleton – and does so to black and white guys. Their skeletons have the weird look that skeletons always have in these old school Canto wuxia epics, very off but still recognizable as a skeleton. The Shaggy Bat T-Rex is cool and flaps his wings and screeching like a pack of 3 year olds. The prize is two roots shaped like dragons sitting in what looks like a pond of foggy milk.
Lung blasts the Shaggy Bat T-Rex in the back, killing it and saving the girls. BOOOOOO!!!!! Then Lung jumps on the Yeti Unicorn Thing and rips off its horn, a fountain of blood squirting all over his face. This got oddly pornographic all of a sudden. And BOOOOOOO! to the murder of the Yeti Unicorn Thing! Lung and the Kau sisters grab the roots and a small golden rod and leave, but Lung is knocked out jumping to safety. The Sisters decide to give him the roots and rod as he did all the work and saved their lives, so they leave him lying unconscious with the prize. I’ve never seen a film where heroes leave other heroes abandoned unconscious in the forest.
Lung wakes up, washes off his face, and is now scar-free! It’s a miracle! That’s why you never see porn stars with scars on their faces.
Lung heads home, and encounters a guy named But Ku. They start arguing, probably because Lung can’t believe But Ku is somehow a name. This leads to them sparring, and But Ku using a circle attack. The battle makes them respect each other as fighters, and soon their are friends. But Ku even teaches Lung the invincible Seven Spinning Gash technique he uses.
Master Ku is cured! The root turns into snake and slithers away. Master Ku sends Lung to return the golden rod he took from the Dragon Chamber. While doing so, he runs into the Kau sisters once again, just as they met a creepy flute player who was hypnotizing them to strip off all their clothes! Lung stabs him in the face and the creepo runs. The Kau sisters don’t recognize Lung at first without his facial scars, which is not believable but whatever. He gives them the other dragonroot to use
Soon afterwards, Kau Yuk-kuen is walking in the woods and comes across a guy named Luk Yu, who is being attacked by some goons. She joins in to help him, and soon the pack of goons call in their bosses – a mean dude, a wizard with a huge goiter on the side of his cheek, and a monkey! We got monkey costume! This is the best movie ever!
The monkey is invincible to swords and disarms Kau Yuk-kuen, who is captured. Luk Yu begs for mercy. Luckily for him, Kau Yuk-wah and Lung arrive to save him and Yuk-kuen.
The goiter wizard turns a root into a Mutant Chicken Dog Lizard with warped Godzilla sound effects! This is the best movie ever!
Lung blasts dudes with the rod he got from the cave, which can extend into a dragon wand. People he blasts die and burn. Then he blasts the Mutant Chicken Dog Lizard and it burns…they actually torch the costume which is a good idea because it is frightening. Because it’s soooo weird! There are little animated skeletons that dance as it burns. That is an odd effect not used again, but I appreciate it. I wish I had the super power to project dancing skeletons as I burned, I’d totally burn my self all the time!
Kau Yuk-wah fights the monkey and confuses it with a blast to the eyes. Should have worn glasses, monkey! The goiter wizard battle Lung, and there is a cool scene where the wizard presses his neck goiter in and spits out lightning. This hits some random dude and he dies and his head turns into a skull and then rotates 180 degrees. I don’t know what was supposed to happen, but badly aimed head exploding magic that also gives your skull bad whiplash is not an effective battle technique. But it does make good movie drama… Mean dude surrenders and they rescue the captives.
Lung and friends go back to the Kau family home, where he confronts Auyeung Ho. The former bully is now showed up by the successful Lung.
The cure is given, and Suen gets her eyesight back. Instead of old person’s makeup, she’s wearing an old woman rubber mask (because her face is deformed in addition to her being blind!) One of the first things she sees is the skull fire emblem on Lung’s shirt. That’s the same flashy skull fire emblem Master Ku uses. It upsets Suen so much she blasts Lung!
To be continued…
Well, whoever said a good deed was it’s own reward must have never been palm blasted by an irate good deed.
Rated 8/10 (Putting Buddha on blast!, It is not good to blast me, dragon deco, dragon root, hypnoflute, skeleton death, fixing blindness, flashy logo)
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