1971HKMDB Link Written by Joseph Kuo Nan-Hong, Tyrone Hsu Tien-Yung, Lin Yu-Yuan
Directed by Joseph Kuo Nan-Hong
The Evil Karate (鬼門太極) is a great Taiwanese kung fu fantasy with all the common revenge and secret kung fu instruction elements you need to ensure a simple but action-filled story. Taiwan’s martial arts spectacles focused on crazy action, and they weren’t afraid to have every character have a gimmick. This film is no exception, beyond every character having their own specific weapon, we have a lady who wears a snake (and uses it as a weapon), a guy who fights with a fishing pole, and everyone teleporting and zooming around in the trees like they’re flying squirrels. The not afraid to try new and fun things is part of the joys of Taiwanese kung fu films, and makes up for the often awful condition we have to view the treasures in. Even getting this in a subtitled print is a minor miracle, usually I’d be forced to deal with a substandard dub where everyone has a random British accent.
The Evil Karate is a mix of man-on-the-run/girl-fighter/revenge films, complete with a character whose talent seems to be getting everyone who helps him horribly murdered. Luckily, the villain is even more comically evil than you would think, and his pack of goons are pretty hilarious even as they die by the score. It is set in a kung fu fantasy world where people can fly, smash boulders, train at secret techniques from childhood, and evil gangs control vast territory for decades without anyone bothering to stop them except the now-grown children of people they murdered. But the real reason to bother with The Evil Karate doesn’t show up until almost halfway through the film, and that is actress Cheung Ching-Ching.
Cheung Ching-Ching was active for about a decade as a martial arts actress, kicking butt all over Taiwan in a variety of movies, most of which are either not available anywhere or only on beat up VHS tapes, bargain DVDs, and grey market specials. Which is sort of a shame, because she’s pretty good, and has a high-energy charisma that you want to see in a goofy film like this. The actress who plays the young Chen-chen (for around half the film) is also pretty good, and is really into all the physical work required for the job. I almost though this would turn into an Annoying Flying Kid movie, but thankfully we had a montage where she turned into Cheung Ching-Ching. Director Joseph Kuo helmed the two 18 Bronzemen films among his 63 films, most of which were done in the 60s and 70s.
No one does karate, evil or otherwise.
Chou Chen-Chen (Kai Pao Yu) – Little girl whose parents are murdered and is raised by Lo Tien Hung and trained for revenge. She grows up into…
Chou Chen-Chen (Cheung Ching-Ching) – The grown up Chen-Chen is now a master flyer, fighter, dart thrower, and kung fu girl. She kicks more ass by 6am than you do all day, unless you are also a kung fu girl who seeks revenge, of which we have several dozen as well on TarsTarkas.NET.
Lo Tien Hung (Shaw Luo-Hui) – Lo Tien Hung holds the secret of a jade manuscript that reveals the location of an awesome kung fu technique, and he gets many many MANY people killed over the course of the film because of this. If you see this guy coming, run away and take your entire family with you. He’s dangerous! Eventually trains Chen-chen to seek revenge, but not before getting the entire country murdered as the Seven Monsters seek him out. Shaw Luo-Hui is also in Ape Girl
Fisher (Kang Ming) – A fisherman who uses Fishing Pole Fu. The first time I’ve seen in used in film. Probably the last time, because Fishing Pole Fu isn’t very effective. One of Lo Tien Hung’s many dead helpers, along with Farmer Kung, Master, and Chen-chen’s family.
King Hades Yen (O Yau-Man) – Hades Yen is the Devil who gave Devil’s Gate the name. Often runs around with a gold face white hair. Leads the Seven Monsters Of Poison. Can survive multiple daggers shoved into his neck. O Yau-Man is also a big villain in The Dwarf Sorcerer.
Snake Lady (Kong Ching-Ha) – I never caught her character’s name, because the Seven Monsters of Poison weren’t granted names, only vague personality stereotypes. But she’s evil, has a pet snake, and is totally into poisoning people. Kong Ching-Ha also appears in The Eighteen Jade Arhats
Ghost’s Shadow (Gam Man Hei) – When the Seven Monsters of Devil’s Gate are incompetent, King Hades Yen outsources tracking duties to Ghost’s Shadow, who despite having a cool name also has cool tracking abilities. He’s like the Boba Fett of The Evil Karate. And like Boba Fett, he dies.
Hey, look, it’s ANOTHER Taiwanese film about a boy whose parents are murdered/mom captured and he is rescued and taught kung fu in a weekend and then he fights for revenge against a bunch of demons and he can fly and do all sorts of crazy crap. It’s almost as if we have seen this before. 9 billion times.
I think it IS the same story as Flyer of Young Prodigal, the names are the same (or same as they can be with horrible subtitle translations) and the story is the same. It is the same story, no question, it is just achieved in a different way. It even has similar groovy music. Now, Dwarf Sorcerer/Magic Kid was first, coming out in 1974 (or 1969 if you believe a few other websites), but does that mean it was the best? Keep in mind this is like being the best pile of dog poo.
Director Yu Hon-Cheung helmed such genre films as Taiwanese kaiju film Monster from the Sea, Pearl Cheung Ling’s Burning of the Red Lotus Monastery, something called Mysterious Snake Women that I hope is awesome if I ever find it, and the somewhat common kung fu flick Revenge of the Shaolin Kid.
So the images look terrifying, because of the poor quality of the print. But this is the only way to see Dwarf Sorcerer at this time, so you got to get used to it. And this still looks better than some prints I’ve seen of new films made by independent filmmakers, who somehow can make even digital film look like it was dragged behind a bus and set on fire. This print is probably just a VHS dub of a VCD that got transferred to DVD. That’s my theory, anyway.
Buckle up, as this film is rare and ridiculous, we’ll be going in depth and this will be pretty long. Maybe you should go pee first so you don’t have to get up in the middle of reading. We’ll wait. Doo–doo–doo–
You back? Good! I hope you washed your hands! Hygienic or not, here we go!
Siao-Lung (???) – Siao-Lung is a Annoying Flying Kid, making this an Annoying Flying Kid movie! NOOOoooooOooOOooOOOoo!!!! Sadly, Siao-Lung doesn’t die the horrible death he deserves. I have no clue who this kid is played by.
In-Hwa (???) – Siao-Lung’s mom gets locked up. Her crime? Being a mom! Also not being a willing participant in Evil Bad Guy’s House o’ Rape.
Sifu (Cheung Kwong-Chiu) – Do most Sifus get their students by rescuing them via giant birds? Because that’s what we got here. Cheung Kwong-Chiu is also in The Lady Musketeer, The Angel Strikes Again, 13 Worms, Bruce, Kung Fu Girls, The Legend of Mother Goddess, and the awesomely named Spooky Kookies.
Evil Bad Guy (???) – Not just bad, evil bad! That’s even badder than bad. It’s badder than the Power Glove. Evil Bad Guy kidnaps women, forcing them to a life of rape and servitude. He’s also down with polyamory–for himself only! Even look at another guy while dating Evil Bad Guy and you die. Funny, he also looks like everyone I’ve meet who is into polyamory. Evil Bad Guy’s magic and gang is brought down by a tiny kid.
Little Girl (???) – Another of Sifu’s students who follows Siao-Lung and thus gets into trouble. Siao-Lung treats her like crap, meaning he probably has a crush on her. Or is a jerk. Probably a jerk.
Happy Gorilla Family (???) – The Happy Gorilla Family are the best gorillas ever! They show up, started off evil as Dad tries to kill Siao-Lung (getting my good side!) but before Siao-Lung kills him, Mom runs by to beg for the life of her husband. Then they help Siao-Lung at the end, even suffering horrible injuries when they’re blown up. The Happy Gorilla Family us the Dwarf Sorcerer Theme as their theme song, and it fits goofy monkeys better than some annoying kid. The Happy Gorilla Family might also be known as The Alp.
Karth Devil (???) – Karth Devil is a yellow ape monster thing that shoots gas from his armpits and teleports and does all sorts of other nasty things. Because he’s evil. Can turn into a tree, a pile of hair, and into flowers. Because he’s evil.