Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Dirty Ho"(1979)d/Liu Chia Liang

It was a good week for pugilism at the Wop, as I not only procured myself a bag o' Shaw Brothers goodies for my ever-pullulating gung fu dvd collection while prowling the streets of Chinatown, but also made the e-quaintance of the dually tasteful she's who run the Heroic Sisterhood-The Ladies' Asian Action Cinema Appreciation Society page over at FB, a stupendous blend of words and visuals from all the martial movies and proponents I've found to be so very choice since before I tied my very first sash.If you dig tornado kicks and tiger forks half as much as I do, you'll support this duo wholeheartedly ASAP.It is then, with respect and honour, that I dedicate tonight's review to them, and also to the dynamic matrimonial phenomenon known as "Drennifer", as deadly as the tiger and stork when combined on the offensive.
Dirty Ho was a 1979 kung fu comedy hit for paramount genre director Liu Chia Liang, enlisting archetypal performances from such familiar faces as (Gordon)Liu Chia Hui, (Kara) Hui Ying Hung, Hsiao Ho, Yung Wang Yu, Wilson Tong, and the baddest of the bad, Wang Lung Wei, in creating a dazzling demonstration of Chinese wuxia subtlety flavoured with his jaw-dropping style of fight choreography, trademark training sequences, and tongue-in-cheek jabs at the superheroic cartoon-esque genre cliches that other directors were turning with frequency during this era.Up until the aforementioned fateful trip into Manhattan's Asian community last week, Ho had remained a much-coveted title that had frustratingly eluded me for the past thirty years or so.Better late than never, as they say.After finally focusing the glassies upon it, I can honestly report that it transcended my already high expectations, acrobatically vaulting itself into my all-time favorites list, it being no small exhibit of fulgent fights between three or more martial practitioners at once.Onwards!
Ho Jen(Wang Yu) and Wang(Liu Chia Hui) throw cash, trinkets, and fists around for the attention of the local brothelites.
A brothel in the southern province of Guangdong is visited upon by a petty thief named Ho Jen(Yung Wang Yu), whose vulgar flaunting of valuables is only matched by a moustachioed jewelry dealer named Wang(Liu Chia Hui), who surreptitiously jacks his stolen goods when the police raid the funky joint.The one-upped Ho attempts to strong arm the businessman, who's travelling the countryside to sample wine, women, and antiques(ah, the finer things in life), unaware his mark is the eleventh prince in succession to the Emperor's throne, in disguise.Unwilling to display his martial skills, Wang instead imparts them into a lute-playing courtesan named Tsui Hung(Hui Ying Hung), puppeting her body to easily defeat Ho and slashing his forehead with a superficial poison-dipped blade in the process, causing the wound to continuously fester(thus, the directly translated title "Rotten Head Ho").Wang offers to heal the lesion, in exchange for a vow of amelioration from his dirty mischievin' and loyalty to the disguised prince as sifu, manners for antidote, to Ho's dismay.Meanwhile at the palace, the despicably power-mad Prince #4 is in cahoots with General Liang(Lo Lieh) in trying to dispatch Wang before he can return home for the ceremony where the Emperor names his successor, despite Wang's obvious distaste for royal life.The first two assassins come in the guise of Fan Tian Kong(Wang Lung Wei) and his assistant(Hsiao Ho), posing as a wine seller who offers Wang tastes of exotic wines, each served in different extravagant vessels, all the while subtlely attacking him with his expanding fan under a gentlemanly guise, unbeknownst to a bored Ho, who's convinced the stuffy men are simply tasting wines.Wang takes out both Fan and his acrobatic servant, rationalizing their slumped bodies as "overly drunk" to his oblivious pupil.
Wang uses courtesan Tsui Hong(Hui Ying Hung)and her pipa to defeat ya.
...And the fights don't stop there, folks, nosiree.Wang and Ho encounter "The Four Handicap Devils" along their path, each assassin feigning a different disability(one pretends to be missing an arm, one is sans leg, one has a fake hunchback, you get the idea, all in jest towards Chang Cheh's 'Crippled Avengers' and the earlier 'One-Armed Swordsman' films of Johnny Wang Yu), but the tricksters are no match for Ho, who's been goofily sporting an enormous patch of Chinese herbs on his forehead.Wang also matches legs with an "antiques dealer"(translation:assassin) named Mr. Chi(Wilson Tong) who's got razor-sharp blades sewn into the soles of his shoes, and a host of assistants with dagger edges jutting out of the front of theirs.The incognito prince injures his leg, forcing him to tutor Rotten Head in his style so that the young man can further assist him in the treacherous journey back to the palace(cue:training sequence).Ho delicately balances oil lamps on his shoulders while kicking a wooden plank inside a box lined with lit candles(how's that for upper body control?), until he's forced to fend off the incredibly heterodox "Seven Bitters", a gaggle of miscreants that includes an effeminate makeup sissy(with the uncanny ability to turn his opponent mid-fight into... an effeminate makeup sissy, what else?), a fatso who absorbs the power from any blow, and a crybaby.Ho also pushes Wang via fabricated souped up wheelchair over a hilltop where the duo is set upon by archers-in-wait whose arrows are rendered harmless by defensive umbrellas(!!), after which the protagonists wheel through, with Wang striking and defending from the comfort of his martial Hoveround(!!!).The Prince and his student finally face off against General Liang and two of his henchmen in a brutal and breathtaking long weapons tandem battle, coming out victoriously.In the end, Prince #11 makes it back to the palace just in time for his father's ceremony, and Ho takes a freeze framed strike for all of his cheekiness.
Tasting wines with Fan Tian Kong(Wang Lung Wei) can be dangerous to your health.
The prolific Chia Liang(try 162 movies as action choreographer on for size!) would also direct two other films the same year: a sequel to his Spiritual Boxer, and the popular Hsiao Ho vehicle, Mad Monkey Kung Fu, which he also co-starred in himself, as Uncle Chan.Chia Hui has scored roles in 2010's Hot Summer Days and True Legend(review coming soon, woprophiles) most recently.Yung Wang Yu, also a favorite of Liang's, remained active in front of the cameras until 1994.I get a kick out of some of the titles he's appeared in over the years, such as That's Adultery!(1975) and Spirit of the Raped the following year.Gotta see both of those some time.The ever-villanous Johnny Wang acted in 94 films until 2002, directing 9 himself.His fight sequence with Chia Hui and Hsiao Ho is my favorite by far in tonight's movie, and another one for the always expanding "Best Fight Scenes Ever" list I've yet to compile.As for Dirty Ho itself, it's a fucking classic in every sense of the word.If you dig kung fu movies, you really need to see it.On the scale, a perfect four wops.
"You haven't lived until you've fought Dirty Ho...and then you're dead!"


achillesgirl said...

A wonderful review that really captures the spirit of this film! Glad you finally got a hold of a copy, and thanks super mucho for the kind words!!

beedubelhue said...

Anytime AG!


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