I’ve always been attracted to martial arts. For a brief time, I had even taken some classes; Aikido, to be specific. I rather wish I had continued.
But that does not stop me from enjoying movies with over-the-top martial arts and under-the-decent budgets. We’re talking cheesy, poorly dubbed/subtitled films from the 70s, and not your classics as might be seen featuring Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. Those are in fact good. The movies of which I speak to you today, dear readers, fall more along the lines of terrible.
I was treated to one recently called “Deadly Snail vs. Kung Fu Killer.” Days after watching it, to its end, I am still unsure as to what happened. And that’s the magic of it.
Underpaid voice actors or no, branching out on these really obscure, horrendously made movies can have its benefits, creatively speaking. Aside from the whole “it’s so good it’s bad” and “what not to do when making a movie” arguments, let’s step back and think of a different angle.
Consider this. As a round-eyed gweilo westerner, when I view asian fantasies (and by asian I mean usually Chinese, though I saw a Taiwanese doozy called “Magic Spell” a few weeks ago. Talk about a flying circus.), like these, I’m being granted a glimpse – however grossly distorted – of a culture vasty different from my own. There are certain manuerisms or even iconic characters that will occasionally make an appearance. The Monkey King is one, a legendary fighter with a mischevious streak. I’ve seen fighting manifestations of the five elements (Wood, Metal, Fire, Water, andWind for those of you unfamiliar), and even manifestations of Eastern zodiac symbols. Then, of course, there are random ones that took me completely off guard, like a sort of ginger/ginseng spirit, or a snail fairy.
Many of these figures may have ancient origins, but a fairly recent one is one Wong Fei-Hung. This was a man who became a folk hero in a way that we really don’t have in the west, or at least in America. I suppose we have Davy Crockett or Che Guevara (depending on you talk to), but even they weren’t legendary. Prominent, but not legendary.
Whether from Kung-fu movies or revolutionaries, one does not need to look far for inspiration when it comes to inventing one’s own folk heroes. After all, one people’s folk hero is another people’s terrorist/traitor/demon.