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This is Kung Fu
AKA: Shaolin One "I see dead people!"
It's little Jet Li!
Year: 1983
Director: Zhong Yi
Writer: Zhong Yi, Yeung Chung
Cast: Jet Li Lian-Jie
The Skinny: While not thrilling entertainment, this documentary does provide a nice primer on the various styles of Chinese martial arts and even features some footage of a young Jet Li in action.
  Review by
Calvin
McMillin:
     So you don't know the difference between Snake Fist style and Praying Mantis? Well then, Zhong Yi's 1983 documentary This Is Kung Fu might be the film to watch. The movie takes a comprehensive look at practically all the styles of kung fu practiced in China, from Drunken Boxing to Tai Chi to Monkey to Crane. Heck, even the obscure Duck Boxing gets its fair share of screen time (No joke!).
     Besides giving a brief historical context for each fighting style, This Is Kung Fu features loads of martial arts competitions and staged demonstrations to keep the viewer tuned in. The pure athleticism and stunning acrobatic ability of the performers is nothing short of breathtaking, as each participant performs feats of strength, dexterity, and human endurance all without the benefit of movie magic. Sure, there's some painful looking stuff involving young martial artists that would probably garner a call to Child Protective Services here in the United States, but it's all in good fun.
     For HK film fans, Jet Li's brief appearance is probably the film's primary claim to fame. Li appears midway through the picture, once as a child and then immediately after as a spry nineteen year-old who spends his time training and eating dinner with his family. If the film is to be believed, Li's favorite dish is shrimp dumplings—just an FYI, folks.
     But, just as quickly as Jet Li appears, he exits the film, and it's back to the History Channel-style discussion of Chinese martial arts—informative, but not always compelling. And did the filmmakers really need to add "kung fu" sounds to the demonstrations? Trademark foley sound effects like robes rustling in the wind are acceptable within a fictional kung fu flick, but within a documentary, it's somewhat embarrassing. Otherwise, the film serves as a nice scorecard for the major schools of Chinese martial arts and definitely merits a look for fans of kung fu. Still, this isn't something a person would want to return to time and time again. This is Kung Fu, take it or leave it. (Calvin McMillin 2004)
 
Notes:

• Perhaps in a bid to capitalize on Jet Li's stateside flick The One, Ground Zero Entertainment changed the title from This is Kung Fu to Shaolin One for its Black Belt Theatre Double Feature series. The film is packaged on a single disc with Brutal Boxer and for some odd reason, includes some excellent letterboxed footage from Shaolin Temple tacked onto the beginning. Otherwise, the film is dubbed and presented in full screen format. The movie looks like bad VHS, and at a couple points it even blacks out as the audio continues running!
• The film proper includes scenes from Shaolin Temple and Shaolin Temple 2: Kids from Shaolin.

Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
Pan and Scan Format
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

 

DVD (USA)
Region 0 NTSC
Ground Zero Entertainment
Pan and Scan Format (Widescreen during the Shaolin Temple footage)
English Language Track
Trailers

image courtesy of Mei Ah Entertainment

   
 
 
 
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