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Buddha's Palm
  |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |    
      "This always happens when I'm using the toilet!""

Derek Yee gets the point in Buddha's Palm.
Chinese: 如來神掌  
Year: 1982  
Director: Taylor Wong Tai-Loi  
Cast: Derek Yee Tung-Sing, Alex Man Chi-Leung, Candace Yu On-On, Kara Hui Ying-Hung, Lo Lieh, Shih Kien, Chow Gat, Chan Laap-Ban, Che Biu-Law, Cheng Miu, Chiang Kam, Goo Goon-Chung, Lung Tien-Hsiang, Siu Yam-Yam, Walter Tso Tat-Wah
The Skinny: Wacky Shaw Brothers fantasy-wuxia is silly and fun. It's also given to lame comedy and uninteresting characters, and the special effects are the pits. Great if you and your inebriated guests wish to imitate Mystery Science Theater 3000.
by Kozo:

It's fantastic that Celestial Pictures is going nuts with the Shaw Brothers releases, but that doesn't mean that every film is a God-given masterpiece. Take Buddha's Palm, for example. This wacky fantasy-wuxia is messy, silly and without any weight. The special effects are awful and the characters are uninteresting. And the story? Confusing and pointless. Yes, this isn't really filmmaking. Then again, the huge success of wacky spectacles like this is what brought about the onslaught of Wong Jing wuxias. Many, many old school Hong Kong flicks are cut from the same cloth as Buddha's Palm, and their once-peerless popularity begat untold wacky wuxias, countless kung-fu comedies, and finally Holy Weapon. The positive: people obviously enjoyed this stuff. The negative: Wong Jing made Holy Weapon.

The Buddha's Palm is a powerful kung-fu stance that shoots red palm-shaped thingies out of the wielder's hands. It was perfected by a monk (Walter Tso Tat-Wah) in the Cave of a Thousand Buddhas right before he died. Luckily, the skill was carried on by the monk's disciple, Flaming Cloud Devil (Alex Man), who attempted to wreak vengeance on all those who had wronged his master. However, he never was able to beat four other kung fu masters, and for twenty years has not been seen.

Until now, that is. When the dopey, disfigured Long Jianfei (future director Derek Yee) is dumped by lover Mingying (Candy Yu, in one of two roles), he goes all postal on her new lover (Goo Koon-Chung). During the ensuing fight, he's thrown from the Village of Twilight Mist (which is located on some misty mountaintop) to his supposed death. He's saved by Dameng, a weird animal that looks like a lion/dragon hybrid, but is obviously two guys in an egregiously fake-looking costume. Dameng's master is the now-blind Flaming Cloud Devil, who decides to teach Long Jianfei the Buddha's Palm. The reason: Long Jianfei is the first person who doesn't want to learn the Buddha's Palm. Alternately, it could just be because Flaming Cloud Devil is insane. Thanks to Alex Man's annoying performance (Man punctuates every line with one of those stagey "laugh at the heavens" type laughs), it's really hard to tell if Flaming Cloud Devil is a kick-ass kung-fu type or just a crazy old bat.

Like it matters. All of the above happens in the first twelve minutes of the film. There's still eighty more minutes of screwy fantasy goodness, which comes complete with not-so-surprising betrayals, bizarre and unexpected alliances, unfunny comedy (Dameng rips the pants off a bad guy), and loose and underdeveloped plotlines. The film also plays host to large birds, a big pearl, and minor moments of fake-looking gore. People jump all over the place like hyperactive monkeys, a flat Buddha made of mylar goes on the offensive, and Enter the Dragon bad guy Shih Kien shows up to attack people with his long strechy foot. Also, Lo Lieh appears as Bi Gu of East Island, another wacky kung-fu master who announces every appearance by yelling "Bi Gu of East Island is here." And to top it all off, the film is packed with annoying wall-to-wall narration that plays like Mr. Rogers on happy pills. Obviously, this synopsis will have everybody running to buy a copy of Buddha's Palm.

But there has to be something good about stuff like this. After all, Buddha's Palm was a massive hit in Hong Kong, and probably excited the pants off of impressionable young children worldwide. Because of that nostalgia, more than a few people will probably delight at the film's newly-remastered availability. They'll look past the acrylic paint special effects and annoying soundtrack by Casio because this movie reminds them of their forgotten childhood. If I were a five year-old in 1982, the sight of Long Jianfei wielding a lightsaber-like green blade would probably have been the high point of my existence. Also, the bright costumes, cool sets and nifty cinematography have their minor charms. Why stop there? Ninjas running in fast motion are exciting! Using lots of camera zooms is stylish! And Dameng is the coolest fake pet since Dagget of Battlestar Galactica! If the genre is "Screwy Cheap Fantasy Martial Arts Extravaganza" then Buddha's Palm is easily a classic of that genre. Those who love films like this: ignore all the bad stuff I've written about this movie. (Kozo 2003)

Notes: • When watching the film, it's best to use the Mandarin language track as the English subtitles follow it closely. The Cantonese script has different narration which the subtitles don't match. As a result, it seems that the subtitles occasionally skip some lines, but that's not really the case.
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Intercontinental Video Ltd. (IVL)
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Removable English, Chinese, Thai subtitles
image courtesy of Celestial Pictures Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen