Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Summary: Anytime you die I will mourn for free.
There is no doubt that this movie was made because of the popularity of Drunken Master. It takes the same Beggar So (Sam Seed) inspired sifu named Old Fox in Simon Yuen Siu-tin (father of Yuen Wo-ping), who would work this character until his death, with a similar wig, outfit, and drinking gourd (after careful checking on several of his films I can safely say it is not always the same one.) He possesses an esoteric fighting style, though by this time drunken style is ubiquitous so it had to be something else say something like sleeping, with an extra powerful effeminate element.* Other similarities include the precocious yet misbehaving student (Wong Yat-lung) and some painful looking training scenes. I am sure you can guess the ending as well.
Reviewer Score: 7
This has one of those introductions where it sets up the film in its own little microcosm by foreshadowing the story in a non-descript background and freezes the action when the credits go up. I find these openings aesthetically pleasing.
I suppose this film was also a vehicle for Wong Yat-lung, though he would be done with films pretty soon. He portrays a street urchin known as The Kid in the English dub (no similarities to Charlie Chaplin) who steals to eat and generally creates mayhem. Wong is a talented little tyke. Obviously he has spent years training, most likely opera, because he is insanely flexible, can ride a very tall unicycle and can perform fast flips and a variety of acrobatic moves, though his punches do not look like they could hurt a parrot. He befriends an undercover cop Turtle (Leung Kar-yan aka Beardy: The Victim) who has a debilitating and bleeding injury caused by a master Chow (Eddie Ko Hung: Were Going to Eat You) whom he has evidence against though this angle is irrelevant to most of the film. Being a bad guy he has a great introduction to the story when he trampolines, which is hidden of course, into the film. An injured Turtle is no match for the master, but is luckily saved by Old Fox and his stunt double. Through in a female and possible love interest who always needs saving and you have a pretty good idea on where this film is heading.
This is a film I enjoy even with its myriad of faults. The plot is too simplistic with forgotten items like the warrant, an underdeveloped love story to an overabundance of the antagonists finding the protagonists in taverns. How many times can that actually happen? The urine jokes are overflowing. The humor is overly broad with hairy moles, a banana peel joke and the annoying trombone wah-wah sound. It has a hilariously bad backdrop on one of the sets, though the hand-held photography is fine on the outdoor scenes. But the action is overall quite good and the finale is fantastic. How cool is it to fall asleep on a corpse. While Leung Kar-yan is not a trained martial artist you would have trouble knowing that. He picks up moves quickly, which is why he was always a favorite of Sammo Hung, is not overly trained in one style so he is pliable for films where he has to do different shapes (styles) and he is in shape. Here he gets to use quite a bit of mantis fist as well as the esoteric and fictional sleeping style. Plus he has that beard which gives him extra strength Chuck Norris power (I think I have been reading too many Chuck Norris facts lately.)
This film was popular enough to warrant a very similar film the following year with much of the returning cast and director except Simon Yuen in The Thundering Mantis. It however is not a sequel as it is wrongly sometimes written. I prefer Sleeping Fist overall except for the appetizingly insane ending of the later movie.
The English dub soundtrack takes some segments from Alfred Newmans score on Airport. The Kid has one of the most annoying voices I have heard in a dub, obviously done by a female who is trying to modify her sound making it irritating and I find myself often wanting to see Wong Yat-lung beat up just because of it. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a Cantonese released version. I wonder how annoying the kids voice is in that.
Obviously this needs a better release than the Ground Zero VHS transfer to R0 DVD I have. The picture is full screen, it is blurry too often and only comes with the English dub. The extras are a Bonus Fight Scene from The Thundering Mantis (which surprisingly has good quality) with Leung Kar-yan, a music video and the Wu-Tang Clan Intro. Absolutely nothing about the film itself. The trailers are for Gangstresses, Blazin and Kung Fu Classics which goes over several of their releases. Now unfortunately I do not think there is a better non-bootleg version.
* If you have not seen the later released 1979 Last Hurrah for Chivalry check out the sleeping fighting scene which has an impressive performance from Chin Yuet-sang. This is one of those scenes I would like to homage if I was making my own film.