Phantom Kung Fu (1979)
aka You ling shen
Article 5959 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Tso Nam Lee
Featuring Don Wong, Yi Chang, Chung-Kuei Chang
What it is: You can hear every gesture
A ruthless killer is hired to quell a rebellion, and he uses his “hands of death” power to do so. But can he be defeated by Magic Spiritual Kung Fu?
I hemmed and hawed a bit about reviewing this one. I’ve become convinced that movie Kung Fu has about as much in common with real Kung Fu as movie hypnotism has with real hypnotism, so a few unbelievable stunts won’t automatically net a review. However, about two-thirds of the way through this movie the ghosts start showing up, so that’s enough to tip the scales. The main review on IMDB claims this is the best Kung Fu movie in every department, and though I disagree in several aspects (the soundtrack is quite annoying at times and the English dubbing is ridiculous), I will say it’s one of the more enjoyable examples of the Kung Fu genre. It’s also relatively coherent for the form and the characters are well-defined enough that I can usually tell them apart. Yes, there’s lots of sound-enhanced gesturing, smoking hands, incredible leaps, and a comic warrior who does a lot of boasting and then fails to live up to his claims in a cowardly manner; the latter is never really effectively woven into the plot. This one is a little like a Japanese ghost movie.