4 September 2004 | BrianDanaCamp
THE GUY WITH SECRET KUNG FU – Average kung fu tale with good cast
THE GUY WITH SECRET KUNG FU (1981) stars Meng Fei and Li Chung Chien as two anti-Qing rebels and kung fu fighters who frequently rescue damsels in distress, including one memorable boat fight at the very beginning of the film. Thugs try to board a boat carrying a pretty lady, raising a commotion which attracts the attention of the two heroes, fishing nearby, who leap onto the lady's boat and fight off all the thugs. The heroes are later captured but are then recruited to go after the Dragon Gang. This slim plot gives them lots of excuses to fight. There are some good villains, including Wang Hsieh as a corrupt official and Sally Chen Sa Li as the icily beautiful female head of the Dragon gang. A taoist monk uses his spells to turn a massive fighter (Cheng Fu Heng) into an unstoppable zombie warrior. Finally, the coffin maker's daughter (Nancy Yen) helps out the two heroes by teaching them Dragon Fist and coming up with the herbal mixture that will free the giant guy from his zombie trance. It all culminates in a series of major battles with the two chief villains.
The real surprise here is Li Chung Chien as Meng Fei's partner. He'd earlier appeared with Meng in THE INVINCIBLE KUNG FU TRIO, a lesser kung fu film (also reviewed on this site) from the same director, Joe Law. Li is a good-looking young actor who more than holds his own while fighting alongside Meng and one wonders why he didn't do more films like this.
The role of the coffin maker's daughter would have been a natural for a fighting female star like Angela Mao or Lung Chun Erh or any number of fighting femmes working in Taiwan at the time. Instead, she is played by a non-fighting star, Nancy Yen, who cowers and flees when confronted by the female head of the Dragon Gang. So the opportunity for a good female fighting sequence was squandered.
Still, it's not a bad kung fu film at all, with good location work and strong performances by the three fighting stars, Meng Fei, Li Chung Chien and Wang Hsieh, whose "toad style" is matched by the two heroes' "dragon fist" in the exciting final battle.