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This Is Kung Fu
featuring: Jet Li, Hao Zhi Hua, Wang Jien Jun, Yu Shao Wen, and Zhao Chang Jun

82 minutes (15) 1984
Prism Leisure 55th Chamber DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Trudi Topham
Comedic English subtitles have become something of a cliché these days, but if you're going to do them, do them well. This is kung fu has done them excellently. What began as an interesting introduction to various styles of kung fu has, with the intervention of too-literal translation, become something wholly different. Now it's pure genius.

Alas, there are actually some fantastic examples of kung fu styles on display as the documentary This Is Kung Fu (aka: Zhong hua wu shu) travels around China, visiting sites of great historical importance to the evolution of each one. There is even a rare opportunity to see a (frankly terrifying) display of mantis style - rare because practicing it is banned in most countries. Don't worry because the fear is soon counteracts by a slightly strange old man waddling around like a duck. Duck kung fu is, we're advised, very rare. Considering it appears far more amusing than monkey kung fu, yet considerably less useful in a fight, I can't imagine why.

Thus the DVD works on two levels: for the viewer with a beginner's interest in Chinese martial arts, it gives a brilliant overview with clips of the greatest masters of the early 1980s, including a very young Jet Li. For the more casual customer, there are such subtitling gems as:

"Don't Bull Shit. Just watch!"
"The kneif [sic] is waterproof and strange."

And my personal favourite:

"This shitting position is very important."

If you're interested in martial arts, it's a must-have. There are people on this disc so flexible they will put even the most athletic viewer to shame. If you're interested in martial arts and haven't had a good laugh since Ninja In The Dragon's Den, you have to stop whatever you're doing and buy this immediately. And if you just like to point at foreign films and giggle at wacky subtitles, a fiver's not going to break the bank.

The only real downside is that the equipment and film stock used to shoot the documentary weren't the best available even at the time, so colours are a little washed-out, some areas are overexposed, and there's some focussing trouble now and then. It's aged to the point where it looks as though it was shot a decade earlier. There are no extras, but then you're getting all this for very little cash at all, so it isn't disappointing.

If there were options to select between 'literally translated subtitles' and 'intelligently translated subtitles', this would have scored 8/10. But it entertained me greatly, and that's got to be worth something.

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