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Spiritual Kung Fu
   |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |
Jackie Chan
Year: 1978
Director: Lo Wei
Producer: Hsu Li-Wa, Lo Wei, Willie Chan
Action: Jackie Chan
Cast: Jackie Chan, James Tien Chun, Yee Fat, Mo Man-Sau, Dean Shek Tin, Lee Kwan, Yuen Biao
The Skinny: Jackie Chan plays a Shaolin Temple flunkie who ends up embroiled in a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes—that is, if Holmes knew kung fu. Exactly why any of this requires Chan to be trained by five red-wigged, white leotard-wearing ghosts is anybody's guess.
Review by
     Jackie Chan meets five pale-faced, kung fu fighting ghosts in this silly supernatural whodunit from Lo Wei. The plot is textbook chopsocky: the Shaolin Temple faces its worse crisis yet when a shadowy thief steals the coveted Killer Fist manual. Unbeknownst to the temple elders, the manual has fallen into the hands of the evil Luk (James Tien), who hopes to reclaim his family's honor by declaring himself the new master of the martial world (yeah, what else is new?). Meanwhile, back at the temple, we meet Yi (Jackie Chan), a bumbling disciple of Shaolin, who spends more of his time cooking and cleaning than actually learning any marital arts.
     But just when it looks like the movie is going to settle into a standard mystery-style plot, Spiritual Kung Fu takes a wild turn as five ghosts appear, each adept at one of the forgotten animal styles: Snake, Tiger, Crane, Jaguar, and Dragon! Naturally, the accompanying Five Animal Styles manual once thought lost appears at around the same time. As such, Yi somehow bullies the spirits into training him from the manual in a series of comic exercises. But don't get too enthused by all the ghostly hijinks because the pugilistic paranormals effectively disappear from the narrative until the film's final act. In their absence, the movie resumes its Agatha Christie-like structure as a visiting Wudan master is found murdered on temple grounds and suspicion is cast on a kindly monk. In the end, everyone's problems are solved through violence and supernatural intervention. The end.
     Spiritual Kung Fu may very well amount to nothing more than low budget crap, but the movie has its moments. Jackie Chan's "nightstick" battle against Shaolin's eighteen Luohan pole fighters is pretty impressive, and the actor does exude the trademark charm and cheekiness that would eventually make him a superstar. But in the end, the film's herky-jerky plot and cheesy special effects are its undoing. I could take plenty of potshots at Spiritual Kung Fu, but really, it's too inconsequential a film to abuse. It's strictly for Jackie Chan aficionados. (Calvin McMillin 2003)

• The picture quality on the Columbia Tri-Star DVD is vastly inferior to the company's other releases. Besides some noticeable wear and tear on the print, the film is cropped, which severely disrupts the flow and framing of many scenes.
The subtitles for the Columbia Tri-Star DVD are actual translations of the Cantonese dialogue, not transcriptions of the dubbed track as is the case with many of their previous releases. However, roughly five minutes of Cantonese audio is missing, which is replaced temporarily by the English track.
The scenes of Jackie Chan looking for ingredients to his stew were reused for Fearless Hyena 2, a film that Chan walked out on before filming was completed.

Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video
Full Screen
Cantonese and English Language Tracks
English, Spanish, and Portuguese Subtitles

image courtesy of Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen