Jackie Chan learns a lost form of kung fu from the most interesting group of masters in this old school kung fu film from director Lo Wei.
Yi-Lang is one of the naughtiest students at the Shaolin Temple. He is resorted to punishment virtually every day. However, one night while on guard duty, he is knocked out by a masked man, who steals one of the kung fu manuals and escapes despite the efforts of some of the fellow monks. The manual that was stolen is the Seven Deadly Fist style, which is believed to be the deadliest form of martial art. The masked man has stolen the manual so his son, Luk Qing, can study it and become the leader of the Wu-Lin martial arts clan, whose leader had recently died.
There is one style that can defeat the Seven Deadly Fist style and that is the Five Animal Fist style. However, the manual has been lost for many years. Until one day, a mysterious earthquake hits the temple. Five white ghosts with red hair appear and begin to wreak havoc. That is, until Yi-Lang finally has the guts to stand up to them. The young man learns that the ghosts are actually the Masters of the Five Animal Fists and Yi-Lang begins to train under them. While his kung fu improves, Luk Qing begins his reign of terror by killing all contenders for the leadership of Wu-Lin using the Seven Deadly Fist style. Will Yi-Lang be able to master the art in time to stop Luk Qing?
When Jackie Chan and director Chan Chi-Hwa made Half a Loaf of Kung Fu to add the element of comedy in the kung fu film, director Lo Wei found it to be absolutely ridiculous and had decided to come up with his own kung fu film with comic elements. The result is a film that has pretty dumbfounded comic elements minus one funny part, but makes up for it in the action department.
Jackie Chan plays the naughtiest student at Shaolin, Yi-Lang. His introduction scene is exactly a punishment sequence during lunch. His attempts to get food while on punishment are not too bad to watch. As a matter of fact, they tend to be a little funny. Where the film becomes dumbfounded is the appearance of the ghosts, which starts with someone bringing in a sparkler towards the camera to make it look like a comet and it looks absolutely terrible. James Tien looks quite good as the film’s villain Luk Qing while the film marked the debut of Wu Wen-Siu as Wu-Lin clan member Fong, who despite thinking he is a jerk at times, ultimately befriends Yi-Lang.
The ghosts themselves, which include Yuen Biao in an uncredited role, look absurd as it they look like rejected looks for Ronald McDonald. They even go as far as trying to strip Jackie’s pants down and when they hide, Chan resorts to going number one of them, which is just what is unnecessary here. The funniest part of the comic elements is when Dean Shek, using Taoist charms, is scared like hell when he sees the skeletons of his fellow disciples.
Jackie Chan not only starred in the film but served as the film’s martial arts director. Once again, this is where Chan delivers. Not only does he look good when doing martial arts, but he manages to make James Tien look good in his fight scenes against other opponents and even adds his co-star from Not Scared to Die, Wong Ching, in the mix during their climactic fight as Luk’s number one henchman. The ghosts resorts to doing some animal posing and rely on their acrobatic skills. The climax even has a nice little twist that really brings a little redemption value to the film.
Spiritual Kung Fu may have some unnecessary toilet style humor at times, but overall, it is not that bad of an old school Jackie Chan kung fu film. Yes, the ghosts look absurd, but the martial arts action itself heavily makes up for it in the end.
WFG RATING: B-
A Lo Wei Motion Pictures Ltd. production. Director: Lo Wei. Producer: Lo Wei. Writer: Pan Lei. Cinematography: Chen Jung-Shu. Editing: Vincent Leung.
Cast: Jackie Chan, James Tien, Wu Wen-Siu, Li Tong-Chun, Lee Kwan, Dean Shek, Ko Keung, Lee Man-Tai, Wong Ching.