Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Crippled Masters

The Action Mutant…
can’t believe certain films are made….like this one.

The Crippled Masters

review by Joe Burrows

It’s funny; I would always pick this DVD up and look at it if I was in an FYE or something. I would glance at the cover and usually put it down within five seconds, going to browse another DVD in the process. One day, I noticed the $6.99 price tag and decided to give it a closer look. In looking at the cover, I finally noticed something: THE MAN HAS NO FUCKING ARMS! Seriously, I know I wasn’t paying attention but you would think I would notice if someone’s arms were missing, right? I guess it just shows me that sometimes, you CAN take the title literally. Well, it got my attention. Was it worth it?

The Plot, as it was:
Frankie Shum and Jackie Conn star as two members of a criminal gang that are betrayed by their leader for no particular reason. One (Shum) get’s his arms cut off with a sword, while the other (Conn) has acid poured on his legs to render them useless. The two eventually decide to gain some revenge and with the help of an old karate master that sleeps in a wicker basket (!), they team together and turn their handicaps into strengths to take on the villains.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
This is in the realm of cinema of such films as Freaks and The Terror of Tiny Town, where physical handicaps are exploited and audiences are either delighted or uneasy. Or both. TCM was actually inspired from a 1978 kung fu film dubbed The Crippled Avengers. However, whereas the heroes were crippled within the confines of that film, the Masters were genuinely crippled in real life. Frankie Shum was left with no arms (well, a nub for the left one) due to the drug Thalidomide and Jackie Conn’s legs were withered due to a birth defect. They only starred in three films, which all had to do with martial arts and their bodily deficiencies. The genuine handicap adds a definite curiosity to the film, which is otherwise pretty bad. The villains are nothing out of the ordinary (other than the leader having a supposedly iron back hump), the dubbing is expectedly atrocious and the editing is plainly obvious. The editing is very noticeable with the fight sequences involving the Masters, as they are pieced together almost move by move instead of the continuous five minute fights scenes with no cuts. Although the whole story may be a bit unsettling to some, I was honestly in awe when the Master’s fight sequences came up. Pieced together or not, the fact that they could do anything, let alone some of the very complex sequences featured, is a feat to behold. The rest of the film may be below par (ok, the wicker basket guy was cool) but its oddness factor and amazing fights proves to be worth even the slightest look. Revolted or inspired, at least you will say it was something different.

Body Count/Violence: 5. Lots of kung fu action, though there isn’t much weapon use along with it. No real novelty deaths, just the standard “body tenses up, make facial twitch, spit out blood and die” type of martial arts death. The damaging of the limbs make for the bloodiest scenes, though they aren’t too graphic (note how the blood disappears and reappears on Shum’s nub).

Sexuality/Nudity: None.

Language/Dialogue: Nothing much, just the kung fu standard “bastard” once in a while.

How bad was it?:
Most critics say it’s pretty bad, even with the curiosity value it carries. Along with the usual bad editing and dubbing, the exploitation element rubs some critics the wrong way.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
There is no information on what studio originally made this, as it was made in 1979. New Line Cinema handled its theatrical and video release in 1982, though there is no info on its box office stats. There aren’t even any credits at the film’s beginning or end! You can find it on DVD under Diamond Entertainment.

Film: *1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ****/*****

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.

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