A spoiled daughter who wants to learn kung fu receives lessons in humility and legwork from the ‘King of the North’ (Dorian Tan). The pair team up in order to stop a revenge-seeking master of the ‘Ground Kicker’ style.

Invincible Kung Legs is a lightweight feature with laboriously drawn out comedic situations that fall flat and annoying characters made more so by cartoon dubbing, but director Lee Tso-nam delivers the goods when it comes to kicking action. Dorian Tan (AKA Delon Tam) generously let’s loose with his best moves while several of his co-stars follow close behind.

The so-called hero of the piece is a prodigal daughter of sorts with a chip on her shoulder named Phoenix (Ha Kwong-li). She’s asked to learn kung fu from kicking expert Mo Ku-fung (Sun Jung-chi), but despises his harsh training. She and Chin Pan, her mischievous servant say good riddance when he leaves to attend to his sick wife. Replacing him is another top kicker named Tan Hai-chi (Dorian Tan) who resumes training. Phoenix transfers her distain to Tan and their relationship sours until she gets mixed up with two idiot village bullies named Ding Dong and Dong Dong. Tan exploits the situation in order to humble Phoenix, who in turn agrees to be a dutiful student going forward. Focused leg training resumes until a vicious master of the ‘Ground Kick’ named Peng Fung (Peng Kong) comes looking to avenge Tan’s killing of his brother. Phoenix joins her new master in fighting Peng in a battle of leg mastery.

Lee Tso-nam is one of the better independent kung fu filmmakers whose skills lie in generally keeping the story and characters bearable while offering up superior martial arts action. But he nearly fails. There is nothing remarkable about the recycled story and the comedy bits go on for too long. Ha Kwong-li is an attractive and talented kicker, but she spends most of her time being a snot while her sidekick should have been killed off in the first five minutes for being such an unmitigated ass. Sadly he goes on being an ass by endlessly talking smack and backing it up with horrible kung fu. His only gimmick is walking around with pillows tied to his body and acting as a punching bag. Dare I even discuss Ding Dong and his brother Dong Dong? Tso-nam seems to have had a hard time deciding whether or not these apes should have good or lousy at kung fu. Initially they get the tar beat out of them by Phoenix. Then they get the better of her. Then after further training she gets back at them. The only thing that is genuinely humorous are a few choice lines in the dubbing. Kudos to those infamous voice actors who lay on the insults using odd accents. Its hard to say how much is translated from the original dialogue and what’s made up, but it’s worth a few laughs. The voice of Ding Dong sounds remarkably like Hanna Barbara’s Yogi Bear. It gets old quick, but at least they’re trying to spice up the otherwise routine situations.

Dorian Tan is right at home playing the straight man who ‘straightens out’ all comers with his powerful kicking. Despite the comedy nonsense which dominates much of the film, he delivers some of the best action of his film career. For a film meant to feature kicking prominently, there isn’t a better man for the job. He uses his left leg like a third arm. It disarms assailants, chokes them, or sends them flying. His fight with genre regular Chin Lung midway through and the finale match with Peng Kong are definite highlights.

In addition to Tan, the film includes a few other noteworthy kicking performances. Ha Kwong-li is amazingly dexterous and obviously has had extensive acrobatic or wushu training. Her kicks do not look powerful or exceedingly fast, but she moves with grace and precision which is good enough. Now the martial arts actor we should have seen more from is Sun Jung-chi, who is also the co-action director. This guy hasn’t had too many major roles in his day, but he has a particularly flashy way of doing revolving or cartwheel kicks that you rarely see anyone do on screen. Watch for one of the best examples in the film’s opening credits. Tan does plenty of leaping kicks, but doesn’t really do acrobatics so having Jung-chi spin around helps to balance out the legwork. But his character is woefully underused.

Judged strictly on the basic of action, Invincible Kung Fu Legs is a minor hit. The kung fu is relentless and contains lots of great legwork. Training sequences are short, but seem more plausible than usual. Tso-nam could have found better adversaries than the brothers Ding and Dong, but at least Peng Kong, all decked out in a flowing white wig is a worthy lead villain. Tan and Hwong-li make a good action duo. While not one of Lee Tso-nam’s best films, its still possesses a fair amount of entertainment value for classic kung fu fans.

REVIEW: Invincible Kung Fu Legs (1980), 2.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating Related Topics: