Jackie Chan's last film under contract to moviemaker Lo Wei is also his debut as writer-director. Basically it's a summation and exaggeration of all the elements that had made him a breakthrough martial arts star just one year earlier.
After failing to secure a job with an undertaker (Dean Shek) selling secondhand coffins, Lung (Jackie Chan) outwits a trio of cheating gamblers, then beats them in a comic fight when they try to get their money back. They in turn bring him to their master's failing kung fu school, where Lung bests
all comers while in disguise, since his ailing Grandpa Chen (James Tien) forbids him to fight. Eventually his fighting tips off the white-haired Ching general Yen Chin Wah (Yen Si Kuan) to his grandfather's whereabouts, and grandpa is killed by Yen.
A crippled stranger (Li Kuen) takes Lung under his wing and trains him in new kung fu styles. After Lung attacks the general in town and is soundly beaten, the cripple, who turns out to be Unicorn from the same rebellious clan as Lung's grandfather, imparts to Lung the tenets of "emotional kung
fu," and Lung first defeats Yen's three spearmen, then in an eight-minute one-on-one, kills Yen himself.
SNAKE IN THE EAGLE'S SHADOW (1978) had made Chan a star while on loan from Lo Wei to Ng See Yuen's Seasonal Films, and DRUNKEN MASTER (1978) for the same filmmakers had consolidated his success with essentially the same story. Evidently, the idea of a merciless old taskmaster who teaches his young
ward through physically torturous means struck a chord with audiences. It certainly did with Chan, who lived through a virtually identical scenario as a youth in Peking Opera school.
In THE FEARLESS HYENA, the comic brawling takes on Three Stooges dimensions, with Chan given the opportunity to mug shamelessly in drag and while disguised as a cross-eyed half-wit, coming across as something of a kung fu precursor to Jim Carrey. In an apparent effort to show his acting scope, the
final reels allow him anger and misery and sorrow and regret (not to mention another healthy dose of masochism), culminating in the final fight where emotional kung fu requires he laugh and cry flamboyantly while turning his foe upside down and punching him repeatedly in the crotch.
The choreography, whether played for laughs or straight, is intricate and entertaining, despite heavy doses of echo and reverb accompanying the grunts and thuds on the soundtrack. A snippet of the PINK PANTHER theme also makes a brief appearance. Several version of the film are currently
available, including a slightly abbreviated one with new, incorrect credits over a hacked-up intro.
A sequel, FEARLESS HYENA II (1980), was simply a cash-in project from Lo Wei, utilizing outtakes and scenes from the original plus assorted Ed Wood-like gimmicks to disguise the fact that substitutes were filling Chan's shoes for the remainder of the film. In this respect, at least, maybe Jackie
Chan was the new Bruce Lee. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1979
- Rating: NR
- Review: Jackie Chan's last film under contract to moviemaker Lo Wei is also his debut as writer-director. Basically it's a summation and exaggeration of all the elements that had made him a breakthrough martial arts star just one year earlier. After failing to se… (more)