Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fight For Survival (Taiwan, 1977)

Fight For Survival meets all of my minimum requirements for a Polly Shang Kwan movie. Firstly, it stars Polly Shang Kwan, which... well, that would be pretty much of a deal breaker, wouldn't it? Secondly, thirdly and fourthly, it's cheap, goofy and fucking weird as hell. Yay!

So how do I address a movie like Fight For Survival? Do I give a plot summary, provide highlights, or maybe just show you 2 Girls, 1 Cup style pictures of my facial expressions as I watched it? Perhaps a combination of columns A and B will suffice...

In short, Polly plays a novice charged with retrieving a set of volumes stolen from the Shaolin Temple by a band of thieves masquerading as the respected Kung Fu masters who trained them. Before she can undertake this mission, however, her master must train her in all of the styles of kung fu taught in those volumes, one of which enables her to stretch her limbs like Plasticman.

This is a good thing, because the thieves, each of whom have taken possession of one of the stolen volumes, have mastered those styles as well.
Unfortunately, one of those kung fu styles also results in Polly starting to turn into a man, complete with a mustache.
Her master reassures her that this process can be reversed by the practice of another one of the styles, called Negative Kung Fu. Unfortunately (again), that style is covered in the one volume that the elderly master has failed to commit to memory. Rather than own up to this, though, the master instead chooses to fake his own death, leaving Polly to set off on her mission looking like a much cuter version of Robert Goulet.
Polly confronts and conquers the thieves one by one, ultimately coming upon the bearer of the Positive Kung Fu volume, who, having made the complete transition from man to woman, has found life on the other side of the gender fence such a burden that she/he has come to hate all men. She does take a bit of a shine to Polly, though, who, as is typical in these movies, is taken for a man by everyone around her despite her clearly appearing to the rest of us as being very obviously a woman.
Once all of the thieves are captured, providing Fight For Survival with an appropriate place for a tidy little ending, the filmmakers decide to tie up some loose ends that no one but them cared about. And so we get a somewhat confusing episode in which those aforementioned respected kung fu masters show up at the temple demanding that their errant disciples be freed. This culminates in a fight between Polly and the masters during which the masters employ a method that I can only describe as a kung fu conga line. (I'm sorry that I couldn't get a screencap of that, but the director wisely chose to not let the camera dwell on it long enough for anyone to appreciate just how screamingly absurd it was.)
In closing, Fight For Survival is a perfect example of the filmmaking art taken to its most exalted level. Love it, learn it, live it.

And the Oscar goes to....

13 comments:

houseinrlyeh said...

Of course they take her for a man, she has a mustache!
(At least the film bothers to explain the gender strangeness, unlike other films I just reviewed).

Why is the guy in the last screencap golden? Did Polly's master fake his death with the help of a mad metallurgist?

Todd said...

Well, you asked, so I will tell you. According to this movie, when one of the Shaolin Temple's masters dies, he is painted gold and put on display in a special corridor like some kind of cheap Buddha statue you'd buy in Chinatown. I am of course now altering my will to reflect my wish that the same be done to me.

You're right about the gender thing. At least the mustache is better than everybody suddenly calling a heavily made-up Ching Li "young man" just because the screenwriter said so.

memsaabstory said...

must...look...away.....resist............resis.................

Todd said...

Yes, see what you're missing? Bollywood may have its own Santo in Dara Singh, but it has no equivalent for Polly Shang Kwan!

memsaabstory said...

Just her name alone makes me love her.

Todd said...

As far as her name goes, there's a lot to love. The Hong Kong Movie Database lists this impressive array of names under which she was credited:

Seung-Goon Leng-Fung, Polly Shan-Kwan, Polly Shang-Kuan, Polly Shang-Kuan Ling-Feng, Shankuan Ling-Fung, Polly Kwan, Polly Shang-Kwan Ling-Fong , Polly Shang-Kwan Ling-Feng , Polly Shian-Kuan , Shan-Kwan Ling-Fung , Sun-Kuan Rin-Feng, Shang-Guan Ling-Feng, Shan-Kwon Ling-Fung, L. F. Shankuan, Shang-Kuan Ling-Fung

Uh, yeah, let's just stick with Polly.

memsaabstory said...

My favorite is Polly Shang-Kwan Ling-Fong. Something very rhythmic about it or something. She has as many variations as Indian actors do!

Keith said...

Let's not forget when she was a totally convincing man in Little Hero. Oh yeah where she could also fly with bamboo wings and fought a levitating octopus who attacked by squirting little levitating octopuses out its beak.

Todd said...

Yes, she really does make a convincing man. Much like I can make myself a convincing woman by covering the lower half of my face with a fan and blinking my eyes rapidly in a coquetish manner. Seriously, it works every time.

Paul said...

this movie also known as Lady Wu Tang

Anonymous said...

I remember watching this movie on beta. I could never remember the name and after years of searching here it is. Best kung fu movie EVER!!!

Anonymous said...

Where can I watch this online I'm 27 years old and the last time I watched this I was in about the 4th grade help me

Todd said...

This movie is available in its entirety on YouTube under the title Lady Wu Tang. http://youtu.be/A3nFdHjE-iY