Movie Review: The Crippled Masters (1979) – Film Masters Blu-ray

July 4, 2024

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

This is going to be a Grade-A fuckin’ nuts…

Just by looking at that title up there you can tell if this is for you… and if you will be offended by it, which admittedly I’m sure there’s something here to displease most… also this is (probably) the first review where I have to emphatically state that I am not a doctor, so I’ll have to describe… oh fuck this, here we go!

So 1979’s The Crippled Masters begins the way it should, with our main men strutting their bizarre, yet impressive stuff under the opening credits.

Here we see Lee Ho (Frankie Shum), a man with but one arm… but it’s incredibly small and contains only a few fingers… and let me tell you, this fella is dynamite with a bow staff. We also meet Tang (Jackie Conn), a dude with emaciated legs that, and I shit you not, launches himself from a skateboard to land backwards on Lee’s back… it’s as technically inept as it is astounding… and these are the opening credits folks… there’s also a (seemingly) rando yogi involved…

Anyway, about Lee… as the film begins we get an origin for our hero in which he has two arms, but they are cut off by a dude known as White… probably because his face is completely white… because Lee failed the local crime boss, Lin (think Cary Grant in period dress with a dubious scar, and even more dubious moustache). This definitely does not result in his obviously had-it-since-birth malady being the end result… but somehow it does.

Anyway, said punishment was supervised by Tang, but we’ll get back to him…

After some brutal humiliation, Lee flees to the countryside where he hooks up with a farming community and learns to make his disability anything but thanks to hard work disguised as a training montage.

Getting back to Tang, he displeases Lin too eventually resulting in acid being poured on his legs, making them emaciated and before long Lee and Tang both tangle, and eventually team-up to train under the tutelage of that aforementioned yogi (who has his own reasons for training our lads) in order to put a major hurt on their shared enemy! Ass whippin’s ensue.

What is at it’s core the most basic of Kung-Fu flick revenge plots becomes something to witness thanks to the acrobatic powers of it’s two leads, actual disabled folks who manage to impress whether simply doing daily tasks or unleashing Mantis style vengeance on every mother fucker that is foolish enough to stand in their way.

While things are status quo for a bit, I can guarantee you, you have never seen a man with unusable legs battle a man with a clown white face with the power of strikes from his mighty ass cheeks. But, here we are… the spectacle that will greet your battle-weary eyes is like nothing before or since… except for the previous year’s grindhouse opus Mr. No Legs.

Speaking of the grindhouse, I can only imagine the frenzy audiences on 42nd Street would have reacted to seeing this absolute lunacy on the screen, but I bet it was raucous… and lovingly seasoned with a unicorn’s whisper of bum piss… especially during the showstopper of a finale!

And seeing this film on Blu-ray (courtesy of Film Masters) makes it doubtless appear nicer than it looked on “theater” screens, and definitely better than on the shady VHS I first viewed it on with a relatively clear picture (with some blemishes apparent here and there) and sharp colors throughout.

As for special features present here, things begin with an audio commentary track by Will Sloan and Justin Decloux of The Important Cinema Club podcast who examine the film in an upbeat conversation from the fan’s perspective (with plenty of anecdotes and production info peppered throughout).

Following that we get a mini-doc about the distribution of Kung-Fu flicks in the U.S., a Kung-Fu film trailer collection (as well as a new cut of The Crippled Masters’ trailer along with the O.G.), a raw scan of the film (closer to the image quality yours cruelly first experienced it in), and a before and after restoration comparison that shows the incredible work done to restore the film.

Additionally, you can view The Crippled Masters in both it’s original Mandarin, as well as the always outrageous English language dub provided by our pals Down Under.

Also included are liner notes provided by disability advocate/film scholar Lawrence Carter-Long.

The Crippled Masters is absolutely must see, psychotronic Kung-Fu entertainment unlike any other, and this release treats the film like the undeniable wild classic that it truly is!

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