Kung Fu Zombie
Ground Zero // Unrated // $14.99 // August 27, 2002
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted August 30, 2002
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When Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980) was a hit and bred interest in the supernatural kung fu comedy, the low budget independent Asian studios were quick to capitalize and foremost among this lot were two films, Kung Fu From Beyond the Grave (1982) and Kung Fu Zombie (1981) featuring Indonesian star Billy Chong. Encounters of a Spooky Kind is to Kung Fu Zombie, what Jaws is to Piranha or Great White. One is the refined originator; the other is the exploitative (but fun) imitator.

Billy plays a kung fu student, taught the martial ways by his hard hearted father. Billy made an enemy in a local wily sideburned thug, who Billy thwarted during a robbery and sent the thug to jail. Now, the thug has returned and enlisted a Taoist priest/wizard to aide him in disposing of Billy. Being a couple of geniuses, their elaborate plan involves having a couple of zombies push Billy into a pit of knives. (Why bother with zombies instead of using average Joes? Well, the movies called Kung Fu Zombie, not Kung Fu Human Henchmen.) Anyway, their grand scheme goes so wrong that the thug is killed instead of Billy, and now the thugs ghost haunts the Taoist wizard and demands that he be put into a new body. So, the wizard and the thug start to scour the mortuaries for bodies. They find a great specimen, but it actually is a deadly killer named Lueng- they mistook him for a dead body because he has killed so many people he is devoid of a soul. Lueng is an old enemy of Billy's family, and soon he tires to kill Billy in a battle that Billy has trained all of his life for, so Billy comes out the victor, killing Lueng. Trouble is Billy's dad takes most of the reward money and drops dead. The wizard and the thug try to put the thugs spirit in Lueng's body, but Lueng is so evil he turns into a vampire and madly roams the countryside feasting on the locals and ready to get revenge on Billy. So, they put the thugs spirit into Billy's pop, and poor Billy now has his fathers stolen corpse and a mad vampire to deal with.

Kung Fu Zombie is pure, cheap, unadulterated, stupid fun. It doesn't have good makeup fx. It doesn't have a great story. The comedy is pretty lame, and the fights aren't spectacular. But it is all so silly, the film comes out a total winner. It is only out to entertain, and it succeeds. From the Keystone Cops speedup of the robbery flashback, to Billy's best friend named Hamster, the thug ghost pinching prostitutes, the rampaging thug/Billy's dad corpse, and the vampire killer Lueng kicking a guys head off and drinking blood from the spurting neck. What more do you want for entertainment? The film succeeds on pure low budget charm, pulling off some goofy comedy, effective mood lighting, good molten corpses, and pure off-the-wall inventiveness.

Billy Chong's kung fu cinema career was a very short one. While a pop idol in Indonesia, his youthful good looks caught the eye of late 70's film producers and after a few minor/secondary roles he was soon the featured star of such independent notables as Jade Claw, Super Power, Kung Fu Executioners, and A Fistful of Talons. Despite his success on the minor kung fu circut, around the mid 80's, he abandoned the world of film and went back to Indonesia and a career as a tv star. The wizard is played by Chan Lau, a very familar face to kung fu fans from his various roles in Blind Fists of Bruce Li (he was one of the con artist kung fu teachers), Dragons Claws, 36 Deadly Styles and Fists, Kicks and Evils. Lueng, the vampire killer was played by Kwan Yung Moon of The Bloody Tattoo, Ninja in the Dragons Den and Dead and the Deadly. I'm pretty sure the thug was Kong Do from Executioners from Shaolin, Tattoo Connection, and Kung Fu Instructor. Director Wa Yat Wang was also responsible for Dynamo, Jade Claw, and Sun Dragon.

The DVD: Ground Zero. Part of their Blackbelt Theater line of fringe classics.

Picture: Widescreen. General wear and tear one expects with an old kung fu film. Mainly it shows the most problems in some of the night scenes where the picture is way too dark (I adjusted my brightness and contrast, which helped a little but some details were still lost in the darkness). For those used to kung fu transfers, the loss of color and sharpness are in the norm. My disc pixelated a little during one scene, but only briefly and it was fairly benign. All in all, I'd say it is acceptable; in the realm of GZ transfers it is actually a pretty good one.

Sound: Dolby Digital Mono, English dub. Standard bits off minor hiss and track distortion. Its the usual muffle of an aged soundtrack that was done on a scant budget to begin with.

Extras: 8 Chapters- "Lost" Trailers (15:35). Nice bunch of theatrical trailers for Raging Rivals, Enter the Invincible Hero, Dynamite Shaolin Heroes, Buddhist Fist and Tiger Claws and Dragon's Snake Fist

Conclusion: I love this movie and have been waiting for it (and Kung Fu from Beyond the Grave) to emerge on DVD. A cheeseball, late-night favorite. The transfer is weak but the price satisfies. I say if you consider yourself any sort of b-movie kung fu fan, you need to own Kung Fu Zombie.

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