Awfully Good: The Crippled Masters
Where can you go from a Chevy Chase-voiced KARATE DOG? Karate amputees of course!
The Crippled Masters (1979)
Director: Joe Law
Stars: Jackie Conn, Frankie Shum
Is there a plot?A man with no arms and a man with no legs join forces to get revenge on the evil warlord who maimed them.
What's the damage?
Wow, I didn’t think any body part-based movie could ever top THE THING WITH TWO HEADS, but CRIPPLED MASTERS leaves TWO HEADS coughing in the dust. For what is probably the first handicapable kung fu film, CRIPPLED MASTERS may sound like a tasteless joke, but I assure you it’s very real and very serious. Well, as serious as you can get with an armless guy wearing a legless guy like a backpack as they tag team countless Asian henchmen.
A shot from the Japanese remake of DELIVERANCE.
Made in 1979, this is no modern movie where limbs can be digitally removed in post. They actually found real people missing appendages and taught them kung fu for this film. (I'm assuming they didn't already know how to fight because, well, c'mon…) Actually, that's not entirely true—the armless guy has a tiny nub on his left shoulder that's horrifying to see, but allows him to throw cute little mini punches and slightly grasp weapons. And the legless master, well, he had his legs burned down to the bones with acid, so I guess he still technically has legs, as useless and withered as they are.
"Well, that's the last time I shake hands with Cthulhu."
A lot of the movie could be seen in bad taste, especially the training sequences which feature their master (a strange old guy whose favorite pastime is hiding in baskets and scaring people) essentially beating up and embarrassing the handicapped in order to whip them in to shape. And since I don't think they had too many amputee stuntmen readily available, the actual stars get treated pretty brutally in addition to the aforementioned beatings. Small things like falling down hills or getting thrown in to rivers to fend for themselves.
Exploitive it may be, the fighting in this movie is actually pretty inventive and awesome. I’m going to call it Cripple Fu. Even though the two leads are missing major limbage, they can still kick some serious ass with whatever part of their body is intact. Ol' Johnny Two Legs has feet of fury and a nubbin of steel, while Upper Half McGee has the arm strength of a god and the agility of a muskrat. He's also not above using his horribly deformed legs to choke someone to death. (Best Parts below!) And when the two cripples combine their powers via human backpack like a disabled Captain Planet or handicapped Power Rangers, well, then they're pretty much unstoppable. Or at least as good as a normal person.
"Oh man, it's so hot. Thank God I'm wearing short sleev—awwwww."
Curious spectacle aside, the film does have plenty of enjoyably bad qualities. After the main character gets his arms cut off, instead of needing immediate medical attention or even bleeding at a normal rate, he simply starts walks through town looking for a bite to eat. (Not to mention the fact that everyone in China apparently hates the handicapped, as nobody tries to help him.) For reasons unexplained, the bad guy has a metal plate on his back, so his genius technique is to fight with his rear half, which means he keeps trying to back in to people in ways that would make Juvenile proud. And like with many fu flicks of its time, CRIPPLED MASTERS is also horribly, horribly dubbed and riddled with ridiculous sound effects. The dubbing can make it a chore to sit through the non-fighty parts, but stick with it—the end result is well worth it!
1) First they train…
2) …then they fight!
A little sexy nubbin.
Play Along at Home!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Someone gets hit by the nub
- The movie abruptly changes locations with no explanation
- The old man pops out of a basket
Double shot when:
- Someone plays Chinese hacky sack
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.