Fists and Guts (aka Carry on Wise Guy) had 9 week run in 1980 taking HK $1,509,000. It was directed by Liu Chia-Yung (Lau Kar Wing) just after some successful Gar Bo collaborations in the late seventies with Sammo Hung and Karl Maka, including the Odd Couple and Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog. Both Liu Chia-Yung and Gordon Liu were later to team up again in Warrior from Shaolin (1981) before producing the epic Shaw Brothers work; Legendary Weapons of China (1982). In Legendary Weapons, many would argue that Liu Chia-Yung's fight against his Liu Chia-Liang is one of the greatest moments in Hong Kong Cinema, and certainly outshines this weaker offering.
For Gordon Liu, this was an early foray outside the protective bubble of Shaw Brothers, where he had achieved international acclaim 2 years earlier with 36th Chamber of Shaolin (Shaolin Master Killer). However, the cast was a familiar one, and explains why the chemistry between the actors is confident and reassured. Lee Hoi San had worked notably with Gordon Liu in 36th Chamber also with Liu Chia-Yung in Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog. The main cast was also graced with Lo "Five Fingers of Death" Lieh. Lo had even enjoyed better box office takings in the States than Bruce Lee with his early outings, and had a wealth of previous experience with the other cast members. He had previously worked many times with Gordon Liu before, normally in the end fight; see 36th Chamber, Dirty Ho and Clan of the White Lotus. Lo already had already worked outside Shaw Brothers (e.g. Born Invincible) and had established himself as one of the great bad guys (see also Mad Monkey Kung Fu).
Lo Lieh, master of disguise!
A young Mars
(Left to Right):
Liu Chia-Yung, Lee Hoi San and Gordon Liu
Gordon Liu (Ah-San) is searching for some lost treasure and he promises to cut in two good-for-nothing folks, Ah Yung and Big Pang (Liu Chia-Yung and Lee Hoi San) if they help him find the ex-servant bad guy and the treasure. Their adventure includes a trip to a leper colony, an Army Commander's mansion and a secret underground booby trapped dungeon! Lo Lieh plays the ex-servant who stole the treasure and decides to wander about in disguise in order to mislead and confuse his pursuers. I think Ric Meyers (on the audio commentary) is right, when he suggests this film has the most wigs in Kung Fu Cinema!
However, the plot seems to be going nowhere in places and it is a very 'goofy' comedy style. These films only exist after the slapstick success of Jackie Chan in the late seventies. The Liu Chia-Yung directorial touch for comedic scenarios is present: When Gordon Liu, Yung and Lee Hoi San are planning to rob a suspect (played by Mars - Jackie' best friend), they show how the plan should work and then re-film it with the unintended confusion and failure. This look at the difference between intentions and reality adds to the light-hearted feel of the film. This also occurred in Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog with the poisoner scene. However the set is imaginative, as it was filmed in Taiwan rather than the Shaw Brothers studios and it has elements of originality.
Butterfly Knives vs Spear
As Don King would say: "The Fight at Night!"
There are three sensational fight scenes in this film and little else of note. The first pits Gordon Liu with his butterfly knives against a spear fighter in a frantic but beautifully choreographed piece. It is a shame that these Ocean Shores prints are full-screen and it does not help this excellent sequence. The second involves Gordon Liu fighting where neither party can make any noise as it will disturb the armed guards outside. This fight shows innovation with both scenery and props that can stand alongside (and possibly influenced) some of Jackie's finest moments. The end fight against Lo Lieh is a 'no wigs barred' match as both reveal their true identities (as a Shaolin priest and Tibetan monk respectively. It is one of their best fights including weapons and unarmed combat.
The chain whip sequence is particularly enjoyable and shows why Gordon Liu has almost made that weapon his own (see also Shaolin Drunken Monk - uncut version and Clan of the White Lotus). It also has a jab at the training sequences of 36th Chamber when Lo Lieh and Gordon Liu have to fight their way through a series of head-bags. Sadly both Yung and Lee Hoi San have little chance to shine, and they have a tame fight against Gordon Liu followed by one of the worst moments in Kung Fu history when they take on leper kung fu!!!
The Tai Seng disc is reasonably well displayed and is constricted by the full-screen print from Ocean Shores. The dubbing was certainly done by the cast of Monty Python and once you have done the informative Ric Meyers commentary there is little else to get excited about.
This is a limp film that has some classic moments but way too much lame
humour and superficial plot. If the cast were a bunch of nobodies then
I would possibly not be so damning in my verdict. But the cast is truly
mouth-watering and it is inexcusable that such legends should have their
name associated to the 75 minutes of drivel that fills this film out.
Only Gordon Liu and Lo Lieh come away with their reputations partly intact,
but Yung and Lee Hoi San were utterly forgettable and much of the blame
points at Liu Chia-Yung's inability to fully utilise his cast. It is worth
remembering that 1980 saw such vintages as the Victim, the Young Master
and the Buddhist Fist and I would have to say that I would buy those three
before thinking about adding Fists and Guts to your Kung Fu collection.
End fight highlights
Chain whip vs sword