1976 was all about not just the Bicentennial. There was also King Kong for the mainstream and plenty of martial arts movies taking over the mind of the maniacs that showed up at third run theaters and drive-ins.
Let me tell you the story that King Kung Fu is all about before we discuss where it was made.
Jungle Jumper is your everyday talking gorilla who loves hats and can talk, which seemingly qualifies him to be taught karate. When he outdoes his master, beating him into oblivion for snatching a banana from his paw, he’s sent to the New York Zoo by way of Wichita, Kansas, where he’s now known as the Monster Master of the Martial Arts.
Of course, a bunch of TV reporters take it on themselves to free him, which leads the police — Captain John Wayne Duke and Officer Pilgrim — on a man, err, apehunt around the city. Meanwhile, our hero just wants to see the sights and indulge his passion for Pizza Hut waitress Rae Fay. If he has to beat up everyone in town, including a minor league baseball team, and climb Wihcita’s tallest building — a Holiday Inn — then he totally will.
While production began in 1974, the movie wasn’t finished until 1987. And it wasn’t made in Hollywood or anywhere fancy. It’s a regional Kansas picture filled with locals.
It’s not the best regional film from this area. I mean, that would probably be Carnival of Souls. Yet there’s great charm — and no small amount of affable stupidity — in this one. I mean, it starts by ripping off the Shaw Brothers logo and says, “Filmed in Simianscope.” That right there made me like this no matter what happened next.