9th Old School Kung Fu Fest: The Old Master (1979)

The Old School Kung Fu Fest is back and the Museum of the Moving Image and Subway Cinema will co-present eight newly restored films and one fan favorite classic by Kuo on glorious 35mm. Four titles will be available exclusively online, December 6–13, and another five films for in-person big-screen viewing at MoMI, December 10–12. 

To see any of these shows, visit the Museum of the Moving Image online or Subway Cinema.

The Three Dragons — Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao — remain enshrined in the stars of Hong Kong — and even world — cinema. They all were trained by Yu Jim-yuen, who also taught Corey Yuen, Yuen Wah, Yuen Tai, Yuen Miu and Yuen Bun. All of these men honored him by taking on his name as their own.

Chan spent ten years studying under Yuen and was even adopted as his godson when his parents left the country. In his book I Am Jackie Chan, he described Yuen as a brutal taskmaster: “Master believed in just three things: discipline, hard work and order. Discipline came quickly and painfully, measured in strokes of the cane. Hard work was the rule of the day – a few minutes of stolen rest often meant an hour of extra practice for any unlucky students caught slacking off.”

Chan may have thought of running away every single day, but he credited Yuen as being just as much a father as his biological one, saying “Charles Chan was the father of Chan Kong-sang*, Yu Jim-yuen was the father of Jackie Chan.”

Yuen moved to America, teaching martial arts and appearing in this one and only film which is worth tracking down just to see him in action. You have to understand that he’s 74 years old here.

He plays Grandmaster Wan, who has come to America to help one of his students who now has a school of his own. He’s under attack by other schools and in debt to gangsters, so Wan helps him by defeating each of the rival dojos. However, his student has been betting on the fights and hasn’t been honest, so Wan disowns him and takes up with Bill, an honest student who wants to learn kung fu from the source.


Man, between the Yellow Magic Orchestra cover of “Firecracker,” a discofied “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” and Patrick Hernandez’s “Born to Be Alive” this movie is nearly a disco film as much as it is martial arts. It has plenty of fights though, with Bill (Bill Louie, who was in Death Promise) taking most of the hard work on when it comes to chops, kicks and throws.

The best part of this movie is that Bill has learned his moves from a toy robot. No, I’m not making that up.

It’s also totally a travelogue movie and I’ve read a lot of reviews that say that this movie is a disjointed mess. It also has lots of corny jokes about how The Old Master doesn’t speak much English and how a larger woman is in love with him. You know, perhaps my brain is pickled from the many movies I’ve made it live through, but I found all of the incongruous moments of this movie made it that much more charming.

*Jackie Chan’s real name.

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