ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn
Inheritor of Kung Fu has almost as many titles as release dates. Possible alternate titles include: Avenging Dragon, Hero at the Border Region, Two Graves to Kung Fu, and Soul Collector. The film was produced in Taiwan and very little information is available. It is listed in several sources as having been released in 1977, ’78, 1983 and ’84. It almost certainly was not produced in the 1980s as by then, the Wuxia genre has all but died out replaced by high octane police stories and bullet ballets.
The version I saw from Martial Arts Theater was of poor quality. Even if it was restored and complete, Inheritor of Kung Fu probably wouldn’t make much sense, anyway. At least not in its present form. Rumors abound that the film was originally set to be two films shot simultaneously to take advantage of Ti Lung’s star power, but I haven’t been able to corroborate this with a primary source in Asia.
Ti Lung is the handsome hero who befriends a Princess (Chang Ling a.k.a Pearl Cheung) and her servant while on the road. Ti tries to help them battle off some masked bandits but ends up being rescued by the Princess who possesses Kung Fu skills superior to his own. Fans of Kung Fu cinema will easily predict things won’t stay that way for long.
Ti perfects his fighting skills while somehow getting in the middle of a few clans who are all at odds over a special Kung Fu manuscript. From there the movie takes a somewhat mythical turn. Supporting characters come and go doing strange things that have nothing to do with the plot while the lead villain disappears for 60 minutes of the running time leaving viewers to wonder if a more complete cut exists. The Wu Tang Collection’s YouTube channel is a slightly better print (link below.)
The fight choreography is good but a lot of the wirework is poorly hidden. The sets are bad and there are some serious continuity and technical issues. I won’t even mention the white guy who comes flying out of the lake during the last act with no prior mention of a reason such a thing should happen. You know it’s springtime when the white guys come shooting up out of the water.
Everyone involved with it should disown Inheritor of Kung Fu except for Ti Lung. What a trooper. Ti saves the film. He kicks serious ass and plays second banana to no one as was common in his Shaw Brothers films with David Chiang. He really has time to showcase his Kung Fu and rises to the occasion as a charming leading man. [Full disclosure: I’d watch Ti read from the 1977 phone book, so I’m biased.]
The Martial Arts Theater DVD release has a running commentary track with HK movie expert and author Rick Meyers and African American HK stuntman Bobby Samuels. The two don’t seem to pick apart the film’s plot either and Meyers failed to identify Pearl Cheung even though there are resources available that showcase her. They also refer to the main bad guy as “The Mad Korean” but upon checking another print of the film, there are no Korean names listed in the credits. Despite these inconsistencies, Meyers and Samuels offer some interesting information on Ti Lung, Hong Kong and Taiwan Kung Fu cinema and are overall very pleasant to listen to. If anyone out there has more info on this title or its production, I’d love to read it!