The Chi Sah gang… man I tell you. Leng Feng (Helen Poon) is minding her own business walking through the woods when she is stopped by Chi Sah chief number three Iron Robe (Lung Wei Wang). He politely steps aside letting the lovely Leng Feng know that he doesn’t fight women but the as she passes he tries to knife her in the back with his Iron Fan technique. Needless to say Leng Feng is a bit insulted but then to matter-of-factly quote Iron Robe ‘What do you expect from a criminal?’ Just one of the many nuggets of joy that the Shaw Brothers and director Chang Cheh brings our way in the neo-classic of horrific dubbing known as ‘The Kid with the Golden Arm’.
Apparently somewhere in the province people are starving and the benevolent Mr. Chan (Chien Sun) has secured a healthy amount of gold to help these starving people. Personally I think these starving people would prefer a healthy amount of rice and beans, but I guess the gold will have to do. But before Chan and his crew move out to deliver these goods one of his soldiers runs into the building, bleeding to death with an ominous message scratched into his back. This message was written in Chinese and my copy of this movie didn’t bother to decipher it for me but we can assume it said something along the lines of ‘you’re screwed’. The Chi Sah gang is on the prowl and they want this gold. The gang consists of the aforementioned no. 3 chief Iron Robe, number one Chief the near invincible Golden Arm (Meng Lo), number two Chief Silver Spear (Feng Lu) and number four chief Brass Head (Hsuing Yang). In addition to the chief’s, the bosses have the vicious Seven Hooks gang working under them to handle their lightweights.
Not to worry because Chan has his own lethal crew in best friends Short Axe (Shen Chiang) and Long Axe (Shu Pei Sun), the afore mentioned swordswoman Leng Feng… who is useless by the way… Leng Feng’s complete asshole of a boyfriend Swordsman Lei (Pai Wei) and finally the super smooth drunken style secret agent Hai Tao (Phillip Kwok).
With this phenomenally lengthy list of characters all laid out, it is time to make the perilous journey across the land to deliver this gold to the hungry people who really need food. Not gold. But we’re rolling with that.
Our man Golden Arm has less than zero respect for his adversaries, except for Agent Hai Tao whose ass he is really looking forward to kicking, and he knows the gold will be he his once he gets the urge to simply rise off his barcalounger and takes it from these hapless clowns, but one thing is really bothering Golden Arm’s near comatose mind. Where is the master chief of mayhem known as Iron Feet? Before Chi Sah took over the joint Iron Feet was the Head Man in Charge but then he suddenly disappeared. Surely there’s no chance he will make an appearance later on will he? Will he?
Agent Tao also has his suspicions as some of the traps that have befallen his crew on this journey simply can’t be laid at the feet of Chi Sah. It looks like we might have a mole in our midst… but who? Ah… we know who. But not really. It’s complicated. So complicated in fact that if you’ve seen ‘The Kid with Golden Arms’ it makes absolutely no sense. But then this is a movie that has the basic plot of armed guards taking gold bullion to hungry people. Take the gold, buy some food, give the food to the hungry people. Work with me here.
‘The Kid with the Golden Arms’ is like the poster child for Shaw Brothers kung fu cinema of this era. No, it’s not a classic like ‘The Five Deadly Venoms’ or ‘The Five Fingers of Death’ but it is loaded to the gills with all of the stuff that you would expect from a Shaw Brothers kung fu flick. For starters there’s the gawdawful dubbing which often leaves you wondering if the dialog coming out the actors mouths is in anyway similar to the what the Chinese actors were actually saying when they were filming this movie. Besides, who doesn’t love the dubbed sinister laugh? We have our sudden zoom in followed by a quick zoom out, the complete absence of even a hint of character development, with the exception of Swordsman Li who goes to great lengths to let us know what an asshole he was, and of course lots and lots and lots of kung fu action.
No doubt, this movie is basically slick costumes and non-stop kung fu action. From Golden Arms suede King Tut get up to Iron Feet and his diamond studded, extremely metrosexual head wrap, the costumes were off the chain. Iron Robe’s costume was also fascinating in that it was difficult to penetrate his robe with a traditional death blow causing his opponent to improvise his demise in a most unfortunate way. Most unfortunate.
But is ‘The Kid with Golden Arms’ a good movie? Oh hell no. Even if our actors were speaking in their natural voices it’s pretty clear that most of them are stiff as boards, the National Organization of Women should protest how useless the one female character was in this movie, and by the time we got the big reveal it made so little sense that it was almost as useless as Leng Feng’s sword skills. But then this was an 80-minute movie with 65 of those minutes dedicated to kung fu fighting so something had to give. Thus if Chan Cheh had to sacrifice a coherent story, decent acting and character development to squeeze in just one more fight scene… then we applaud his wise directorial decisions. And this is why we love ‘The Kid with the Golden Arms’ despite its completely unfixable flaws.