SPIRITUAL KUNG FU (1978)

Director Lo Wei (Fist of Fury, The Big Boss) was characteristically busy in the late ’70s, specifically with a pair of martial arts films he was shooting back to back in 1978: Spiritual Kung Fu and Dragon Fist. Both films ended up being shelved due to lack of funds, but once star Jackie Chan and director Yuen Woo-Ping came through with the rousing success of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master, Lo Wei found a golden opportunity to finally release both belated projects.

The results are yet another showcase of Jackie Chan’s singular blend of exaggerated comedy and expert stunt coordination, and the dubbed version made its way to screens in the west in the ’80s under the not-so-subtle title of Karate Ghostbuster. Much like how other successful movies paved the way for Spiritual Kung Fu‘s release in Hong Kong, Ghostbusters mania led to the film’s catchy English tagline of “Who you gonna call? Jackie Chan!” 

Featuring Yuen Biao and an intense final fight that pits Jackie Chan against James Tien, Spiritual Kung Fu starts out like one of those martial arts movies that feels like a couple different films mashed together. Part of it hinges on the disappearance of a dangerous martial arts manual and the murders that occur as a result, while the other is pure Jackie Chan tomfoolery. As martial arts masters drop left and right, Jackie learns new fighting techniques from a quintet of ghosts who each represent different styles. This is, of course, where he spends an entire scene chasing them around and, eventually, peeing on them. 

When he’s not training with ghosts and begrudgingly battling invisible enemies—which is apparently something the action star found particularly difficult, and was an aspect of Lo Wei’s film he didn’t mesh well with during production—Jackie puts on a real show sparring with monks in order to pass his final tests before setting out to wrap up the murderous loose ends and avenge his masters. Outside of the finale, his staff and tonfa bouts are some true highlights. 

88 Films impresses with their Blu-ray release of yet another Jackie Chan classic. Sporting a new 2K remaster of the Hong Kong cut from the original 35mm negatives, the 2020 Spiritual Kung Fu home video release comes with Cantonese, English and Mandarin DTS-HD MA mono audio options, as well as an alternate Cantonese DTS-HD MA mono track with different music. As has come to be expected from 88, this one looks way better than most of us have ever seen it presented, and the feature is complemented by a mix of new and archival bonus features, from commentary by genre experts to Korean version excerpts to interviews and English, Japanese and Hong Kong trailers. 

Distributor: 88 Films
Format: Blu-ray
Region: B
Release Date: 10/26/2020

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