Viking Night - Shawtober September Part IV: Crippled Avengers
By Bruce Hall
September 27, 2017
When it came down to deciding what to cover on this, the last week of Shawtober September, I realized the event called for something special. I could only pick one more Shaw Brothers film to write about, out of the over two hundred available. It’s too great a responsibility to try and pick one and call it the “greatest”. That’s like deciding which of your children you like best (the oldest, obviously), picking a favorite color of M&M (the very rare “grey speckled” variety), or trying to name the top ten rock songs of all time without mentioning Led Zeppelin.
I knew I’d be better served by making a personal decision. I chose a film that I would not consider the “best” of the lot, although it does make my unordered Top Five (too bad there’s not another week in September). But out of that number, it’s the truth to say that Crippled Avengers is my favorite Shaw Brothers film in the department of “monkey poo-flinging bonkers”. If I attempted to describe the plot, you would assume it to be the dying screams of a crazed madman. Or, a doomed philosopher’s world-ending prophecy scrawled in parchment with his own blood.
You certainly wouldn’t expect it to be one of the most ridiculously, insanely fun action movies of all time. If I told you the plot, you’d think me mad.
So here goes. A wealthy kung fu master named Chu Twin (Kuan Tai Chen) returns home one afternoon to find that jealous gangsters have murdered his wife and maimed his son. Chu does what any decent kung fu master would which is slaughter all three of them on the spot, after specifically telling them how he’s going to do it. His fury is more than justified, as his wife was literally cut off at the legs, and his son’s arms were chopped off. Apparently more impressed with his son’s bravery than his wife’s shattered corpse, Chu immediately vows to build his son a pair of iron arms, and impart his full knowledge of kung fu to the boy.
This he does, and when little Tao Sheng (Lu Feng) grows up, he is awarded a sweet pair of iron arms. They even fire deadly ninja darts from the fingertips on command. I remember thinking, the first time I saw this movie, how great it would be to have ninja-dart shooting metal murder arms. Hilariously, I never saw the obvious flaw in my own logic. Also hilarious is how moments after receiving his gift, Tao begins expertly practicing deadly Tiger Style moves. This, despite literally just having been given a pair of arms for the first time in ten years.
It’s no laughing matter though, when Tao starts bursting bamboo trees in half with those cast iron meat hooks. Five minutes into the story and you’d be forgiven for feeling sympathy for Chu and his son. Obviously Tao is the Crippled Avenger, right? And he’s going to get a sidekick at some point, who is also a kung fu cyborg? And they’ll avenge stuff?