Royal Tramp I
This is an interesting film from Stephen Chow
though I am not really sure how to describe it. It is a fun film, but not
really a funny film. There are few big laughs anywhere and yet it was consistently
enjoyable and visually delightful. Chow is attempting to parody the kung-fu
flying films that were so popular at the time – Swordsman II, Dragon Inn
etc. – but he makes such an effort to have everything so authentic that
I think he got immersed in the visually spectacular scenes and sort of
forgot about the humor. Not to say there isn’t any – there is, but not
nearly so much as most of his other comedies.
The story takes place at the beginning of the
Manchu Dynasty and Chow is literally a teller of tall tales in a brothel
(he relates his stories from the top of many chairs stacked on one another).
His life soon turns into an Imperial version of “How to Succeed in Business
without Really Trying”. Let’s see if I can get this straight.
While he is in the brothel, the Manchu troops
come looking for a Ming rebel, Damian Lau, and Chow helps him escape and
thus becomes a member of their secret Heaven and Earth society. He “volunteers”
for an assignment to infiltrate the Forbidden City and steal a book that
will direct them to a lost Ming treasure. Chow stands on what he thinks
is the application line for household servants, but is in fact the line
for new eunuchs. He is saved right before his loss of manhood by the head
eunuch, Ng Man-Tat, who needs him for a secret mission – to spy on the
Dowager Empress, Cheung Man.
Chow soon bumps into Chingmy Yau, the Emperor’s
sister, who he thinks is a eunuch – as Chingmy thinks he is – but they
soon find out quite differently much to their delight. Through various
accidents as much as anything, Chow is soon being hailed as having great
bravery (of which he has little) and great kung-fu (of which he has none)
and soon finds himself a senior advisor to the Emperor and begins to forget
about his initial assignment. Wouldn’t you if you had Chingmy throwing
herself at you?
Throughout all of this there are some wonderful
kung-fu fighting and flying scenes from Tsui Kam-Kong as the evil general,
Ng Man-Tat with his deadly kung-fu stance and Cheung Man who is actually
a member of the secret Dragon sect. On top of this are the two Ming
female twins who are sent to both protect and keep an eye on Chow.
It is all quite fun and very sumptuous – lovely
sets and costumes – but again not really all that humorous. Wong Jing directs
this film in his usual fast moving manner with many lovely actresses along