This Kung Fu Movie is a Blast!
The best kung fu movie I ever saw, interestingly enough, was not filmed in the East. No Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan or Jet Li, or even Tony Jaa. No, it was an American movie filmed in the fifties, with high production values, American actors, and a plot that put the Eastern cinema to shame.
The name of the movie is Scaramouche, and the actor who out kung fu-ed the East was Stewart Granger. In the movie he plays a French commoner, who has to hide from a despicable nobleman, who becomes the toast of society as a clown, who becomes one of the best sword fighters in the world, who is elected to the French parliament, who…and it is all done smoothly, with finesse and fun.
In the opening of the movie Granger is sitting at a roadhouse swilling brew ski (wine?) with his brother. In walks evil noblemen, and it turns out that Stewart’s brother has been, oh horrors, passing out inflammatory political writings. In a bully of a duel, Stewart’s brother is killed, Stewart picks up the sword, and the games on.
Now, small problem, Stewart’s brother was the real fighter in the family, and he has been snuffed out by the count, so how can the weakling brother win? He can’t, and he manages to escape from the roadhouse by the cowardly act of running away. What he takes with him, however, is the determination to have revenge.
How do you get better than the best swordsman? You find his teacher, and have him teach you how to be better. Stewart then joins a traveling show and becomes a clown, and his name is…Scaramouche.
Through the country he travels, getting involved in all sorts of shenanigans, and Scaramouche manages to get fencing lessons from the teacher of the evil count. He practices diligently, driven by revenge, even picking up a girlfriend along the way. Still, when the duel comes, he is not able to beat the evil count, and so must once again run like a cowardly dog.
Distraught, beaten, feeling a bit down, he asks the teacher how can he ever hope to beat the count. Interestingly, the teacher says it is easy, you simply must go to the teacher of the teacher. Scaramouche sets off for Paris, and the teacher of the teacher, and, along the way, he picks up another girlfriend, becomes a notorious killer of nobles, and is elected to the French parliament because, doggone it, it is the best way to have duels and get away with killing nobles.
Now comes the exciting conclusion, girlfriends and plots unravel, and the whole French government threatens to come apart. Along the way we have thrilling duels to the death, methods of fencing revealed, and a plot that never fails to kick up a notch. So for the best kung fu movie, head west, young man, to the fifties and Scaramouche, and give up your rice and vegetables for Popcorn and soda, yowza!