Review: Crippled Masters
Do they still have tv like Kung Fu Action Double Feature? I spent many Saturday afternoons watching the worst of the worst Hong Kong martial arts, at or below Ocean Shores quality. In the 80s Ocean Shores Video flooded the burgeoning American video store market with cheap and worthless martial arts films, suppressing the desire for and availability of the good stuff for years. 1982's Crippled Masters would have been just another crapper if it wasn't also the most bizarre movie ever!
These two reviews will give you all you need to know: wak! bam! There's also one called Crippled Avengers but it doesn't feature a real paraplegic and a man born with no right arm and a small left flipper/hand. Oh no, it don't.
Crippled Masters has all the social cruelty, training sadism and misplaced maniacal laughter you expect, and it's definitely an unblinking exploitation of the handicapped, but these two men are also super handi-capable and working instead of feeling sorry for themselves.
When you see the one running with his hands you can't but think of Freaks, which brings up another point. Freak Shows (here's another) from the 1840s to 1950s were a travesty of cruelty but also the only way these people could both make a living and not be alone. When do-gooders shut down the shows for the sake of the performers they also took away their lives.
Crippled Masters features good fighting of the 1 stop, 2 stop, 3 stop school, which allows you to digest the techniques, and the armless guy is really good twirling a bamboo staff. The dubbing is good and nobody has an old west gunslinger accent. One villain looks like Yul Brenner and Tor Johnson and the evil master has an iron hump for a back and a rubber burn scar on his face.
The film opens with the one eventual hero getting his arms chopped off. It seems to hurt him for about 10 seconds. Don't you just quickly die from a loss of blood? The other one gets his legs burned with acid. Since there were no wheelchairs (I guess) the actor had crossed his tiny legs to get them out of the way so he could walk with his arms. The scene of him choking a man with his leg is unnerving.
The best line was "You again? Hmmm. Well, you don't seem to like living very much."
In 1992 The Residents produced a major work called Freak Show, and this line applies to a film like Crippled Masters, a film you see only once and you don't know what you should be feeling while you do:
Everyone comes to the Freak Show/ To laugh at the Freaks and the Geeks/ Everyone comes to the Freak Show/ But nobody laughs when they leave.