HERCULES AGAINST KUNG FU aka MR HERCULES AGAINST KARATE (“MING, RAGAZZI!”, 1973)
Directed by “Anthony M. Dawson” (Antonio Margheriti). Produced by Carlo Ponti. Story by Luciano Vincenzoni & Sergi0 Donati. Screenplay by Antonio Margheriti & Gianni Simonelli. Cinematography by Ettore Papaleo. Edited by Mario Morra. Music by Carlo Savina. Starring: “Tom Scott” (Roberto Terracina), “Fred Harris” (Fernando A rri en), Jolina Mitcbell, Chai Lee, George Wang.
Despite its title, this flick is not a late entry in the peplum stakes, rather a transparent and tragically inept attempt to take off the successful Terence Hill / Bud Spencer comedy team, with Arrien as the hulking Bambino figure Percival and Terracina’s Danny standing in for the wily Trinity. The former is the accident-prone giant of the title, whose ignorance of his own strength comes in handy during those Enzo Barboni-patented slapstick punch-ups as our, er, heroes search for a missing kid, spirited away by a gang of kung fu kidnappers. There’s even a whitesuited baddy in the early part of the picture who recalls Donald Pleasence’s character in Watch Out, We’re Mad.
Unfortunately these guys’ wannabe act is sabotaged by fact that whereas Hill (aka Mari0 Girotti) is handsome and appealing, Spencer (Carlo Pedersoli) huge and charismatic, these guys are merely oafish and insufferable. Nor are they even slightly funny, which always tends to be a drawback in comedies, I find. The script does them no favours at all in this department, its feeble attempts at humour as broad as the checks on its protagonists’ loud sports jackets. The gag in which a hotel basement fight leads to repeated changes in the building’s thermostat setting neatly guages the film’s tepid level of wit, and there’s an abundance of regrettable “Chinese takeaway on a saturday night type” racist cracks (somebody please take ’em away!), witness the characters named Big Pong, Sonov Gun, Har Lot … there’s even a Fuk Yoo (only “Hoo Flung Dung” is, mercifully, conspicuous by his absence). Calling the villain-in-chief Hung Lo only reminds us how much better this kind of skit was done (if it has to be done at all) in Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). The tackiest gag of them all comes right at the oh so-welcome end, where “Hercules” is seen straining to pass pearls that he’s inadvertantly swallowed, but as Margheriti proves with this fiasco, it’s sometimes impossible even for a director of his legendary resourcefulness to salvage anything valuable from a pile of shit!
On the plus side, pictures like this and the director’s Stranger And The Gunfighter, from the following year, serve as a reminder of the pioneering part he played in bringing currently cultish oriental cinema to the attention of us white devils, and the extraordinary scenes (for an alleged comedy actioner) in which Hung Lo punishes incompetent henchmen by plucking out their teeth and eyeballs, to mount them on trophy boards, foreshadows Margheriti’s part in the subsequent Italian explosion of graphically gory horror, directing Cannibal Apocalypse (1980) and (just maybe) Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula (both 1973… a busy year even by Margheriti’s routinely prolific standards.)