KUNG FU RASCALS is one of those rare gems you used to be able to discover with some regularity in the early days of made-for-video releases. Co-written, produced,directed by, and accidentally starring Steve Wang, RASCALS is a delightful parody of Chinese martial arts films with a spoonful of the Three Stooges added for good measure. What sets it apart from others of its ilk however,is the film's fantasy element which is made possible by Wang's mastery of his real art which is special effects and make-up. He has worked with the best in the field, Rick Baker, Stan Winston, Dick Smith, and his credentials include films such as EVIL DEAD 2, PREDATOR, ALIEN RESURRECTION, BATMAN RETURNS, and DEVIL'S ADVOCATE.
Of course Wang isn't the only one connected with this neglected flick to have an interesting resume. As you might expect, the other contributors to makeup and effects also have turned out to be successful in their field too. Eddie Yang has worked with both Academy Award Winners Rick Baker and Stan Winston. Some of his more recent Winston films have included INDIANA JONES 4, IRON MAN, and WAR OF THE WORLDS. He's done character design sculpting, painting, the whole schmeer, as has Norman Cabrera who has worked for Spectral Motion, KNB, Optic Nerve, and KNB, as well as Baker. His films include HELLBOY, DUSK TIL DAWN, KILL BILL, and X-MEN 3.
Perhaps the briefest and most interesting resume belongs to Les Claypool singer and bass guitarist for the alternative rock band Primus. You just never know who's gonna show up in these obscure flix, do ya?
The York Video release (which has been changed from the original film) begins with a narrator who informs us that once upon a time in a faraway land there was an evil warlord known as the Bamboo Man whose power lay in a strange item known as the Sunstone Map of Kowloon, which resembles nothing so much as a large gingerbread man, and as long as he retained the Sunstone the Bamboo Man was invincible. One night one of three noble warriors, Chen (Steve Wang), stole the Sunstone. As our story begins, the infamous mad monk Raspmutant is forced to break the bad news about the theft to the Bamboo Man who isn't very happy about it.
Our three heroes Chen Chow Mein, Lao See (Troy Fromin), and Reepo (Johnny Espiritu) are on a sort of quest to find the Power Most Big, a quest that everyone connected with RASCALS hoped that would take them into at least one more film, if not a tv series. In the meantime in THIS film Raspmutant has set the Sheriff of Ching Wa County (Les Claypool) after them. Eventually with the aid of his two fawning, effeminate sychophants (Dar-Ling and Ba-Foon) as well as a pack of ninja, the sheriff does manage to capture and torture Lao Ze in a rather amusing manner. But the big guy won't break. Of course not! He's a real hero with his own theme song and everything!
Well, I could tell you more. I could tell you about the witch, the cute little snake in the Old Wise Guy's hovel, and the battle between the two giant Stone Gods, or about the really good martial arts action! Honestly! These are the best fight scenes you are ever gonna see any make-up artist anywhere do! I'm not kidding here, folks. Steve Wang, Johnny Saiko, Les Claypool, and Moto Hata, who plays ALL the ninja who get killed, have all had some serious martial arts training and it shows. More importantly they know how to stage fight scenes for the camera. I can think of at least one well-known martial artist back in the 1970--80's who finally got a starring role in a film. The bad news was that he chose to stage the fight scenes himself and he had no experience at all in this area and the results were not pretty.
So in conclusion, in KUNG FU RASCALS we have a charming little martial arts/fantasy/comedy with some wonderful prosthetic creature make-ups down by extremely talented professionals on a shoestring budget, and at the same time some very impressive action sequences performed by people who are not primarily martial artists. All of this was shot on week-ends over a 10 month period on a $40,000 budget. Wang financed the film himself, ponying up half of the money on his own and borrowing the other half from his father. I truly consider movies like this to be little miracles. It's a wonder they ever got made at all. But I'm so happy that they did.
KUNG FU RASCALS: Written by Steve Wang and Johnny Espiritu Produced by Steve Wang Directed by Steve Wang Starring Steve Wang, Troy Fromin, Johnny Espiritu, Les Claypool, Ted Smith, Aaron Sims,Wyatt Weed, Matt Rose, Mike Deak, Mike Jolly CREATURE EFFECTS UNIT:Steve Wang, Eddie Yang, Norman Cabrera