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DVD Review: The Royal Tramp Collection

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Written by Fantasma el Rey

If you expected some sort of porno, as many people did when I mentioned my latest assignment, then look elsewhere. If it’s high-flying, Kung-Fu humor you’re after, then Royal Tramp and Royal Tramp II are what you seek. Putting the spoof on Kung-Fu epics of earlier years, “The Royal Tramp Collection” pokes fun at them all, turning a humorous glance on the visions of past masters. The plots aren’t so great, but the high jinks and mis-adventures of a kung-fu con man are what keep folks watching.

Royal Tramp stars Stephen Chow, (Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer) in the early days of his fame as Wei Siu Bo, a brothel entertainer (complete with goofy-looking tiger cap) with no real kung-fu skill, who is suddenly thrust into a plot against the Empress of the Ming Dynasty. He must use his con-man skills to survive and maneuver through the imperial palace. In the process of botching his assignment Bo becomes the servant of the Emperor and actually winds up saving him from an assassination attempt that reveals the Empress is actually an imposter and a leader of a rebel sect, thus setting the stage for…

Royal Tramp II, filmed at the same time as the first film, finds the plot thickening and the pace quickening as our boy Bo finds himself between a rock and a kung-fu hard place. The imposter Empress, Lone-er, is back and seeks revenge against Bo, who outted her as a sham. She is sent to protect the Emperor from a known threat. A problem arises now that Bo is not only a royal official but also a friend and kinsman to the Emperor. The story gets a bit twisted here, but the fun and wire-flying stunts are ceaseless. Bo is the Emperor’s right-hand man, and eventually Lone-er gives in to his con, allowing Bo to receives 80% of her kung-fu power (that’s right, 80%) and he is then able to truly help in the fight to save the Emperor’s life.

The big kick here and major jab at kung-fu films is the fact that it takes a movie and a half for the main character to use, in this case gain, his kung-fu fighting skill. Up to that point, Bo is simply a con who uses his wit and “powers” of seduction to get by. Yet the action and swordplay in these two films is fantastic and innovative, Tramp II even more so. Where Tramp I is filled with high-flying wire scenes set to mimic the stunning visual work of legendary kung-fu films, Tramp II has more originality and ups the spoof level like when Bo must fight against deadly hula-hoop-ring-throwing human puppets and must defend against a one-armed nun, which is a play on the one-armed swordsman movies, sent to take out the Emperor. The finish fights of both films have their moments of glory. Tramp I has its kung-fu magic and tree-trunk accordion while Tramp II has its sunset swordfight and burial-chamber standoff.

Again, both films are an eye-catching good time, especially as kung-fu film expert Bey Logan provides his encyclopedia-like knowledge on commentary tracks for both films. Logan is non-stop with his kung-fu-movie facts and knows just about all there is to know on the majority of the film’s cast and the meanings of the jokes and gags that the average fan may not realize. His brain set against the visuals is outstanding, and I’m sure true kung-fu fans will adore this two-disc set even more than I did. There is also a ten-minute interview with writer/ co-director Wong Jing where he tells of the film’s origins and explains the importance of class struggles in his lowbrow, humor-filled comedies.

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