Peter’s Kung Fu Corner: Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog


[Welcome to Peter’s Kung Fu Corner: a monthly column dedicated to retrospectives on the martial arts films I grew up watching. We’ll be covering all kinds of Hong Kong action films from Bruce Lee all the way to Joseph Kuo. Get ready to be introduced to some weird, wacky, and utterly badass films.]

The late 70s was a period of explosive growth for the Hong Kong industry. While both major players in the industry, Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest, commanded most of the attention from filmgoers, stars that weren’t enthused with the studio system were able to break off on their own and form independent companies to film projects. I’m simplifying a lot of this, but there is an interesting history of Hong Kong stars moving productions to Taiwan to get tax breaks and signing co-production deals with studios to retain creative control.

For as legendary as he is nowadays, Sammo Hung wasn’t always overseeing every aspect of the films he was in. While Golden Harvest was good to him after he left Shaw Brothers, he still wasn’t able to go quite as far as he wanted with projects until the 80s. Before that time came, he and fellow stars/stunt actors Karl Maka and Lau Kar Wing (brother of the famed Lau Kar Leung) would form their own independent studio to create two films: Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog, and The Odd Couple.

洪金寶 金像獎終身成就獎 功夫片|老虎田雞 (Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog!)|洪金寶|劉家榮|麥嘉|元彪|林正英|喜劇|8號電影院|粵語中字|MULTISUB|美亞|大鱷鬥蝦蟆

As you can tell from the title, this is about their first project together, the long-winded title that sounds like a parody of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but which was released almost 30 years prior. As the inaugural production from the newly founded Gar Bo Motion Picture Company (taken from Sammo and Karl’s Cantonese names), Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog is less experimental than you would expect from an indie film. It’s honestly a reasonably standard Kung Fu comedy that feels similar in vein to Drunken Master than what Hung would later do.

The plot is a whole lot of nonsense, but it concerns the plight of Tiger (Lau Kar Wing) attempting to exploit the oafishness of Frog (Sammo Hung) to steal his ‘Invincible Armor’ for his own use. While Frog initially loses the armor thanks to a con man (Fung Hak On) and his lady friend (Meg Lam), that’s not really important. In my research from watching tons of special features and reading essays about the history of Hong Kong action films, I’ve seen it said numerous times that these films have a lot in common with classic Hollywood golden age comedies. That completely checks out for this film.

Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog barely has anything to do with its plot and is more a series of Looney Tunes skits spaced out over 97 minutes. At times, these sequences are inspired, such as when Frog is beating people with a mallet and the sound effects aren’t the typical slaps and bangs, but the crashing of piano keys. Other times, the meticulous choreography that Hung is known for kicks in and you’re treated to some acrobatic heavy movements. It’s never dull when some kind of action is happening, but the basic dialogue and narrative gel feel at odds with the lighthearted action in between sequences.

Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog

© Mei Ah Entertainment

Why I decided to focus on this particular film is that I’ve heard almost nothing about it. In the early 90s, Hung would kind of revisit this basic premise with a contemporary film called Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon, but that movie has been well documented. The exact origins of Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog are practically unknown.

With the film being released in 1978, I have to imagine Hung and collaborators Karl Maka and Lau Kar Wing simply wanted to film a project on the side. As was common back in the 70s and 80s, actors would spend a few days on set filming one production, then move to another set for a separate but similar production. Hong Kong stunt actors could be working on five or so movies at once and would be called in when needed. If Hung needed someone for one day and they were unable to perform, why not film a side project while waiting?

Another interesting tidbit is how long movies used to play in Hong Kong. As I’ve heard from both Frank Djeng (contributor to NYAFF) and Mike Leeder (producer for various HK films) on different commentary tracks, the average showing of a film would be two or three weeks. It’s possible that Hung needed some extra money and that he wasn’t going to have a movie out for a month or so, thus Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog was born.

© Mei Ah Entertainment

I would love to track down the stars and ask them about this specific movie. The follow-up from Gar Bo, The Odd Couple, is much better known as it has some of the best weapons-based fighting ever filmed. There are certainly shades of that within their first production, but as I said before, Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog is mostly the same as other films from the era.

For its humorous sight gags and generally fun atmosphere, I would definitely recommend watching the movie. It also has possibly the least annoying comedic performance from actor Dean Shek, who was the go-to for being a creepy weirdo in these films. There is a lot working in this movie’s favor, it just isn’t exactly original.

That’s not why I started this column. While it would be easy for me to scrap write-ups on ‘bad’ or average films, that isn’t the point. I’ve owned the Hong Kong DVD of this movie for almost 20 years and I remember liking the film as a teenager. I can see why when taken on its own merits and without access to more than 200 Hong Kong films at my fingertips. In a modern sense, maybe I don’t need to own this film anymore, but then it’s not like anything about this movie sucks.

© Mei Ah Entertainment

One day, we might learn more about how this film came to be. Until then, we can only make assumptions based on similar trends from the time period. Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog is not a knockout classic, but it was important for solidifying the relationship between Sammo Hung, Karl Maka, and Lau Kar Wing. The three would continue to create smaller films together well into the 90s, which wouldn’t have happened without this.

If you’d like to read more of Peter’s Kung Fu Corner, you can do so by clicking here.

Peter Glagowski
Peter is an aspiring writer with a passion for gaming and fitness. If you can't find him in front of a game, you'll most likely find him pumping iron.