Royal Tramp (1992)
Director: Wong Jing
Tagline: Political intrigue, crazy kung fu and dick jokes
Set in the time of the Ching Dynasty, the movie begins with one of the eight leaders of the Emperor’s armies, O’Brien (Elvis Tsui), decapitating and otherwise fighting off an ambush from the Heaven and Earth single-handedly.
It turns out that O’Brien is lusting after power, so the young Emperor (Deric Wan) arranges a secret meeting with the other leaders in a brothel.
Cut to the meeting venue and we see Wilson Bond (Stephen Chow) wearing a tiger hat and telling stories on a char tower. Brothels in ancient China seem to be a lot different than those I have heard about today, here they are depicted as lively centres of social gatherings, illegal gambling and general merry making.
Unexpectedly, O’Brien’s soldiers turn up looking for rebels. Wilson ends up saving the rebel leader an as a reward he is sent on a mission inside the palace.
Due to a mix up, Wilson winds up applying for a position as a eunuch. He is saved from the chop just in time by head eunuch Hoi (Ng Man-Tat). Hoi has his own mission for Wilson however. Hoi wants Wilson to sneak into the Empress Dowager’s residence and steal a book, threatening him with the ‘Bone Dissolving Soft Palm’ if he doesn’t
While he is there, Wilson runs into a woman who he thinks is another eunuch and chases them to a reading room where he meets their friend. He doesn’t know that it was Princess Jian-ning (Chingmi Yau) he was chasing and the Emperor that he runs into, but he ends up
entertaining them so much that the Emperor writes an order for him to come back the next day and fight him.
Hoi is confused, but he agrees anyway and tries to teach Wilson kung fu while Wilson himself is eating a roast sucking pig and throwing watermelons at him. The only move Wilson actually learns is the ‘Never Fail Tit-seeking Dragon Palm’ (with accompanying ‘squish’ sound effect), causing much amusement for his new friends.
Of course, it gets much more complicated after this with Wilson becoming a triple-undercover agent after the Emperor requests his help to deal with O’Brien. The Empress Dowager is also suspected of being a fake and is very hard to get close to as she is very skilled in Kung Fu.
As I have seen a few Stephen Chow movies that are in a historical setting, I am getting used to the many characters, rapid-fire dialogue and complex plots of his movies. It may be difficult for some people however, so I wouldn’t recommend this film as the first his to see.
The Kung Fu action scenes are really great, the highlight being the fight against the Tibetan Llamas flying on cymbals. I also liked the flying banners in the opening fight scene.
The costumes were really great and made it easier to tell who the characters are if you lose track of the names (very easy to do in this movie.)
Special mention must go to O’Brien’s stiff wiry hair and beard. It rivals Lam Ching-Ying’s eyebrows in the Mr Vampire movies in terms of impact and also makes it very difficult to concentrate on the scene he is in.
As I mentioned before, if you have seen some of Stephen Chow’s more recent movies and want to see some of his earlier work, I would recommend seeing this movie. Expected to be amused, surprised and confounded though.
Bonus funny photos!
This movie is also available as part of the Stephen Chow Collection: Period/Fantasy.