Kung Fu Theater

From Academic Kids

During the 1980s, many martial arts movies appeared on North American syndicated television nationwide. A highly remembered Saturday afternoon ritual among children of the 80s, the popularity of these films convinced independent television stations to reserve an dedicated airslot for them much in the same tradition of "The Late Night Creature Feature". Many stations would promote this time slot with the interchangeable names Kung Fu Theater or Black Belt Theater. It is not known who coined these names or who began using them first. But they are universally associated with the low budget Kung Fu and ninja films produced by studios such as the Shaw Brothers. Other notable prolific producers include Godfrey Ho and Joseph Lai.

The term "chop-socky" emerged in reference to the many recurring cheesy or campy elements most often associated with these films. The often poor English dubbing and clumsy diction have become the subject of many a parody and many a fond nostalgic memory. The grunts and "hmmppphs" and "hm hm hmmm..." as well as the unusual pauses and voice patterns are almost trademark to kung fu movies. Commonly quoted examples of Kung-Fu movie dialogue are variations of:

  • "Hmpph...Hey you...I heard...your kung-fu...is pretty good."
  • "You call that kung fu?"
  • "Teacher!"
  • "I'll teach you!"
  • "Damn You!"
  • "I thought you were dead!" (This is, perhaps the one phrase most famously associated with "Bad Movie" dialogue and has often appeared in other genres. It might actually predate the Kung-Fu movie craze.)

The pronunciation of the word ninja as "ninjer" due to the diction patterns of voice actors many of whom were from the U.K. or Australia. The term "ninjer" has since come to refer derogatorily to individuals who style themselves martial artists or ninjutsu enthusiatsts but mostly draw from movie and fictional images of ninja as the basis of their knowledge.

Other elements commonly associated with the chop-socky image are:

  • Artificially sounding "whacks", "whooshes", "clangs" and "swishes" that are often dubbed into fight scenes to make them more dramatic.
  • The echoing "whack" and the slow motion that often accompany a final blow.
  • obvious looking wigs and fake beards.

For all their shortcomings in filmmaking, Kung Fu movies are generally fondly remembered as a source of purely fun escapist entertainment.

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