Dirty Ho (1979) is another classic Lau Kar-Leung action comedy from illustrious Shaw Brothers studios. It’s probably not what you think it’s about.
The story revolves around the 11th prince of Manchuria Master Wang (Gordon Liu) trying to discover whom amongst his brothers is planning to assassinate him. To discover his would-be assassins, Wang disguises himself as an art collector and subverts jewel thief Dirty Ho (Wong Yue) into becoming his bodyguard and assistant. The always great Lo Leih stars as the evil general hired by Wang’s brother to assassinate him. Hsiao Huo makes a cameo as one of the many would-be assassins.
The fun comes from the fact that Master Wang does not want to reveal his identity, lest he be discovered by the assassins. Though he is a martial arts expert, he hides his prowess by disguising his technique whenever he fights. Wang sometimes utilizes innocent bystanders as puppets or will camoflage his movements through a seemingly mundane activity such as a tea drinking ceremony. These end up delivering some really fun non-traditional concept fights.
Lau Kar-Leung is one of my favorite directors, and this film definitely showcases many of the reasons why. Classically trained in Wing Chun, his action fights are typically grounded in realistic and traditional styles. The opening features his standard non sequitur action exhibition to get your blood pumping right away. He also showcases a few great weapon fights, including the first and only time I’ve ever seen the Mongolian Iron Bead Cape. Waaahhh? Yes!
The film delivers a ton of Shaw brand violence, and many unique fight scenes, and it’s wrapped around a unique and fun plot.