Weekend Kung Fu Theater
When I was growing up, one of the local UHF stations (might’ve been Channel 20, Channel 45, or Channel 54, I don’t recall) near me used to play Kung Fu movies on the weekend.
My neighborhood was one of the last in the area to get cable, so I didn’t have 150 channels to choose from until I was almost done with high school. Of course, this was also perfect timing, in that my body was full of hormones, and for some reason, my parents had decided to go with Cinemax as a movie channel (without knowing of its reputation). Thus, I’ve seen more Laura Gemser movies than anybody has a legal right to see. Truthfully, though, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Emanuelle movies are like a giant fractal of Italian soft-core porn. But I’m digressing.
This is about kung fu movies.
Sunday afternoons were always a weird wasteland of programming when I was growing up. This was also before infomercials, so inevitably, time slots were filled with crappy Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Dragon Lee, and occasional actual Bruce LEE movies. Two standards that seemed to always be on were Master of the Flying Guillotine and Shaolin Kung Fu Mystagogue.
At the time, I really wan’t into kung fu movies. That bug didn’t bite me until about 10 years later. By that time, Sunday afternoon television now consisted of a billion cable channels, and informercials. No more Sunday afternoons were always a weird wasteland of programming when I was growing up. This was also before infomercials, so inevitably, time slots were filled with crappy Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Dragon Lee, and occasional actual Bruce LEE movies. Two standards that seemed to always be on were Master of the Flying Guillotine and Shaolin Kung Fu Mystagogue.. No more Shaolin Kung Fu Mystagogue.
Of the two, I’ve always been hypnotically fascinated with the title Shaolin Kung Fu Mystagogue. I mean, “mystagogue” is definitely not a word one hears used in every day speech. At least not in the circles I travel in. I mean, hell, I’m not even sure what a “mystagogue” is, let alone one versed in Shaolin kung fu.
In any event, I’d pretty much resigned myself to never getting to see this movie. It was released on VHS at one point, and, truthfully, I can think of about 100 other movies that have been on my “must see” list, ahead of it in line. But titles like Shaolin Kung Fu Mystagogue stay with you, gnawing at the back of your mind, tapping you on the shoulder, and bubbling to the surface when you least expect it.
Today, I was in Chinatown, in San Francisco, on a bit of a mission (unsuccessful), and happened to go into a store I hadn’t been in before. I glanced at a shelf full of movies, and, lo, and behold, for $3.99 – Shaolin Kung Fu Mystagogue! (Can you tell, I enjoy saying this title?).
I know what I’m watching tonight, now.