A lone man flees across the Chinese landscape while three armed pursuers hunt him down. He has news of the evil Yen (Sai-kun Yam), who has made it his business to bump off the kung fu masters in the area, and now he's seeking out Chen, one of the best. Meanwhile, young Shing Lung (Jackie Chan) has been trained by his elderly grandfather (James Tien) in the ways of martial arts, but the grandfather thinks there's always room for improvement as Shing demonstrates his exercise regime for him. This ends with the grandson standing on his hands with a bowl of hot tea nestled in his crotch while grandfather goes out to work, telling him he doesn't wish to see the bowl broken by the time he gets back.
Shing doesn't know it yet, but all this will stand him in good stead for the great big fight that will end the film, the first directed by Jackie Chan who by this time was well on the way to becoming the next martial arts superstar after Bruce Lee. It's cheering to see his imagination being brought into play even at this stage, and while nobody could accuse him of being restrained or subdued, he obviously already had his own style of comedy in mind. That's not to say that it's all broad laughs from start to finish, for there's a fair amount of tragedy in there as well, as the traditional Hong Kong cinema plot of revenge is very much in evidence.
Chan scripted and choreographed the action, which begins early and barely lets up until the final setpiece. After the serious opening which sees the messenger killed by Yen, the villain is forgotten about for almost half the film, and we see Shing getting mixed up with three conmen whose ball and cup routine he manages to beat and win money into the bargain. He is followed by this trio until they confront him on a country footpath, but they're more like the Three Stooges, both in acting and the way they are treated, humiliated by Shing when they try to beat him up as he turns the tables effortlessly.
One thing leads to another and Shing and the three conmen contrive to set up a kung fu academy after the grandfather insists Shing go and find a job (funeral director's assistant was not for him - who wants to work for a man who sells second hand coffins anyway?). But Shing has to keep his new line secret from grandfather as he's essentially using his learned fighting skills to beat challengers who want to see how good the academy's teachings are. This involves a disguise (and a cheeky use of Henry Mancini's Pink Panther theme), and at one point Chan even appears in drag, trying to avoid sexual harrassment from one hulking thug. As all this goes on it may cross your mind that Yen is still on the loose, and he is searching for Chen, who, you guessed it, is really the grandfather. And so Shing must take on Yen, for a climax that features some unusual techniques, including crying style and laughing style - you wouldn't have seen Bruce Lee sending himself up this way. Watch for the amazing chopsticks routine as well. Music by Frankie Chan and Hsua Chi Chen.
[The Hong Kong Legends Region 2 DVD has trailers and an audio commentary as extras.]