KUNG FAUX (2003) – Created and crafted by Mic Neumann, this half-hour comedy series was basically a hip hop version of old movies and television shows that overdubbed non-comedies with comedic dialogue, music and sound effects. In Kung Faux‘s case it featured re-edited and highly stylized martial arts films from the 1970s overdubbed with contemporary music and a hip hop comedic sensibility.
Though Kung Faux brands this treatment as “dubtitling” as a nod to dubbed and subtitled dialogue, the approach debuted on vintage television shows like Fractured Flickers (1963), in which celebrities would dub improvised comedic dialogue over old silent movies.
The theatrical release What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), Woody Allen’s overdubbing of a Japanese spy movie to make it a battle over an egg salad recipe, is still the best known of these ventures. Not even serials were exempt from such treatment, with my favorite example being Firesign Theater’s production Hot Shorts (1984) featuring items like Sperm Bank Bandits in which the comedy team inserted comical dialogue over old serials like Canadian Mounties vs Atomic Invaders.
There was also What’s Up, Hideous Sun Demon (1983) with Jay Leno and other celebrities editing comical dialogue into the classically bad monster movie The Hideous Sun Demon. Other such ventures included Mad Movies (1985), a tv show which would feature its comedy talent from the L.A. Connection overdubbing movies from the 30s, 40s and 50s, and A Man Called … Rainbo (1990) in which the early Sylvester Stallone movie No Place to Hide was overdubbed to make it a comedic sendup of Sly’s Rambo movies. Even the original Night of the Living Dead and The Blob have been given this treatment.
The program that would become Kung Faux originated in 1999 as an art project by Mic Neumann. He would expand and rework the concept until it debuted on the cable network Fuse in 2003. Though Neumann has continued to tinker with Kung Faux and similar dubtitling ventures the original 10 episodes from the show’s short-lived run have achieved iconic status among fans of audio-visual art, overdubbing and movie host programs.
Queen Latifah and Biz Markie are among the celebrity voices used to overdub the Kung Fu movies with hip hop dialogue, video game references and gangsta cliches for comedic effect. Neumann’s ingenious reediting of the chop-socky flicks is so tight and artistic that it anticipates much internet meme-work and countless online movie review programs of today.
Some detractors criticize Kung Faux for its overuse of words like “bitch” and “nigga” and admittedly the comedic value of such words emanating from the mouths of Chinese warlords and the like does wear a bit thin after awhile but what can ya do? The other humorous insertions and lightning-fast captions that pop up on screen are sure to make you laugh or shake your head with appreciation at Mic Neumann’s editorial hand.
There is also a clear fondness shown for the genre being lampooned, with captions which categorize the various styles of kung fu being employed by the characters in the films. But sometimes comedic names are used instead, like “Magic Tampon Dragon Style!”
As should be obvious, this show is not for all tastes, and the easily offended should steer clear.
Anyway, if you’re in the mood for some L.A. Connection/ MST3K/ Laraine Newman’s Canned Film Festival style humor but edited down into half-hour chunks check out some Kung Faux episodes.
I. Ill Master – The film Blind Fist of Bruce is dubtitled. Not the best example of the show’s humor but still pretty funny.
II. Boxcutta – The film being dubtitled is the Fei Meng version of King Boxer. This is one of the funniest episodes in my opinion. The combination black woman/ valley girl voices for the female characters killed me.
III. Pinky – Kung Fu Master gets the dubtitling treatment as the beautiful but deadly “Pinky Jenkins” (LMAO) battles a rival female kung fu fighter plus her underlings to find and rescue her martial arts teacher. Lots of Queen Latifah in this one.
IV. Mini Lee – The flick Bruce Lee We Miss You becomes the tale of a bi-curious martial artist.
V. PimpStick – Mack warfare at its most hilarious. I don’t know the original movie’s title.
VI. Honey Pie – Bruce Li in New Guinea is transformed into a cracker brawl fest in Alabama.
VII. Dirty Dee – The film Iron-Fisted Warrior is dubtitled and made almost coherent.
VIII. Funky Bottoms – A very, very youthful Bolo Yeung in Amsterdam Connection. The accent is on story over fight scenes in the most atypical episode of Kung Faux.
IX. Queenie – A dubtitled treatment of Life and Death.
X. Break Boy – Martial arts becomes break dancing as Bruce Lee’s Secret is dubtitled.
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