Royal Tramp (1992)

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 01/07/2006

Chiau enters the Forbidden City as an undercover agent disguised as a eunuch, becoming involved in a complicated Ching vs Ming plot. Wonderful spoof of Jin Yong style wu xia pian, with manic plotting and martial arts. The action from Ching Siu-Tung is some of his best work, featuring wild and insane choreography that really brings the kind of supernatural martial arts skills Jin Yong wrote about to life. You also get Stephen Chiau being very funny - a great combination, and probably my favourite Chiau film prior to Shaolin Soccer.

*edit* after revisiting, part 1 is definitely the lesser of the two films - too much juvenile humour and relatively little plot progression. Part 2 definitely picks up though.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 12/14/2005

There is a lot to like about “Royal Tramp”. What distinguishes it for me from other movies both written and directed by Wong Jing is that there isn’t all that much to actively dislike. It begins with on target parodies of martial arts movie conventions, ends with a delightful and surprising final shot. In between it has Chingmy Yau being cute and attractive, Sandra Ng being funny and not unattractive (except where called for in the script) Cheung Man being gorgeous and a bit crazy and Stephen Chow being Stephen Chow. “Royal Tramp” escapes being damned by that faintest of all faint praise, “not bad for a Wong Jing movie”. It is actually pretty good.

Before the opening credits we are treated to a hilariously choreographed satire of the scenes of massed kung fu warriors in perfectly serried ranks marching while swinging flags. This battalion of fighters can’t quite stay in unison, are unable to get their red flags swinging in time with each other and can’t stay in formation—or even relatively straight lines. There is plenty of hopping around, lots of grimacing and enough missed cues to stock a large pool hall. The cinematography is perfect for such seemingly amateurish carrying on, since the camera swings away from developing action key points, pulls close-ups when long shots would work and generally misses anything that might be important or even interesting.

Immediately after the credits there is a scene between the Emperor and a confidant which, while setting the scene for this movie, also sends up the complicated and wordy expositions that are featured in so many of the movies that we love. The two of them take turns describing every bit of palace intrigue and double-dealing that has led to the present situation, volleying lines back and forth like tennis players. The scene ends with the Emperor admonishing his aide to remember that anyone who knows about their plans, with only a few exceptions, must be killed.

While Stephen Chow as Wilson Bond is introduced as a long winded and unwelcome storyteller in his sister’s brothel—apparently listening to Bond lie about adventures he has never had is part of the price of admission—some of his best scenes specifically reference other movies and other heroes. One in particular occurs as he balances on top of a teetering stack of chairs, recalling a lot of scenes in which the hero either had to rescue someone on a deadly scaffold or has to fight while perched on a makeshift apparatus, the type of thing that Jet Li or Jackie Chan do regularly. Putting it inside and using chairs rather than the more usual railroad tie sized timbers or forty foot long ladders domesticates the image and makes it a bit ridiculous.

Elvis Tsui is all but unrecognizable as the super villain O’Brian. The wig and make-up people must have had a great time transforming him with white hair and beard that looks as if it had been spun from steel wool and shaped into a spiky frame for his face. With such a get up he had to play everything over the top and he looked as if he was having a good time doing so. The luscious Cheung Man has the pivotal role of the Divine Lady of the Dragon Sect disguised as the Dowager Empress. Wilson Bond discovers the subterfuge—it must have been one hell of a disguise, since both her son and daughter, the Emperor and Princess King Ning (Chingmy Yau) were fooled. Bond’s discovery and disclosure of the true identity of the imposter (the fate of the Dowager Empress isn’t revealed or if it is I missed it) makes possible the last sequence which wraps up all the loose ends of the story—yet another satiric glance at a very common device in Hong Kong film. It also creates the basis for the sequel and does so more creatively than the more typical “end it in the middle of things” fashion of a lot of movies. After the Divine Lady escapes she is shown one last time, looking seductively over her red cape—but she has become Bridgette Lin. It took a beat to realize that there had been a switch.

“Royal Tramp” works on a lot of levels and the typical Wong Jing excess—there are a lot of penis jokes—are easy to ignore.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/17/2005

Stephen Chow plays his usual ne'er-do-well character, this time a comedian named Wilson Bond, who makes his living telling tales in his sister's (Sandra Ng) brothel. A group of rebels are using the brothel as a meeting place, and when the Manchus attack to destroy the rebellion, Chow saves the leader (Damian Lau), who then intitiates him into the group. Chow's first mission is to infiltrate the Forbidden City as a servant in order to steal a series of books which reveal the location of a Manchu treasure. Upon entering the compound, Chow mistakenly becomes a eunuch (but somehow manages to save his "little Stephen") under the tutelage of wily Ng Man-Tat. Tat also wants the Manchu treasure, and so sends Stephen into the emperor's chambers, where he manages to convince the emperor and his sister (Chingmy Yau) that he is a kung-fu master, and so the emperor gives Stephen yet another task -- to kill a general named O'Brian (Elvis Tsui) who is plotting a revolution of his own.

Well, as you can probably tell, Royal Tramp has the usual Wong Jing "kitchen sink" plot and can become more than a bit confusing at times. It's also extremely violent in parts -- O'Brian likes to literally rip his opponents apart -- and of course, there is the requisite Wong Jing toilet humor (there is a running joke where Tat confuses Stephen with his long-lost penis). Despite its' schizophrenic style, though, Royal Tramp is still a very entertaining movie, mostly due to Stephen Chow's performance. Royal Tramp isn't as funny as some of Chow's other films, but it still generates a good amount of laughs, especially if you have seen a few of the movies which this film parodies (one sequence is a really dead-on jab at the Once Upon a Time in China series, including a re-worked version of "The General's Orders"). Combined with some decent action sequences and a lot of eye candy from Chingmy Yau and Cheung Man (who -- in the wacky world of Hong Kong movies -- plays Chingmy's mother, even though she looks to be only a couple of years older than her), Royal Tramp has the makings for a innocuous way to kill ninety minutes.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 12/18/2002
Summary: Excellent nonsense comedy

Love this movie, especially the part when Chow eats a roasted whole pig while Ng Man Tat practices wu gong. One of my favorite movies, but the sequel is superior.


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 04/21/2002
Summary: Good

Royal Tramp, as many may know, is based on a novel that had been turned into a movie & a big TV series before this commercial feature length film. Is this any better that those? Well…yes, in a way.

Obviously you have a reasonably interesting story going on here, and the comedy element from Stephen Chow works well in this Stephen Shiu/Wong Jing production. The comedy is pretty good most of this time, and once again Chow is teamed up with his great comedy partner, Sandra Ng (though not for long)! Those 2 always made the best comedy couple on the HK screens I would say. Why oh why was Sharla Chung put in this I will never understand. Ng Man Tat, Damian Lau and also Elvis Tsui help this film go with a good flow that most people could watch quite easily.

Another film not to be taken serious by any means, it’s nonsense comedy again (with some very stupid scenes), but one of the more enjoyable Stephen Chow/Wong Jing pictures. But part 2 though is another story, and not very good as I remember. But I will be watching that one again soon, so I will see if I feel any different when I do see that one again.

This was always bound to big, as this was released in the months running up to Christmas in ’92, with part 2 being released just months later at Christmas.


Rating: [4/5]

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

I watched this movie a while ago and really liked it. Then I read the Louis Cha novel much of the plot is based on, and rewatched the film - that was quite the eye opener! I had never realized how much we in the west are missing in these movies, not being familiar with the language and the source material...

Anyway, on with the review: Stephen Chow plays Wei Siu-Bo, a smooth talker who grew up in a brothel and who by accident becomes involved in the resistance movement: He joins triads who are opposed to the Manchus and are trying to restore the Ming dynasty. Ordered by his triad sifu to go undercover into the Forbidden City to steal a book, he accidentally goes into the lineup for people applying to be a eunuch instead of people applying to be a regular servant. From here on in, he becomes involved in a comedy of errors, pretending to be a eunuch, becoming a double agent for both the triads and the emporer, flirting with any woman in sight (and there are plenty of gorgeous ones in this movie, including Chingmy Yau, Cheung Man, Fennie Yuen, as well as Michelle Reis and Brigitte Lin in part 2) and fighting against the Empress Dowager, who may not be what she seems, and one of the ministers, played by Elvis Tsui.

If you don't know the novel, the plot might be a bit confusing, but the high production values and well-staged action scenes more than make up for that. This movie is gorgeous to look at, and offers everything I love about wuxia pictures (flying people, magical kung fu stances, exotic weapons, over the top acting etc.). Highly recommended (get the Media Asia release, not the Mei Ah discs).

Reviewed by: spanishninja
Date: 06/07/2001
Summary: Great adaptation of "Duke of Mount Deer"

This movie did a pretty good job of adapting from the "Duke of Mount Deer" books, although certain aspects of the story and characters were obviously tweaked to reflect the fact that this is a Stephen Chow vehicle. This first of two Royal Tramp movies describes how Wilson Bond (amusingly translated name of the protagonist from the books) came to be the emperor's best friend, and also begins to tell of how he managed to get so many wives. Stephen Chow was godly as always in his comedic timing, but also showed us why Bond was such a lovable and respectable character, despite the fact that he is a foulmouthed coward and liar. I also enjoyed the performances of Ng Man Tat, who played a chief eunuch, and Natalis Chan, as Duran (Dor Lung), Bond's sidekick. The fight scenes were very good, so good that it certainly qualifies as an action-adventure rather than a usual slapstick Chow comedy. As a Stephen Chow movie, this was certainly one of his best. Rating = 9.5/10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: zarrsadus
Date: 05/31/2001
Summary: Action + Chow = Goodness

Put simply, this movie is a Stephen Chow take on cheesey martial arts films. The action is non-stop over-exaggerated martial arts, while at the same time containing all the humor one would expect from a Chow film. A very good movie combining both comedy and well coreographed fight scenes. 9 out of 10.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 02/28/2001
Summary: VEry good

One of Chow Sing Chi's best!! This mvie had more action than comedy believe it or not and both was done very well!!

Number 2 of this is a direct continuation of this movie by the way but this is easily the better of the 2.


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: MadMonkey
Date: 12/09/1999

Brilliant slapstick! Great laffs with Chow as a conniving illiterate with a heart of gold who can't help but succeed, as he manages to win lots of babes and wealth and the trust of the Emperor, while simultaneously becoming leader of a rebel "Down with the Ching, return the Ming" sect! Ng Man Tat as a wacky eunuch, funny as always but a little heavy handed. Chingmy Yau plays the Emperor's brother and is quite cute; still, the sequel, in some ways, is an improvement, if only because it has much more of a sense of closure than this film does, plus Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia.


Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

How does an uneducated, poor son of a prostitute rise tosimultaneously become a rich baron of the Manchu court, as well as a high officer of the opposition forces? For Showboy, all it takes is a little tact and ambition. It's getting his mother to change jobs which is the tough part.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Stephen Chieu plays Bond, a lovable, handsome con-man and titular member of the Heaven and Earth Society who, with members of his clan, tries to overthrow Manchu power and restore full authority to the Ching Dynasty -- though in the process he gets involved with the saucy Dowager Empress (despite the protestations of his female guards, lovely identical twins who are promised to him should he finish his project successfully). Little does he know that the Empress has actually been captured and impersonated by a powerful look-alike who, in Royal Tramp 2, metamorphoses into Brigitte Lin! There has to be something right about a movie with a line like: 'Shit! Brian is invincible. He knows how to shrink his penis.'


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 7