Monday, September 18, 2017

KRIS GILPIN IMHO DEPT. "Buchanan's Bergmanesque Berries!"




"Buchanan's Bergmanesque Berries!"

Reviewed By Kris Gilpin.

When I was lucky enough to get to talk with the late, great cheesemeister Larry ("Zontar, the Thing from Venus") Buchanan he told me, "And once I shot a Bergman knock-off I called Strawberries Need Rain [ha!], opened it in a few drive-ins and people at first bought it as a real Bergman film [ha!]." 

"Introducing" the lovely Monica Gayle (pretty face, great boobs) (even tho she'd been in, I believe, 8 features before that) as Erica, a young virgin who begs Death to give her 24 more hours of life--so she can get laid. Gayle is actually good in this & Death is played by Les Tremayne, who walks thru the whole movie lugging a scythe on his shoulders (Les also appeared in Buch's Creature of Destruction)....And half a decade later she would co-star as the sexy Patch in Switchblade Sisters ;-).
Crank notes- Monica Gayle, who I know most for her role as Patch in Switch Blade Sisters, was just in Take it out in Trade. She went from Ed Wood to another kind of low brow trying to be high brow schlock. Bergman's Wild Strawberries, which the title attempts to cash in on, came out in the 50s. I recently watched her in Nashville Girl, a film that shows the seedy underworld of a country star, Johnny Rodriguez shows up at one point.

First she tries to seduce an old friend, but he's just a dork who kisses pages of tit shots from soft core mags by flashlight under the covers at night & he doesn't know what to do when offered the real thing. Then she goes off with a motorcycle scumbag who beats her & tries to rape her, until Deathie gives him the scythe. Finally she hooks up with an old teacher of hers & . . . well, there ya go.

bring me the head of Buck Dharma!

This is nicely photographed (for L.B.) by Roger C. Jessup, who'd also shot 3 earlier films for our beloved writer-director, has some time-padding scenes (like walking thru fields, accompanied by cheesy folkish music of the time [1970], and drugstore shopping), and it's a typically amusing, different type of Buchanan epic, carried of course by Ms. Monica's natural charm(s)...SNR was shot silent, with dialogue & incidental sound FX dubbed in later.

charmed for sure, but those feet are dirty.




Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Man From Deep River





MAN FROM DEEP RIVER Directed By Umberto Lenzi, Starring Ivan Rassimov. (1972).

The last time I saw this flick, which is one of the goofiest trailers on the Mad Ron’s Prevues tape, was back in the 90's when Skunkape and I rented it on video from 16000. That place was my sanctuary, they had so much trash that no one appreciated. It was an off shoot of Blockbuster that strictly catered to trash and they had a porn section unlike the squeaky clean corporate conglomerate that now doesn't exist. This was in the pre-Tarantino era before everyone had already seen Cannibal Holocaust and the internet barely existed—aka “the golden era”, when we weren't all staring at our phones. I saw this just after Make Them Die Slowly (aka Cannibal Ferox) and it just didn't measure up in stomach churning sleaze.

the only picture I could find online connected to 16000 video.


From the interview with John Morgen (link), you may remember that Umberto Lenzi is a slime ball, who will go to any length to endanger his actors and murder animals on screen to rake in those exploitation Euros, so the “warning” after the credits, which boils down to "we filmed shit the cannibal tribes did without intervening, for that neorealism effect and didn’t stage any of the animal violence". I just can’t bring myself to buy it, can you? That's the common element through out this entire film, racist gobbilty gook that's as hard to swallow as broken glass.

let me outta this net, I gotta shiiittttt!


Anyway, this time around, I’m enjoying the acting stylings of Ivan Rassimov, he’s way more impressive than I recall. Even though his Play-doh yellow hair is slightly garnish, the dubbing doesn't really effect his charismatic performance.

According to the Third World Cannibal chapter by Steve Bissette in the DR Horror Handbook, this is the very first in a long line of the jungle misadventure, gut munching sub genre that we all know and love. This was inspired by the Richard “someone left the cake out in the rain” Harris flick A Man Called Horse (which I'm betting if I'd already seen would've clear up nothing that this film is trying to ape). It was all shot in Thailand in the Burmese jungle. A strange photo emerged in 2009 that was debunked by snopes.com as a Buddhist ritual showing a man being dressed like a carcass and eaten, while smiling people pose. That's the only speculative claim that cannibals are in Thailand, but who knows, I mean I eat the fuck outta some Thai food and I ain't no savage. 

John Bradley (Rassimov) is captured by an Asian tribe and suspended in a net, while two men have their tongues cut out--I'm not sure why though.

This is where we first seen Me Me Lai (who is British and Burmese). Lai was in Jungle Holocaust next, which Lenzi was supposed to direct but ultimately spawned Ruggero Deodato's career and Eaten Alive (or Doomed to Die). The last film Lai appeared in was the Criterion Lars Von Trier film Element of Crime. I’ve always wondered if Trier was a fan of the cannibal sub genre. It incessantly bugged me how the tribe speaks another language but they’re never subtitled!   
 
If only you could comprehend what I'm saying you'd realize I have a spectacular egg salad recipe to share.


What’s very strange to me is how Bradley speculates that this tribe believes him to be a fish. Why does he think that, because they're complete morons? We never get to read what they’re actually saying, so it's doubtful they’re this stupid. The film pushes it’s agenda that savages don’t understand English and since we can’t communicate with each other, it makes up it’s own racist bullshit. One missionary villager even knows that Bradley is American and tries to release him but she must stay incognito, for fear that the tribe will punish her, for what reason I have no idea.

There’s no shortage of naked island babes swimming around and the score goes from soothingly mellow to jarring and intense.

tune in radio Thailand, are you receiving my signal?


The punishment John (Rassimov) receives for escaping is pretty creative, they shoot blowdarts at him through a wall, while a Rube Goldberg style contraption spins him around tied to a pole with a pasta maker attached to the top of his head. I feel like there’s not enough context for me to understand why these series of tortures occur, maybe the script writer dropped his macchiato all over the pages. 

Eventually, they force him solve all their problems, after almost killing him of course, I guess they had to put him through a trial. Next a series of real animals maul each other for the jollies of the Mondo craving audience. It’s pretty insulting (or maybe Trump-esque) that these “savages” are beneath us merely because they don’t speak the same language and are seen as primitive. Also I think if the film gave you their perspective, you'd relate to them more and hear their side. Rather than just consider them a threat because you can't understand them. He finally adapts to their ways (oh yeah and he can understand them but doesn’t speak the language). The third act sluices forward into a fucking romantic drama (with animal deaths thrown in). Ivan and Me Me even manage to produce a child, which he calls a little savage.

Oh yeah and we finally hit cannibal pay dirt but after an hour into the movie! The scene where a girl is hacked up and devoured  if I remember correctly was edited into Doomed to Die. In the DVD interview, Umberto says they found a hooker and just covered her in fake blood and buried her in the sand to get the effect that her limbs were being chewed on. Stay classy freaks!
This film is a benchmark in the sub genre but not mandatory viewing.

ZZZZ CINEMATIC NARCOLEPSYZZZZZ.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Steve Fenton Reviews: We're Going to Eat You.



WE’RE GOING TO EAT YOU 
(地獄無門 / Di yu wu men, a.k.a. HELL HAS NO GATES or NO DOOR TO HELL
Hong Kong, 1980. D: Tsui Hark 

Reviewed by Steve Fenton 

(Crank here with a short intro: I reviewed this film 5 years ago when I started this blog (link). Back then I would rattle off capsule reviews and hardly took notes. I'm always excited to read a different perspective on the same film, so I've convinced Steve Fenton to chip in a few reviews. Hopefully you know him from Weng's Chop and Monster besides other DR films he's tackled on this site respectively. And now on with the goods). 

As boss-cannibal The Chief says to his flunkies in regards to their—er—dog-eat-dog existence, “In our line of work, if you don’t eat people, they’ll eat you! If you don’t beat them, they’ll beat you!” Words to the wise… 

This movie’s title is probably most familiar to splatterheads as the US ad slogan for Lucio Fulci’s gutcruncher ZOMBIE (Zombi II, 1979), and it is quite feasible that Tsui Hark was influenced for this early feature (his second following THE BUTTERFLY MURDERS [蝶變 / Die bian, 1979]) by the then-still-ongoing Italian zombie/cannibal genres. According to an unsubstantiated rumor I once heard c/o Colin “Asian Eye/TIFF Midnight Madness/Shudder” Geddes, a Chinese story by Qing Dynasty scribe Pu Songling (a.k.a. 蒲松齡 [1640-1715])—possibly one from his collection Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio?—was likely also a source of inspiration here. Whichever way you slice it, however, WGTEY is indeed one bizarre pot of (to quote Alice Cooper from his classic horror track “The Black Widow” [1975]) “humanary stew”; and, since one man’s (or woman’s) meat is another’s poison, only those strong-stomached flesh-eaters with a liking for theirs not just rare but damn near raw need apply! 

A very erotic episode of Archie Bunker.


Firstly, before we plunge into the—ahem—meat of the matter, allow me to whet your appetite with this tasty tidbit of backstory: In 1992, a Communist dissident named Zheng Yi fled Mainland (i.e., Red) China for Hong Kong (which was then still some five years away from becoming re-assimilated back into the mother country’s jurisdiction [as happened in the fateful year of 1997]), risking his life to defect and reveal to the world at large the horrifying contents of a 600-page manuscript which he had in his possession and was eager to bring to light. This damning document exposed cases of mass public cannibalism organized by the Communist régime during the tumultuous social upheaval of the ’60s Chinese Cultural Revolution. At that time, subversives were reportedly systematically/summarily executed, butchered and then devoured by slavering throngs of loyal Reds. Chairman Mao Zedong believed it was a fine symbol of his people’s “class struggle”; his followers evidently believed it was a good excuse for a BBQ. Due to the sensitive, classified nature of the information contained in the smuggled manuscript for many years before it finally came to light in the early ’90s, it is doubtful that WGTEY’s main maker/mover’n’shaker Tsui drew from actual historical facts (other than perhaps whispered rumors), but—if the film is viewed in broader symbolic/satiric terms—the parallels with certain aspects of China’s then-recent past are noteworthy. 

who else feels like chicken tonight?


And so to the film itself… On an isolated jungle island somewhere in Republican China dwells a whole community of mad butchers—led by him respectfully known as The Chief—with a penchant for the taste of human meat; indeed, central to the community is an ominous brick-and-mortar building known (with good reason!) as the slaughterhouse. Any unwary outsider foolish enough to stray into the voracious villagers’ neck of the woods soon winds up slaughtered, deboned and dressed upon their chopping blocks, ready to be divvied-up for consumption by the locals at the communal dining hall (quaintly described as the “cafeteria” [!] in the English subs to my Mei Ah Entertainment disc edition of the film, which I scored back in the mid-2000s down in Toronto’s Chinatown on a bootleg DVD-R c/o the Triads for a mere two bucks Canuck). 

2 Buck Canuck, I wonder if that wine pairs well with human meat? 


Right in the prologue, a bunch of ersatz downsize Leatherfaces in butchers’ aprons wielding meat-axes, carving knives and bone-saws turn a couple of foolhardy trespassers into instant coldcuts. Close-ups of knives piercing flesh and choppers severing limbs are followed by a man being sawn in half at the waist. This all amounts to quite the garishly gruesome opener, for sure. Although there’s much stronger meat to be had these days, and HK cinema went to even greater lengths to unsettle stomachs in later decades (especially during the spate of ultra-violent “Category III” shockers made in the ’90s), back in the day this was mighty potent stuff, without doubt; even if, shades of its occidental kindred spirit/more-than-just-partial inspiration source THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974, USA, D: Tobe Hooper), many of the bloody bodily atrocities committed in WGTEY are much more implied rather than actually graphically shown. That said, more-so than in Hooper’s comparatively restrained film, there’s still plenty of gory gruesomeness to be seen onscreen in the present one, so it’s hardly an exercise in subtle horror, by any means. 

you were expecting Anthony Wong?


Shortly into the narrative proper, a pair of omnivorous river travelers—a dope-smoking, shaggy-wigged “hippy” hobo/thief (Hon Kwok-choi) and a skilled young martial artist/Central Surveillance operative named Jian Men, alias Agent 999 (played by the rather Danny Lee-like Norman Chu Siu-keung, from WING CHUN [詠春, 1994, D: Yuen Wo-Ping])—stop off at the inhospitable isle of ravenous cannibals, who much prefer home-cooked vittles of the human kind rather than lowly chicken. At their village, the longhair is soon ‘molested’ by an oversexed (or possibly just seriously undersexed) Chinese giantess, who forcibly attempts to have her way with him. (“I’ve got syphilis”, he says in hopes of dissuading his seven-foot-plus seductress. Her good-natured reply is, “Hey, so do I!” Gee, it’s a small world, huh?) The XL female is played strictly for distasteful laughs by ‘her’ drag (?) actor, so it does come as rather a mean-spirited surprise for us when s/he too winds up chopped into extra-large cubes of stewing beef (or rather, “long pig”)—not by the cannibals, but by the heroes. Thankfully, this development isn’t dwelled upon in nauseating detail, but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth anyway, being as the late oversized nymphomaniac amounted to one of the strange village’s more normal, likeable inhabitants. 
At least this flick is more tolerant than PantyHose Hero!

As befits his official title, The Chief (Eddy Ko Hung, sporting an obviously spurious stick-on ’stache and beardlet) is a militaristic, order-barking authoritarian in partial (if decidedly worse-for-wear-and-tear) uniform, who wields a combo swagger stick/cudgel as his scepter of office and in a later amusing scene bemoans the loneliness of his position as top dog in the pecking order. His #1 aide is a man called Rolex (Melvin Wong Gam-San), a fugitive—now-reformed—bandit who is Agent 999’s primary reason for being in the vicinity in the first place. Having sickened of the local yokels’ cannibalistic ways, the ex-criminal endeavors to put an end to them with the G-man’s help, while clearing his name in the process. 

Over the course of this outré scenario, veritable rivers of watered-down raspberry syrup-like blood are shown flowing in loving close-up, although much of the actual damage done to people’s bodies by all the various cold steel carving implements used is kept firmly out of frame, even if the editor’s juxtaposition of the various visual elements does succeed in making such scenes painful to witness nonetheless. Humor periodically segues to horror (and vice versa) without warning, but this queasy admixture of goofball slapstick comedy and extreme gore largely works, thanks to the staccato cutting—pun very much intended!—and Tsui’s morbid sense of humor, even if the gags do sometimes descend to lowbrow scatology (e.g., “I’ll feed you my farts!”), which was certainly nothing new for HK’s commercial cinema, even then.  

Cannibalistic citizens bicker over larger portions of “pie”, while the shunned/scorned town outcast is a vegetarian (or, worse still, possibly even an all-out Vegan?!) suffering from advanced malnutrition. An amorous wife asks her spouse for a bit of “heart”… literally! While eating noodles, a man finds a whole fingernail in his bowl, which is a whole lot grosser by far than finding a fly in your soup. When a strip of quivering flesh is slashed from his comrade, a flesheater smacks his lips appreciatively and promptly has a nibble of said mouth-wateringly tantalizing morsel. Even when bloodily dismembering victims, the masked meatmen are portrayed as comical lunkheads. Blades cleave skulls set to kooky Three Stooges-like sound effects, while frenetically clashing cymbals bring a disjointed, unsettling quality to the soundtrack, which also incorporates sundry “Halloween haunted house”-style spooky audio FX too; hell, even that familiar canned “wolf-howl” heard in innumerable horror flicks from both the Orient and the Occident is also reheard herein. The cannibals’ voracious appetite for manmeat is played for much broad farce, and human flesh is bartered like steak. The whole “humans-as-cattle” angle/subtext is emphasized further in a scene where two combatants buffet at each other with long-horned yak skulls like rutting male moose trying to outdo one another for a mate. Roller-skates, firecrackers and some impeccably-choreographed kung fu figure prominently at the climax of WGTEY, as does a grisly final twist. Even periodic (if only brief) lapses into philosophical pontification on the universal human condition fail to cause viewers’ attention to wander, and seem fitting to the overall surreal proceedings. 

Oh I'm sorry am I boring you?


All of this might well be interpreted as political allegory regarding Communist China (way back when in Tsui’s Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show segment, droll host Jonathan Ross aptly called it “biting satire”). But there’s no need to bother with underlying ‘social commentary’ anyway if you don’t feel so inclined; by all means just sit back and enjoy the outrageous visuals! WGTEY is great fun entertainment, but if it happens to be your first-ever experience with HK cinema of the more out-there kind, you’re probably in for a bit of culture shock on top of all the other more visceral shocks you get from it. Cannibalism—even when stir-fried with absurdist Rabelaisian touches and (jet-black) humor—is understandably not exactly a popular topic in Hong Kong, even if so many local filmmakers have dabbled in such themes over the years (case in point some of those grislier “Cat III” serial killer shockers). Upon its initial release, WE’RE GOING TO EAT YOU proved to be a resounding commercial flop, as was Tsui’s other satirical/political piece from the same year, DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS OF THE FIRST KIND (第一類型危險 / Di yi lei xing wei xian, see review here). Distributors treated both of these at-the-time unpopular films with great apathy and allowed them to gather dust in their vaults for many years, before the home video boom, which started catching-on in the ’80s and shows no signs of slowing down to this day (even if the technology has changed so drastically for the better in the meantime!), began gradually building-up their international fanbases; both films have long-since developed sizeable cult followings by now, and for hardcore HK-horror buffs, the present title—the most notorious of the two by far, for obvious reasons—amounts to absolutely mandatory viewing. 


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Deadly Dogs vol. 4

DEADLY DOGS 4
By Goat Scrote

Atomic Dog
In this installment, misunderstood mutant dogs...









... trained killer Nazi dogs...
The Boys From Brazil

...and experimental Army dogs off their leash.
Dogs of Hell



















The Boys from Brazil (1978)

Mainly a ripoff of:They Saved Hitler's Brain” plus “The Omen”


The Dog(s): Dobermans trained by a paranoid racist are commanded by a child-aged clone of Adolf Hitler to kill mad scientist Josef Mengele. Holy fuck! The dogs are scary and the kid is scarier, but they only become important during the climax in the final twenty minutes.

Summary: A young man searching for escaped Nazi war criminals discovers clues leading him toward a horrifying conspiracy by surviving Nazis to "re-create" Hitler. There are 94 clones which have been adopted out all over the world. They are being brought up under conditions that will help warp them into having a twisted psyche like der Führer, and also put them into positions of influence when they are adults. Somehow the movie avoids being cheesy and maintains a very dark tone. A determined investigator puts the pieces together to figure out what is really happening.

Best Scene: The denouement shows one of the cloned Hitler kids in a darkroom. He is developing photographs of the bloody murder scene. He has kept a trophy of his first murder, a trinket carried by his victim. Mengele may be dead, but this scene assures us that the chilling consequences of his experiment will torment future generations. It's a solid skin-crawler of an ending.

Dishonorable Mention: More of the dogs, please! Oh, and more dead Nazis!

Recommendation: This is a pretty darn good flick from the director of “Patton” (1970), “Papillon” (1973) and “Planet of the Apes” (1968), with a superb cast including Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, and James Mason. Steve Gutenberg is also in the movie. The horror at the core of this movie is the threat of a resurgence of fascism in a new generation, which has a special power to terrify at this moment in history. Very highly recommended!



Dogs of Hell (1983) 
(aka Rottweiler)

Mainly a ripoff of: Anyone who paid to watch it. Not to be confused with Brian Yuzna’s unrelated film “Rottweiler” (2004).

The Dog(s): Well, they tell us there is a pack of killer Rottweilers, but the absence of evidence on screen leaves me unconvinced.

Summary:  Southern good ol’ boys vs. escaped, out-of-control, military-trained Rottweilers. That sounds awesome on paper! The movie itself is a steaming pile, unfortunately. The first kill is at 20 minutes, but the dogs are still just sound effects. There’s a mud wrestling scene at 23 minutes and I’m relieved that at least there is some kind of action on-screen, even if it is dubious “comedy” which does absolutely nothing at all to move the story forward. The first actual dog appears on the screen at 26 minutes, just barely. I was 49 minutes deep in my journey into boredom before I noticed another dog appearance. The pack appears to consist of two dogs, who show up, get killed, and are immediately replaced by two identical dogs. “Rottweiler” was released theatrically in 3D. There are a number of really cheesy shots like a dart on a string coming toward the camera. The 3D moments would have been groan-worthy filler even with the gimmick.
Best Scene:  A rottweiler gets his head blown off with a shotgun! Actually it’s not that great, but it’s the closest thing to an exciting moment that this movie has to offer.

Dishonorable Mention: During the mud-wrestling scene, the sheriff sucker-punches a citizen with no provocation, after getting the perp to relax by lying that he won't hit the guy. What a total cocksmith. Oh, he's the hero? I guess I was supposed to think he was awesome because he can punch so hard. Also, it's really, really obvious that the filmmakers had exactly two Rottweilers. That's just fucking insulting. Show a few seconds here and there of five or six dogs running through the woods to make the rest of the illusion work. It's just plain stupid filmmaking, and the whole boring mess is made with the same lack of craft. In fact, I declare this entire movie to be a Dishonorable Mention. Take that, you big dumb movie.

Recommendation: Slow and boring, hardly any animal action, ineptly done, and that sheriff is no Joe Don Baker. This was a rough one to get through, folks. Hard pass. So very hard.










Atomic Dog (1998)

Mainly a ripoff of: "Beast of Yucca Flats" retold as an After-School Special… with dogs!

The Dog(s): Cerberus the "Atomic Dog”, Trixie, Lobo, and Scamp… a very dysfunctional canine family. Industry pro Roger Schumacher was head animal trainer.

Summary: A puppy named Cerberus gets caught in a minor atomic accident and is left behind by his owner when the contaminated power plant is abandoned. He grows up to be a super-intelligent dog with strong family values. Cerberus has been abandoned, abused, and attacked by humans, and eventually kills a teenager who shot at him with a rifle. The lonely Atomic Dog frees a family pet, Trixie, and takes her back to his radioactive love nest. Some time later, she drags herself home to deliver a pair of pups before she dies. From afar, Cerberus watches his pups, Lobo and Scamp, grow up. When Lobo violently turns on his human family and is taken to the veterinarian, Cerberus kills the veterinarian to free his son. Lobo is blamed for the death, and later shot. Cerberus begins a campaign of revenge. Scamp continues to protect his human family from his father. The grieving Atomic Dog kidnaps the youngest daughter of the family as a replacement for his lost son. Her family tries to rescue her and has a confrontation with the Atomic Dog. In the end, Cerberus sacrifices himself to save the little girl, and Scamp comforts his dying father.

Best Scene: The final fight between Cerberus and the humans. He uses his wits to beat them. When they shoot him with darts, he immediately pulls them out with his teeth. He works loose the knots securing big waste containers and drops them on the human father and son. It’s a good climax, relative to the rest of the movie.

Dishonorable Mention: What kind of Homer Simpson level moron would bring a puppy to their job at a nuclear power plant?

Recommendation: Extremely tame made-for-TV fare, this is what would happen if Hallmark Hall of Fame started churning out low-budget horror. The animals are very well trained, but overall mediocrity makes this is a snoozer and you can safely skip it.








Monday, September 4, 2017

Kung Fu Cult Master (1993)

KUNG FU CULT MASTER (1993)
(aka “Lord of the Wu Tang”, aka “Kung Fu Master”, aka “Evil Cult USA”, aka “The Evil Cult”)
Dir. Wong Jing
No title translation? That's racist.
Review by Goat Scrote

     “Kung Fu Cult Master”  has all of the essential ingredients I look for in a kung fu movie, which is actually just three things. I want lots of exciting fights, cool stunts, and badly translated subtitles. This movie totally delivers. Bonus points for wire-fu superpowers. Double bonus points for the fact that this particular film mixes vulgar dick jokes with the quest for martial arts enlightenment. 
     The movie was directed and written by Hong Kong legend Wong Jing, from the novel The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber by Louis Cha Leung-yung (pen name Jin Yong). This novel has spawned several film versions and a TV mini-series. The fabulous Sammo Hung directs the action sequences, handles the fight choreography, and also has a part in the movie. Jet Li leads the cast.
Swords are crossed but balls aren't touching.
Verdict: not gay.
     Wong Jing’s public statements seem to mirror my feeling that no matter what other virtues or faults a film possesses, it absolutely must not be boring. The only way that a film (or any artwork) can truly fail is by failing to engage the viewer. By that standard, Mr. Wong rarely fails. In this case he has made a fast-paced, funny, weird movie packed with spectacle. “Kung Fu Cult Master” is a flawed but highly entertaining fantasy wuxia action epic. It runs too long and it’s very confusing, but it’s also a lot of fun and definitely worth a look.

     If you can accept that super-awesome kung-fu magic fights are happening, and you don’t need to know too much about exactly why they are happening, this is a movie for you. Some of the flicks we review are a real chore to watch over and over again, but I didn’t mind so much with this one. The plot is one of the most convoluted I’ve ever tried to review, and I couldn’t understand it until I found three different versions - an excellent English dub and two different subtitled versions - and watched them with a lot of comparison, rewinding, and note-taking. Figuring out who was who in the sprawling cast was a minor nightmare. It is really difficult to make sense of the complex political conflict behind the action, which involves at least ten different clans plus the Yuan government, all intriguing against one another.
I will now explain why I'm divorcing you
through interpretive dance.
     The thing to focus on is the personal journey of the hapless protagonist from bullied orphan weakling to ultimate master of kung fu. The epic scale of the movie remains grounded in the human story of a kid who’s had a hard life finally growing up by collecting kung fu “Ievel ups". I'm not sure that's very practical as a life lesson, but fortunately, I also don't care.

     The film begins with a lot of exposition. There are two main groups vying against each other. The “orthodox” faction is composed of six different martial arts clans allied under the leadership of Shaolin. The other five members are Wudang, Emei, Kun Lun, Hung Tung, and Wah San.

     The second faction is the Ming Sect, aka Evil Cult, aka Fire Clan, headquartered on Bright Peak. They are outsiders from Persia who want to bring down the Yuan government. The Ming Sect is led by four elders: Queen of Purple Dragon; King of White Eagle; King of Gold Lion; And King of Green Bat.


"My beard will eat your mustache."
     The minions of the different sects are conveniently color-coded, which is good because otherwise there would be absolutely no way to tell who is fighting whom. The Shaolin have saffron robes with shaved heads. The Wudang have blue robes and hair in topknots. The Emei are nuns who wear white or light brown. The Kun-lun dress all in brown. The Hung Tung wear red hooded robes. The Wah San wear black. The Ming Sect robe colors tend to match their elders’ colors, purple, silver, gold, and green, but one of the Ming armies also wears red so I don’t know what that’s about.
"Fame! I'm gonna live fore-e-ver..."
     The factions are seeking the knowledge contained in an artifact called the Lunar Scroll, which will make its possessor the greatest martial artist in the world. Two magic swords, Dragonslayer and Starcatcher, each contain half of the scroll. Dragonslayer is in the hands of the Golden Lion clan elder Tse Shun (Yan Huaili) of the Ming Sect, who slew its rightful owner. A wicked Emei sect nun called No-Mercy (Sun Meng-Quan) has the sword Starcatcher.
     One of the students of the orthodox Wudang, Chang Tsui San (Frances Ng) defies the rules and befriends Tse Chun of the Ming Sect. He also falls in love with the daughter of the King of White Eagle, Yan So So (Sharla Cheung). When Tse Chun obtains the Dragonslayer sword by killing its rightful owner, all three go into hiding on an island. There Chang Tsui San and Yan So So have a child named Mo-Kei who is the god-son of Tse Shun.
Portrait of the martial artist as a young man.
     The couple has come out of hiding to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Grandmaster of Wudang. A pair of kung-fu fighters known as the Two Jinxes show up (Leung Kar-Yan and Zhang Chun-Zhong). They ambush the family and take ten-year-old Mo-Kei hostage. The Grandmaster of Wudang, a fellow named Chang San Fung (Sammo Hung), flies onto the scene like Superman and tries to settle the situation down. When the Two Jinxes have the audacity to threaten the Master, he opens up a can of Sammo-sized whup-ass on them. The bad guys really ought to know better than to fuck with a 100-year-old guy who has white eyebrows down to his nipples. Haven’t these dumb fuckers watched Kill Bill? A serious butt-kicking ensues and I can already tell I am going to like this movie, because it is  full of wire-fu stunts and magic.
Want to see me crunch off the front of his skull
and slap his brain out through his face?
     The bad guys manage to hit Mo-Kei with a poisonous move called the Jinx’s Palm. The Grandmaster is away getting an antidote for Mo-Kei when the other five clans show up in force, each trying to leverage the situation to get their hands on Tse Shun’s magic sword.  The elders of the kung fu world and their armies of minions clearly have the advantage over Mo-Kei’s family. Mo-Kei’s father laughs at all of them and uses the power of pure spite to blow his own heart open all over his enemies rather than betray his friend.

     Mo-Kei’s mother tricks the elders into arguing amongst themselves, and lies about where to find the King of Golden Lion. She commits suicide while hugging her young son. She drenches him in her blood just moments after she tells him to avenge his father and warns him to never trust a woman. That is some fucked up parenting right there and psychiatry won’t be invented for a few centuries… so I guess you just walk off, little traumatized Mo-Kei.
This image haunts my nightmares.
     Whew. That brings us to the 15 minute mark, only 1 hour and 25 minutes to go.
     With backstory out of the way, the movie fast-forwards seven years. The grown up Mo-Kei (Jet Li) still suffers ill effects from being poisoned as a child. He lives at Wudang Mountain with Grandmaster Chang San Fung, the incredible 107 year old virgin. Sifu claims that retaining all of his sexual energy is part of his power, and he likes to talk about the outrageous throbbing potency of his morning wood.

     The students at Wudang like to bully Mo-Kei because his health prevents him from fighting back. His rotten cousin Sung Ching Su (Collin Chou) orchestrates the abuse. A visiting girl from the Emei sect, Chow Chi-Yu (Gigi Lai) joins in, playing a prank on Mo-Kei which leads to his being seriously beaten by the students. Sung Ching Su threatens to chop off Mo-Kei’s hand and murder him.
Mellow yellow.
     Without warning a mysterious woman in red shows up on the rooftops and helps Mo-Kei. She uses long chains binding her wrists together as weapons to fight with. He and his mystery ally are flung into a vine-filled ravine by Chow Chi-Yu with the power of the sword Starcatcher. Scummy cousin Sung Ching Su and sadistic nun Chow Chi-Yu cover their tracks by telling the Wudang elders that Mo-Kei was attacked and murdered by the woman in red, and they exacted justice by killing her.

     It turns out the woman in red, Siu Chu (Chingmy Yau), is sworn to serve the family of the King of White Eagle, Mo-Kei’s grandfather. Her hands are chained together because she offended White Eagle. Sleeping next to Siu Chu in the ravine, Mo-Kei wakes up with his very first boner and worries that he might have made her pregnant simply by getting morning wood in her vicinity.
You have successfully transmitted a baby into my body!
     A cannibalistic paraplegic with telekinetic kung-fu powers has lived in the ravine for decades. I couldn’t verify who played this part, but he is awesome. He flies around strapped to a giant boulder and makes all kinds of creepy threats. This section is surreal, funny, and just a little scary too. After Mo-Kei says he will never pollute his mind with the hermit’s kung fu, the magic hermit mind-rapes his own knowledge into Mo-Kei by clubbing him with vines and contorting his "student's" body. I don’t know how that works, but whatever. It turns out that this was the young man’s plan all along, since he knew about the hermit and what his powers could do. They fight and Mo-Kei is victorious.
Somebody hose off the 30 years of accumulated stink.
     Mo-Kei gets super glowy kung fu powers from the Great Solar School, the secret knowledge of the cannibal hermit. He becomes hard to hurt or kill, and he can shoot energy blasts out of his hands. This is also the key to completely curing him of the effects of the Jinx’s Palm. Now he can avenge his parents at last.

     At an inn, the pair encounters yet another mysterious woman, this one wearing a gold crown and leading elite Yuan government troops. Among her minions are the Two Jinxes, but there are far too many troops for Mo-Kei to start trouble even with his Solar Stance.
Harry Potter is so fucking jealous right now.
     Elsewhere, the elders of the six clans make plans to attack the Ming Sect at their headquarters on Bright Peak. The elders of the Wah Sah Clan (one played by Tenky Tin Kai-Man) are hilariously sleazy, letting slip their desire to steal both of the swords and molest the Emei nuns. The meeting is interrupted by one of the Ming Sect elders, the King of Green Bat, Wai Yat Siu (Richard Ng). He is some kind of living vampire. He can fly, drinks blood, and can turn into an actual bat. He is probably my favorite character in this movie, even though has a secondary part. He escapes and warns the Ming Sect of the coming attack by the six clans.
     There is a massive battle between the followers of the two factions. They use crazy cool battle tactics, nifty martial arts superpowers, magic, weird mechanical weapons, and more. The nun No-Mercy shows just how powerful a mistress of kung fu can be when armed with a magical sword.
BECAUSE I'M BATMAN!
     The Ming Sect has been warned to expect an assassin pretending to be the “dead” Mo-Kei, so when he shows up for real he ends up having to fight them with his brand new kung fu. Then No-Mercy recognizes him, and both sides of the battle are after him!

     Mo-Kei and Siu Chu are forced to flee to the tomb of the two masters who originally created the magic swords, a taboo place where the clans dare not follow. They find a monk there who reveals that he infiltrated the Shaolin 20 years ago, he’s working for the government, and he is using the Six Clans to destroy the Ming Clan. They fight and Mo-Kei punches the false monk so hard it snaps his fingers off. The injured villain uses trickery to make his escape.
"By the power of Grayskull!"
     Siu Chu helps Mo-Kei discover the secret of “Magic Stance” which is hidden in the tomb, written in Persian so that only Sui Chu is able to read it. The magic stance makes Mo-Kei even more powerful, since he is immediately able to absorb kung fu knowledge thanks to his Solar School upgrade. According to Siu Chu, the instructions direct the reader to deliver the secrets of the stance to Tse Shun. This raises the question of her motives. Is she also trying to find the sword Dragonslayer?
Meh, I've been on worse blind dates.
     Meanwhile the tide of battle turns agains the Ming Clan. Green Bat is injured, and White Eagle is impaled by at least half a dozen swords. He handles it like a boss, though, snapping the blades with his body and then pulling them out.

     Mo-Kei bursts through the wall like Kool-Aid Man and explains the conspiracy by the Yuan to make the clans fight each other. The Shaolin refuse to believe one of their masters was a traitor, and they send a champion to fights Mo-Kei. The good-hearted hero shows mercy after he beats the monk… so of course No Mercy steps up to the plate, because she fuckin’ hates mercy. Mo-Kei reveals his new Magic Stance by casually taking her sword, slapping her repeatedly, and cutting the chains the bind his friend Shiu Chu. The Emei continue to fight, and Mo-Kei is run through with a sword. This annoys him, and he blasts the offender away with chi power. The Wudang, out of respect for the honor and skill of their opponents, unite with the Ming to defend the injured hero. Mo-Kei entrusts the Wudang clan with Starchaser.
My eyebrows are invincible against your kung fu.
     The Ming Sect has a law that they must obey the master of Magic Stance, and they unite behind Mo-Kei as the new Clan Master. One oily advisor immediately appears from under a rock and tempts Mo-Kei with power... he could replace the Emperor! 

     The Wudang, while traveling home, are ambushed with a poison which steals their kung fu. All of the antidote in the town has been bought by one person, so Mo-Kei goes to Green Willow Villa where his true enemy is revealed. The leader of the Yuan government conspiracy is Princess Chao Min (Sharla Cheung, who also plays Mo-Kei’s mother!). She is  the woman he briefly saw at the inn earlier, commanding the Two Jinxes. She has been manipulating the clan infighting from the start. It appears that Chao Min has stolen the Starcatcher from the Wudang, but when the Ming elders try to recover the blade, it turns out to be a trick. The elders are exposed to poison which renders them helpless after they have traveled a short distance from the Villa.
Don't squeeze the Chao Min!
     Mo-Kei returns to confront the villainess. Chao Min gloats about the poison and performs a sneak attack with darts. Next she shoots spear-tipped strings from the musical instrument she is playing. The two go hand to hand and she proves to be a very formidable opponent. Mo-Kei throws people around Jedi-style, causes an earthquake, and strips off half of Chao Min’s clothes. She remains calm and composed the whole time, and demands that in return for the antidote he perform three favors for her, as long as they don’t violate his code of honor. Chao Min’s first spiteful demand is that Mo-Kei can never marry Siu Chu.

     The Emei nuns come across the helpless Ming elders. Siu Chu makes an agreement with No-Mercy. If Siu Chu can survive three strikes from the cruel nun, the Emei will spare the elders. Just as the lethal third blow lands, Mo-Kei leaps in to the rescue. Shortly afterward, the injured No-Mercy and the other nuns are captured by government troops.
No-Mercy and her Total-Lack-of-Humanity Dancers.
     The Shaolin turn out to have been slaughtered, and whoever did it left behind graffiti blaming the Ming. A fake Shaolin monk shows up at Wudang and attempts to assassinate Grandmaster Chang San-Fung. In the confusion, the scumbag cousin Sung Ching Su stabs his Grandmaster. Ching Su reveals he is working for the government. Government agents attempt to bribe the Wudang, but the injured Grandmaster fights them.

     Mo-Kei arrives and uses Magic Stance to go all Keanu Reeves on the government bad guys. He grabs their swords out of their hands with his mind and crushes them into a ball. Princess Chao Min shows up again and for her second favor, she demands that Mo-Kei refrain from using the Solar Stance or the Magic Stance while fighting the Two Jinxes. The Grandmaster gives him an instant Tai Chi lesson so he has a fighting chance. Eventually he prevails over the Jinxes in suitably melodramatic fashion.
Chime for me to send you to bell!
     Mo-Kei owes the princess one more favor. She wants him to come see her in the capital where she will allow him to fulfill his debt to her. It ends with this cliffhanger, and a whole lot of loose story threads dangling. Who is Siu Chu really working for? What happened to No-Mercy, Chow Chi-Yu, and the other Emei, Shaolin, and Wudang hostages? Will the swords be reunited and the secret of the Lunar Scroll revealed? Did they ever go back to help the crazy hermit like they promised? This movie was supposed to be the start of a trilogy but it wasn’t financially successful enough to earn a sequel and so we will never know what was in store for Mo-Kei.
Bonus nightmare fuel. Come sit on Santa's face!
Noooo-one expects the Spanish Inquisition!
Jet Li casts Cone of Cold on the Demogorgon.

Retroactive abortion is an actual thing, right?




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