director Ho Meng Hua
My first thought while watching 1975’s Black Magic was “Not very sanitary putting that blade in your mouth when flaying a corpse.”
Oh but Black Magic is all kinds of unsanitary. And plenty of that weird and wacky Hong Kong sleaze and mysticism that delivers imagery more incongruous and odd than expectation could allow.
For my money, Tien Ni steals the show as the conniving (and connived upon) Luo Yin, millionairess who gets what she wants, and by that token, I suppose, gets what she deserves in the end. The love potions bought and sold here are indeed costly affairs.
Thoroughly enjoyable and influential but not as out-and-out crazy as others to follow.
director Pao Hsueh-li
As a kid, I was never won over by martial arts flicks. They were almost nutty enough for me, but I never saw one that really blew my mind or even fulfilled whatever it is I needed fulfilling in such fare.
I guess that is because I never saw one with laser fingers, lobster-armed villains, snake projecting women, or guys with stilt chicken feet. Once you start getting into the more phenomenal fantasy stuff, that’s when I start looking around for a martial arts studio that can teach me to fly.
The Battle Wizard may not be the best of the wacky fantasy martial arts stuff, but it’s certainly got enough of it to endear itself to one. That and a breakneck pace that will have your eyes all aflutter.
director Meng Hua Ho
Plastic Surgery Disasters
Halfway through The Oily Maniac, the subtitles cut out. While you may think that losing the nuance of language wouldn’t necessarily harm my understanding of the movie, it did muddy the full sense of what was driving Mr. Oily Maniac as he committed the later murders. And given the readings of the film that I’ve been poring over, the evolution of the vengeance skews a lot of people’s reaction of the film.
I did notice that Mr. Maniac, who originally incarnated himself to effect revenge for a rape suddenly started to focus on female victims. The amount of misogyny the film evokes probably does depend on exactly what is being said.
I’ll give credit to Uncle Jasper at Silver Emulsion for his Freudian reading of Ah Yung (Danny Lee)’s emasculated polio victim turned misogynist rage machine when rejected by his lady love. You don’t need to travel that far down the rabbit hole to get there.
Overall The Oily Maniac is silly Exploitation fun. Minus the misogyny. Unless you take it as a critique of impotent masculine rage.
director Hua Shan
I wish I’d seen The Super Inframan when I was a kid. I would have loved the heck out of it.
I grew up on Shōwa period Godzilla, loved The Space Giants and Ultraman and even sort of enjoyed Spectreman (it seemed cheaper than the others).
Super Inframan is wall-to-wall, non-stop action and monsters and fighting and hilarity.
It’s purely sublime.
All hail, Princess Dragon Mom!
director Jen-Chieh Chang
As obscure as The Devil is, the internet has more than beat me at summing up with 1980’s HK/Taiwanese horror picture: “A hideously ugly witch casts spells on her victims which turns their insides into snakes and worms.” – IMDb.com
This was the B-side to The Rapist (1994) on a cheap dvd from Videoasia. A weird pairing other than from obscurity.
Not without its charms, The Devil has some gruesomeness and worms and snakes and effluvia. And a kid named Ding Dong who wears some strange outfits and would make this movie quite the fish in the barrel for MST3K or whomever.
director Chuen-Yee Cha
The Rapist is a sleazy little category 3 Hong Kong policier about a serial rapist on the loose and the police team trying to catch him.
At its sleazier moments, it’s kind of creepy and weird and dark. But more of the film is focused on the police procedural (such as it is), the many man hours and hackneyed schemes of catching a rapist who is getting more violent and graduating to murder.
The lead cop has an obsessional quality that almost links him to the rapist, able to envision the crimes, think like the killer. Is it because he was raped himself as he jokes? Or that his younger sister was raped and traumatized? The psychological angles are not all that sharp and some of the joking (i.e., that the rapes wouldn’t happen if there were more prostitutes out there) certainly off-key.
Interesting, but only so much so.
director Chung Sun
Pretty pleasing Shaw Brothers Wuxia flick verging towards horror. Human Lanterns has the feel of a traditional ghost story revenge fable, but it’s luridly colorful, packed with action, blood, gore, and a crazy guy in a hairy skull mask. What’s not to like?
Ultimately, a tale of revenge, it also plays out a bit Yojimbo-like. Two big shots in a small village vie and complete with one another in many ways, but especially in the art of lantern making. The more evil of the two seeks out a talented craftsman who he had scarred in the past to help him deliver the winning lantern. The scarred craftsman decides to employ an ancient technique that requires human skin for his lanterns and sets about kidnapping and murdering the women in the two competitors’ lives, setting them more and more against one another.
The set design and camerawork are excellent, and the use of color does echo of the hues of Mario Bava.
director Ho Meng-hua
The Hong Kong King Kong knock-off The Mighty Peking Man is a mesmerizing one-off, a kaiju wildly camp, unintentionally comic, and oddly endearing.
There is a lot to love here, with the lovely Evelyne Kraft (RIP) as a jungle girl raised by her giant ape named Utam. Kraft’s animal skin bikini clinging miraculously to her left breast throughout is well worth mentioning. This blonde Tarzan of the Himalayas frolics with a good number of potentially dangerous creatures including a leopard and a tiger. She gets bitten on the inner thigh by a venomous snake, which our hero Johnny (Danny Lee) must suck out rather suggestively. Then there is that scene where Utam watches Johnny and Samantha as she is known making love and wanders away rather chagrined.
My favorite, though, is any time Utam has to shout or scream. The rubber of his mask and his teeth pop weirdly, hilariously.
I don’t know what else to say but it’s so terrible yet so appealing and entertaining. Star scoring escapes me.
I do have to throw in one last thing. This amazing poster for an alternate title of Goliathon which is just sublime, though seems to get Utam all wrong.
director Chuan Yang
Notorious Shaw Brothers’ bananas horror film, Seeding of a Ghost, most certainly has its charms. It’s the wacky story of a cuckolded taxi driver, who is cursed when he accidentally gives a crafty wizard a ride. Long, convoluted story shortened, his wife is raped and murdered and to seek revenge he employs his former evil fare to wreak revenge via black magic.
This includes several levels of reviving the corpse of his wife and eventually “seeding” her. Um, yeah, that is what it seems to suggest.
There are lots of very kooky and pretty awesome traditional FX and some outréness of which to be quite proud. Definitely worth seeing if you like your Hong Kong horror as coo-coo and outrageous as it gets.
I can’t recall when or where I first read about this film, but I think it goes back a couple of decades. I’d never seen it before, but let me tell you, it’s a keeper.
director T. F. Mou
When I first started on my trek through “most disturbing” or “most disgusting” films last year, one of the movies that constantly showed up on lists was T.F. Mou’s Men Behind the Sun. It didn’t ring bells for me.
The film is a narrative approach to the frightening, horrific true-life human experiments performed by the Japanese Unit 731 in the waning days of World War II. Inspired by the Nazis and the things that they were doing, Lt. Gen. Shiro Ishii led outrageous and most terrible human tests on things like frostbite, starvation, human vivisection, all sorts of sick and twisted stuff. The reality is in many ways far more stunning and shocking than the contents of this film.
The film, which I believe was made with educational intentions, goes from potentially serious to absolutely hilariously grotesque in its exploitation-style special effects and overall sensibilities. From a perspective of horrors and shock and grotesqueries, it’s far more comically gruesome than impactful like Come and See (1985), a Russian film about horrors of World War II that often makes many of the same lists of gruesome films.
I say that not to devalue it, but more to differentiate. Come and See is tremendously powerful and upsetting. Men Behind the Sun is not quite a laugh-riot, but far more so. The realities that it attempts to depict are as horrific as you can imagine. But the film is far enough detached from reality in its production, so it’s really almost fun.