Written by: Carroll Jenkins on October 18th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1983
Director: Chih-Hung Kwei
Writers: On Sito
Cast: Wang Lung-Wei, kao Fei, Bolo Yeung
DVD released: November 21st, 2006
Approximate running time: 104 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital Mono Mandarin
DVD Release: Image Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.99
Synopsis: A champion kick boxer is severely injured in a vicious match. His brother vows revenge, but is visited by the spirit of a dead monk who used to be his twin in a prior life. He was killed by a disciple of a black magician that he had killed in a life previous to the last one, who’s followers had then had him killed. Since their destinies are intertwined, the brother will die before he can exact his revenge unless he first becomes a monk in order to defeat the black wizard.
The plot to this one is hopelessly convoluted and insane. Directed by Chih-Hung Kwei (The Killer Snakes) this is a combination of traditional Asian myths updated with brutal violence, insane rituals, and lots of special effects. The film gallops at a breakneck speed, pausing only for another gross ritual to raise various monstrosities including a flying head that entangles the victims with it’s tentacular veins, a full frontal nude sorceress raised in the body of a (dead) crocodile, the stop motion animated skeleton of a mystical bat that was impaled with a dagger. In fact, the special effects are as numerous as they are inventive and [sometimes] cheap looking. Still this movie is really too well crafted to be camp, though it is deliriously over-the-top.
The kick boxing match is absolutely vicious, and Bolo Yeung is the perfect bad guy to paralyze the champ after he loses the bout. Then we have a brief but intense sex scene with the brothers girl friend (nice rack). The black magician’s lair looks like something out of Mario Bava with giant hands upheld in front of a giant effigy of Beelzebub.
The movie was filmed in Thailand, Nepal, and Hong Kong, and the location settings are wondrous. From magnificent Buddhist temples, to ancient ruins, enough scenery is presented to impress the significance of the ancient heritage in each region into every viewer. The basic proponents of Buddhism are presented as well, and they are the basis of defense against the evil.
Warning: there are gross scenes of eating and regurgitating and eating again of various gross substances. There is a potion created by mixing snake venom with human brains to create a purple goop that gives spiders special powers to inject needles into a monk’s eyes. And there are animal considerations: the heads are cut off live chickens to make the crocodile skulls march. Presumably a crocodile was killed to provide a incubator for the sorceress’s resurrection, and a live chicken’s anus was removed and chewed up to prepare the formula to raise the sorceress following gestation in the crocodile cadaver. The point is, NOT RECOMMENDED FOR THE SQUEMISH.
Shaw Brothers had mostly abandoned Shaw Scope at this point, this film is presented in the correct aspect of anamorphic 1:85. It is interlaced and does exhibit some mild combing and shimmering upon occasion. Still, the over quality is very fine – colorful, sharp detail, good contrast. You have a choice of original Mandarin soundtrack in 2.0 or a 5.1 remix. Removable English subtitles. There is a 6 page booklet with an essay by Stephen Gladwin which discusses the significance of the film at the time and to present cinefiles. This presentation is completely uncut. Many scenes, such as the flying head, have been cut from previous video incarnations.
This film, along with Horrors Of Malformed Men, is one of the most canonized obscurities of Asian genre cinema. Thanks to DVD these rarities can be finally be experienced. Essential viewing.