Written by: John White on January 13th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1976
Director: Ho Meng-Hwa
Cast: Danny Lee, Chen Ping, Lily Li, Hua Lun, Ku Feng
DVD released: 1st August 2003
Approximate running time: 84 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Celestial
Region Coding: Region 3 NTSC
Retail Price: $100HK
Synopsis: Ah Yung had polio as a child and now can’t walk without crutches. He is involved in a fight at his workplace with the Yang family and his uncle stabs a man in self defence. The uncle is found guilty of murder thanks to the evil defence lawyer Hu and chooses to let Ah Yung know a spell which he can use to protect the innocent and punish the wicked. Ah Yung pledges to protect his uncle’s daughter, Little Yue, and uses the spell when he suspect the Yang family may come to rape her. The spell turns him into an almost indestructible killing machine and he uses it again and again when he comes across crooks of all kinds. When he learns the truth about lawyer Hu, Hu is next to fall to the wrath of the Oily Maniac.
The film explains at the beginning that the story is a retelling of a folk tale and the closest comparison to this film is a kind of cross between Superman and Dr Jekyll. When Ah Yung casts the spell for the first time he is enveloped in oil and leaps out as the rubber suited monster you see in the screenshots. The oily maniac is indestructible much as the assassin in Terminator 2, it can turn into liquid and reconstitute arms, legs and even a head when it is chopped off. Ah Yung is a flawed hero and his righteousness soon gives way to misogyny when he attacks evil women by entering their homes through the bath taps.
The special effects are ropey matte affairs and not the sophisticated CG effects we see today but this adds to the charm of the film. Like Ho Meng Hwa’s other films, Mighty Peking Man and Black Magic, this is very cheesy stuff and if at all taken seriously would probably be offensive – women in this film, with one exception, are simply beastly or stupid. The baddies are so evil that not only would they send an innocent man to the gallows but they steal his plant and rape his daughter – these are bad people, crooked capitalists, evil lawyers, blackmailers and venal plastic surgeons. The baddies rape, kill and cheat and thoroughly deserve their monstrous ends.
Oily Maniac is daft cheese which even steals John Williams Theme from Jaws, but any film which mixes botched plastic surgery, witchcraft and hilarious court scenes is cool in my book.
The film is presented excellently here with anamorphic widescreen and a sharp print and fine transfer. The audio is excellent and the English subtitles are very good
The disc carries trailers for other Celestial releases and biographies for main performers. It would have been good to have some explanation of the original folktale that the film is based on but given Celestial got everything else right this is being a bit picky.
Oily Maniac is an enjoyable cheese fest of revenge, really bad bad guys and a monster formed from an oil slick – the Celestial disc is an excellent way to see it.