10,000 Bullets   Exploring the world of Cinema from the Arthouse to the Grindhouse™

Stoner (Shrine Of The Ultimate Bliss) 
Written by: on September 30th, 2009

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1974
Director: Feng Huang
Writers: Feng Huang, Kuang Ni
Cast: George Lazenby, Angela Mao, Betty Ting Pei, Ing-Sik Whang, Joji Takagi, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Yuen Biao

DVD released: August 21st, 2009
Approximate running time: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: II (Hong Kong)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Mandarin
Subtitles: English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese
DVD Release: Joy Sales
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC (Hong Kong)
Retail Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Not-so-secret agent Stoner is sent to Hong Kong to uncover the source of a new narcotic called the ‘happy pill’. For guys it’s better than marijuana, and it turns all women into nymphomaniacs. That would make any dude happy, right? Independently of Stoner, a woman police officer is simultaneously assigned to investigate the new drug cartel.

First, the film that would have been – Shrine Of The Ultimate Bliss. It was Bruce Lee’s next project following Enter The Dragon with co-stars Sonny Chiba and George Lazenby. It was to be a major multi-national release and Lazenby was to revitalize his career following his ill-advised departure from the James Bond series. Then Bruce died, Sonny withdrew, but Lazenby was already signed. Angela Mao was brought in and the script reworked and the budget slashed; the result never saw a stateside release.

Second, the film that no one much has seen – Stoner. US home video releases have all been shorn of most nudity and much Angela Mao and pan and scan destroys the scope composition.  Now the film can finally be experienced in a respectable release. But can it be enjoyed?

Lazenby plays a rather doltish ‘secret agent’, but everyone knows who he is, why he’s there, and that he was coming. He hamfists his way through dozens of kung fu thugs through the wonders of choreography. Sammo Hung has the thankless job of trying to make him look good. Imagine Hulk Hogan matched against Bret ‘The Hit Man’ Hart and you’ll get the picture. The real star and hero(ine) of the film is Angela Mao who has one of her best fight sequences ever. Here she portrays both her pig-tailed peasant and disguised-as-a-boy street urchin personas.  And she kicks major ass.

The DVD:

The HK version with the nudity and Mao intact, presented widescreen letterboxed anamorphic. This print, though exhibiting some specs, projection lines, and wear, is NOT DUBBED. Lazenby and Mao speak English, while most everyone else speaks Cantonese. This is obviously a holdover from the originally intended international release to minimize dubbing and maximize the actor’s natural voices. The English subtitles translate all the dialog, Chinese and English. The presentation is 2:35:1 but in some scenes appears to be slightly squeezed from 2:39:1 to fit everyone in.

There are two elements that make this film: sleazy exploitation and Angela Mao. With those elements restored, now’s the time to expand your mind with this wild and groovy one-of-a-kind camp classic. Gotta rank this higher than Casino Royale as best Bond in a Blender.

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