Tagged: hong kong

VHS Verdict: ‘Saga of the Phoenix’ Brings the Monsters & 80’s Mayhem!!

I finally got a round to checking out 1989’s ‘Saga of the Phoenix’, the wildly entertaining sequel to ‘The Peacock King’ from cult classic Hong Kong director Lam Ngai Kai (Riki-Oh). If you’re a fan of ‘Riki-Oh’ I highly recommend checking out the director’s other work and while ‘Saga of the Phoenix’ isn’t as shockingly violent, it’s easily just as wild and crazy as anything he’s ever done.  In the sequel we follow once again, the exploits of the two magical monks Lucky Fruit and Peacock but more so this time the “Hell Virgin” Ashura who in the last movie caused some major problems, almost destroying mankind as we know it while under the enchantment of the devil. Ashura though still loves the mortal world and eventually is granted permission to live there for 7 days, only if she makes a promise to stay out of any mischief that might interfere with the human world. She gladly accepts and quickly hunts down a weird gremlin creature named “Genie” when arriving on Earth. Peacock, Lucky Fruit and 3 bad ass nuns are also then sent down to chaperone her visit, but of course the wicked “Hell Concubine” has other plans, to send her evil minions there as well to try and corrupt her once again. 

Though I’ve heard many seem to think this one is more “kid friendly”, probably because the gremlin character “Genie”is focused on quite a bit. Though we follow Ashura and him running around Hong Kong in the 80’s having fun (which I totally dug), it’s still got plenty of downright bizarre scenarios to behold that I think places it in a league all of it’s own and quite a worthy sequel. There’s also the inclusion of a brother and sister human duo that befriend the main characters and the brother just happens to be a madcap inventor of an inter dimensional time machine. Go figure! There’s a few hints of romance and of course the three nun protectors all decide to go for a dip in the human’s swimming pool after their outfits get shredded in battle, donning swimsuits for the first time in their rather “sheltered” life. There’s also some pretty perplexing plot choices surrounding the character of Genie that just kind of have to be seen to be believed. The character which is a mix of puppet and stop-motion animation has got plenty to do here and is given more than his fair share of moments to shine and even scare.

Sure there’s a lot going on here in a movie with an admittedly flimsy plot, the good thing is that the majority of it all is one helluva good time. Bleeding sweet 80’s fashion & locations, outrageous characters, wild sets, puppets, stop motion animation, giant monsters and plenty of neon lasers to behold, it’s hard not to at least be enamored by all of the eye candy. There’s also a splash of martial arts action thrown in the mix to keep the action going at a steady pace from Lucky Fruit and Peacock. Sure there’s lot’s of logic issues with the plot & the dialogue (translations likely) can be a bit incoherent at times but there’s more than enough outrageous charm throughout to easily satisfy fans of directors like Steven Speilberg, Sam Raimi & Peter Jackson’s 80’s and early 90’s work.

If you’re a fan of weird 80’s fantasy, action & horror you definitely need track down The Peacock King & The Saga of the Phoenix.  It’s jam packed with all the things I love so much about that era of film making. Lam Ngai Kai (aka Ngai Choi Lam) is easily the best cult director out of Hong Kong for the time, it’s a shame he completely disappeared from film making after 1992. Perhaps he decided his body work couldn’t be topped? Thankfully he’s left behind a truly unique legacy of outrageous films that have yet to be explored by a huge portion of American cinemaniacs.  

Forgotten 80’s Cyborg Mayhem: Step Aside Robocop Here Comes MARIA!

So way back in 1988 Hong Kong had their own awesome version of Robocop, an ass kickin’ lady cyborg named Maria! Yes, the action/sci-fi flick ‘I Love Maria’ aka ‘Roboforce’ is easily one of the best 80’s movies I’ve seen coming from that region of the world since I started going down the rabbit hole of odd ball Hong Kong cinema a while ago. I must admit, a lot of Hong Kong films during that era are usually pretty hit or miss, many with confusing, nonsensical plots & often weird slapstick potty humor that likely loses something in the often rudimentary english translation provided. However ‘I Love Maria’ definitely hits the right beats on the humor, action & plot to make it stand out as not merely a foreign remake of Robocop but a uniquely charming little sci-fi adventure all of it’s own. The plot’s indeed pretty outrageous, but to a large degree that’s what makes it a so much damn fun. It’s also filled with some memorable characters that at the end of the day, leave you with some warm fuzzy feelings about friendship & the importance of true camaraderie. So what’s it all about you ask?

 

So the vicious “Hero Gang”, is a downright nasty criminal terrorist organization (I know odd name for the gang then huh?), hell bent on wreaking all out havoc upon the streets of Hong Kong with their unstoppable killer robots: Pioneers 1 and 2! While Pioneer 1’s a giant hulking armored unit, Pioneer 2’s been modeled after “Maria“, the Hero Gang’s devious second in command. When Pioneer 2 gets damaged during a secret assassination mission, it’s taken into the custody of a curious hi-tech weapons inventor employed by the police force named “Curly”. He secretly repairs & reprograms her with new coding that triggers changes to her logic center. Pioneer 2 begins to develop her own unique heroic personality and soon Curly finds himself caught in the middle of a deadly battle against The Hero Gang. Banding together with a drunken ex-gang member named “Whisky” & “T.Q.”, a bumbling news camera man, the four of them embark on a dangerous mission with the fate of Hong Kong in the palm of their hands! 

‘I Love Maria’ is a must see for fans of odd 80’s sci fi, the three main human characters have some great chemistry together, one of which is cult director Tsui Hark (Detective Dee, Double Team, Once Upon a Time In China), who hams it up thoroughly as the heroic alcoholic ‘Whisky’. The special effects work is pretty stunning as well, especially when it comes to Maria battling the ‘Pioneer 1’ robot. They bash though walls, fire rocket launchers for their arms and fling eachother around like rag dolls on the streets of Hong Kong. They never skimp on spectacle here either as there’s a plethora of explosions, Hi-tech weaponry, martial arts battles, car chases & of course awesome robot beat downs to behold here. There’s also a pretty interesting duo of villains, the brother & sister leaders of The Hero Gang who also happen to be in love. Throw in “Mr. Vampire” himself, Lam Ching Ying in the mix to showcase his always amazing kung fu and you’ve got yourself a frenetic sci-fi action flick here that never lets up.

That all being said the real star of the show is clearly the charismatic cyborg Maria, who not only lights up the screen with her robotic butt kicking but also with her curious charm. A largely forgotten rad 1980s female action hero that more people need to discover. Hunt this one down, especially if you dig over the top, 80’s, sci-fi action stuff that really fires on all cylinders: unique characters, stunning practical fx, sets, locations and just pure cybernetic mayhem a’ plenty . Stick around all the way through the end credits as well, where you’ll some of the sweetest scenes of the movie. Someone needs to jump on releasing and cleaning up some of the amazing Hong Kong horror/sci-fi stuff out there from the 80’s & 90’s, there’s so many forgotten, rarely seen gems for fans of cult cinema in the USA. Until then this one’s actually pretty hard to find, but definitely worth the effort!

VHS Verdict: ‘Wizard’s Curse’ 1992’s Bizarre Raunchy Kung Fu Horror Flick!!

I’ve been checking out a lot of 1980’s and 90’s foreign horror movies lately and the ones from Hong Kong are most definitely the most outrageous of them all. 1992’s ‘Wizard’s Curse’ is certainly proof of that, a mix of raunchy sex comedy, horror, fantasy and action all rolled into one big weird ball. A pair of “on the run” criminal lovers rumored to be practitioners of dark magic are hunted down by local police lead by a taoist priest. Using his own unique supernatural abilities he aids the cops, managing to personally slay them both. Soon after, a local cult leader resurrects their spirits into a one shared physical body, granting them superhuman powers & leaving them thirsting for human brains. They set out on a mission, to track down the priest for revenge and seeking to eat the brains of a virgin to gain ultimate powers of evil. This sets into motion a chase as the priest battles them to protect his daughter and the life of a tuff guy virgin cop who becomes entangled in the case.

Yeah it’s a weird one. It features Ching-Ying Lam better known for his role in the iconic ‘Mr. Vampire’ movies of the 1980’s as the even tempered ass kickin’ priest. The bad guy & girl share one body, change sexes at random & wear a totally 80’s leather clad outfit that’d make ‘The Terminator’ jealous. They rip though Hong Kong eating brains and murdering people with a huge glowing phallus, that’s used most of the time like a super powered snake like battering ram. There’s some really great 80’s style fx work going here, creepy moments and some frenetic action sequences keep Wizard’s curse moving at a brisk pace. Together (literally) they make a unique villain and the camera tricks utilized to make inhabit the same body are a lot of fun as well.

Ching-Ying Lam never disappoints with his kung fu either, he’s one of the best and there’s some incredibly fun supernatural kung fu battles to behold. However the movie is also entirely unsure of what it wants to be as it’s littered with sex & dick jokes when you least expect it. A lot of these Hong Kong horror movies of that era go lots of different directions and while it certainly makes things interesting this one could have really benefitted by keeping the raunchy comedy to a bare minimum. Also watching the movie with it’s rudimentary english subtitles leads me to believe the comedy may have played better if I’d have actually understood the language they’re speaking. My bad.

 

 At the end of the day though, I definitely do recommend ‘Wizard’s Curse’, if even just for it’s sheer absurdity alone. Though it was released in 1992 it feels one hundred percent 80’s. Lots of neon, cool clothing, real stunts and a ton of 80’s FX work make it a unique little movie that never gets sleepy. It’s also filled with plenty of non PC “comedy” mostly revolving around sex yet never ends up being overly offensive some how. I liked the role of the virgin too being the wise crackin’ cop instead of the priests daughter, who regularly spends her time dodging super creepy advance & ploys from mega douchey men. The movie’s finale is pretty fun too as the Taoist Priest is forced to team up with his hilarious ex-wife who’s also a bad ass magician. And of course the movie’s final moment gag hinges on an over the top sex joke. If you’re looking for an utterly odd hybrid horror movie check this one out, it’s got a lot of weird ass shit going for it, if that’s your cup of tea!

VHS Verdict: ‘Riki-Oh’ Director’s ‘THE CAT’ from 1991 is Equally Bonkers!

I finally after years of searching, got a copy of the highly elusive, lost Hong Kong Horror / Sci-fi flick from 1991! If you’ve ever seen the director’s previous movie ‘Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki’ then you’ve got a decent idea of what you’re in for here. Lam Ngai Kai, the cult director at the helm here ended his wild and truly weird film making run with this crazy gem and then completely disappeared, likely completely satisfied with the truly bonkers back catalog of films he left behind.

‘The Cat’ is the perfect finale to his cult legacy as well, the only problem is, it’s a damn hard one to track down unless you search it down on Youtube and can find decent a version with subtitles, I’m not a big fan of the film quality that turns up there for many of these “lost” movies. But sometimes it’s the only way to check these rare flicks out. Filmed back to back with ‘Riki-Oh’, this one again is a short, sweet briskly paced, frenetic adventure with a runtime just under 80 minutes.

The story of course is yet another truly weird one: an amorphous blob of tentacled evil, is set loose from somewhere in deep space down to the streets of Hong Kong. Meanwhile mild mannered adventure novelist Wisely, is given an odd tip from a friend who suspects something strange afoot at his normally quiet apartment complex, discovering his next door neighbors are a trio aliens from another planet being lead by their “pet” cat named ‘The General’. Stranded on Earth they’re intent on completing a mysterious secret mission. Soon Wisley’s stuck in a mind bending web of utter mayhem when he tracks down & befriends the alien trio, embarking on a horror drenched adventure to stop the evil alien blob from continuing it’s path of destruction.

The Cat’s got a lot going for it, especially if you’re a fan of gooey, fast moving horror movies like Evil Dead II & stuff like The Terminator and The Thing. It’s got sweet 80’s style special FX galore, “Cat vs Dog” fist fights, over the top gun play & a down right bizarre train wreck of a plot. I mean that in the best way possible and some of the way it comes off is likely do to the crude translation of the dialogue via subtitles. It’s got a few scenes that kinda just have to be seen to be believed, not nearly anywhere as gory as Riki-Oh, but surely a unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie before. Particularly a sequence where the intelligent alien cat “General” is pursued by Hong Kong’s most dangerous canine, a hulking mastiff, who’s been sent by Wisely to hunt him down. Dog & cat duke it out in a creepy junkyard while the ‘General’ the cat displays some incredible human fighting techniques and even sports an unbelievable wresting move right out of the WWF to end the whole damn confrontation!

There’s tons of colorful, gooey practical fx to marvel over as well, puppets, gore, stunts & that classic 80’s electricity used to pure perfection. Director Lam Ngai Kai truly revels in the absurdity of it all and clearly used his stunning fx spectacles as the center pieces for his films. Turning your mind off and simply enjoying the eye candy is the best approach to his movies. I’m stunned most only know his movie Riki-Oh, which is now a bonafide cult classic, when he’s got a trove of incredible movies that all rival it. Do yourself a favor and check out ‘The Seventh Curse’ & ‘The Ghost Snatchers’ from 1986, ‘The Peacock King’ from 1989 as well as ‘The Cat’ & ‘Riki Oh’ 9if you haven’t seen that one yet). All of these movies deserve a remastered official blu ray release dammit!! Until then I’ve got some extra boot VHS copies of the movie If you’re interested!!

 

Hong Kong’s Sam Raimi: Whatever Happened to Riki-Oh’s Lam Nai-Choi?!

One of the most wild & unpredictable filmmakers of all time hands down has got to be Hong Kong’s Lam Ngai Kai aka Lam Nai-choi, Most well known for his mega cult classic ‘RIKI-OH/The Story of Riki’ it’s clear this guy is, in my opinion one of the most underrated directors in the horror genre. Imagine if Sam Raimi made movies as consistently awesome as the Evil Dead trilogy, well that’s a good way to sum up this guy’s catalogue of crazy ass films. I’ve been fully surprised at how many people love ‘Riki-Oh’ yet aren’t familiar with anything else this guy’s done.

It probably doesn’t help that he completely disappeared off the movie map in 1992 for unknown reasons. Perhaps he realized he’d unlikely ever be able to top the craziness of his back catalogue of bizarre flicks. I’d love to know what he’s up to today and what I’d love even more would be his return to filmmaking. There’s however, literally zero info on why he stopped his film career and what the dude’s been up to these days. That being said let’s take a quick look at some of his coolest flicks you may not have even known existed! First if you’ve never seen Riki-Oh from 1991 it’s easily one of the wildest action/horror hybrid movies out there and totally on par with the awesomeness of Evil Dead 2. It features some of the most over the top action/gore of all time:

 

Next is another equally crazy ass flick from 1986 called ‘The Seventh Curse‘ which is like Indiana Jones on acid fighting monsters and exploring some truly epic locations. It features Chow Young Fat in a small role and continues with totally frantic action sequences that never slows it’s pace right to the very end. A true hidden gem of a movie that many 80’s horror fans have completely missed out on over the years. Seek this out asap as it’s more proof this guy’s got chops on par with the likes of early Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi & Don Coscarelli.

 

Kai’s got more under his belt too if you want another horror adventure that’s a true spectacle to behold check out ‘The Peacock King‘ from 1988. A totally unique movie that’s also a full on FX extravaganza. This one literally utilizes nearly every 80’s special fx in the book, from stop motion monsters, to animatronic creatures etc. etc. etc. you name it, this movie will take you on tour of the bizarre set to a super fun, dark yet equally light hearted adventure. Check it out: Continue reading

Netflix’s B-Movie DVD Mayhem: ‘EVIL CAT’ From 1987!!

Here’s yet another entry for all you folks out there who STILL get dvds in the mail from Netflix! I know there aren’t all that many of us left these days, but I’m the type of guy who still thinks dvds are the bees knees! Yeah!! So what of it?!! Don’t get me wrong, I still stream stuff on the online Neflix site but let’s be honest most of that shit SUCKS – Hence why I’ve been combing the dvd Neflix library for lost gems!

Good news folks, I found another gem in their vast sea of aging dvds, this time we’re looking at a movie from Hong Kong from way back in 1987: EVIL CAT. I’m not quite sure how I stumbled upon this cool ass little Chinese horror movie but I’m glad I did cuz it was a ton o’ fun! This crazy ass little movie is jam packed with quirk, 80’s electricity and frantic action sequences, basically everything I dig about the 80’s. Director Dennis Yu brings the fun and amps up some seriously ridiculous shit as we follow the exploits of an evil cat spirit (who’da thunk huh?) that’s released from it’s ancient sealed tomb by a construction crew & unleashed upon Hong Kong in the late 80’s.

The movie moves at brisk pace too, the evil cat spirit moves from body to body kinda like that Denzel Washington movie ‘Fallen’ if it was more of a spastic colorful horror romp. It’s actually pretty damn funny when the spirit possesses people, they start acting like wild feral cats growling and scratching like maniacs. It’s pretty cool to see these actors go for it and go pretty far over the top with their possessions.

The evil cat spirit however has problems of it’s own though as we learn over centuries one family has been hunting it and keeping it in check over generations. In the 1980’s there’s an old badass dude from that bloodline who’s dying from cancer who pulls out the old magic bow & arrows from storage to put a stop to the feline madness himself. There’s some sweet plot twists here, crazy characters & some surprising gore that pops in out of nowhere from time to time. The movie never really drags and wears it’s 80’s influences firmly on it’s sleeve. You get a pretty damn fine representation of what Hong Kong was like in the 1980’s, filled with neon and great 80’s fashion. It’s clear if you’re looking for more great crazy cinema from that era, there’s a treasure trove of movies waiting to be discovered from Hong Kong studios.

Evil Cat is definitely worth tracking down and the finale is pretty cool especially when the evil cat possesses a woman who’s nearly as unstoppable as the Terminator! The actual cat spirit is portrayed several times as cool hand drawn animation & then as basically a female cat “creature” pulled from the broadway musical “Cats”.

So while there were several aspects of the movie that could have been done better it was still an incredibly inspired 80’s effort to witness for the first time with no expectations. Also if you’re a fan of kung fu there’s some cool crazy showdowns and plenty of humor thrown into the mix. Some if it being likely being due to some shoddy subtitles and translations that just add more charm to the viewing experience. Track down EVIL CAT or if you still have a Netflix dvd account then throw it into you’re queue!!

 

The Inspiration Behind “Big Trouble in Little China”!

It’s pretty much common fact this day and age that ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ is one of the coolest movies ever made. Anyone wanna disagree with me here? It pretty much stands alone as one of the best, most original movies that John Carpenter has ever done and defies any real genre. Carpenter must be a genius right?!

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Most likely that’s true, but even genius minds get inspired to create awesome things often from some other source. Sometimes though these brilliant minds can unintentionally take full credit for something great. So I wanted to take a quick minute to address just what movie was indeed the inspiration behind ‘Big Trouble’. Ever heard of “Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain“? I didn’t think so!

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This rad Hong Kong flick from from 1983 was indeed the inspiration for Carpenter’s masterpiece! John Carpenter has gone on record several times citing this movie as his inspiration for his 1986 feature film. Yep this little known special effects driven flick was what got Carpenter’s mind reelin’ to eventually compose “Big Trouble in Little China”. This one is an unknown gem, at least here in the United States where it’s extremely hard to find. Director Tsui Hark, who was attempting to break out a s a superstar, attempted to mix the kind of mythological adventures that were popular at the time, with a more Hollywood approach and more western stylized special effects work.

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Even more impressive was that he brought in the people behind Star Wars for technical special effects assistance. Add in my favorite chinese actor Sammo Hung and you’ve got quite a stellar movie! So go check it for yourself but keep in mind that there was a remake (which wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the original) and if you loved ‘Big Trouble’ eat your heart out with this one! Hong Kong cinema in the 1980’s was a ton of fun!

Here is the FULL movie uploaded to Youtube!!