007. The Big Fight (1972) aka Blood on the Sun, Lei Tai
Directors: Shing Yuan Sun, Ting Mei Sung
Writer: Shing Yuan Sun
From: Cult Cinema
During the WWII Japanese occupation of China, two occupation officials fear that guerrilla forces will find common cause with the local martial arts school and the two will unite against the Japanese forces. The officials propose a tournament to flush out and kill the warriors, but of course the fights are rigged. Our hero and the guerrillas must decide when to fight and when it's best to bide their time.
More Kung-Fu so soon and one I enjoyed much more than Chase Step By Step. I think there are fewer fight scenes in this one, but they carry more weight. There's certainly more character and story here and some real question about how things will shake out. The movie also feels more fun.
We open in the martial arts school where a scrappy youth is beaten down by Brother Wu. Is this the nefarious Brother Wu I've heard so much about in the Kung-Fu parodies of my youth? He's a scoundrel, the movie's villain, and appropriately wormy. It's nice to have a villain to hate.
We cut to our hero traveling across Japanese-occupied China smuggling salt to his girlfriend. Is it just to make food or for use in developing gun powder to help the rebellion? The guards running the checkpoints along his path have the same question but are quickly dispatched by him and what had seemed to be a small band of travelers. Turns out they're part of the rebellion and they've heard of him. He invites them back to his town to lay low for a bit and plot the expulsion of the Japanese.
There are minor skirmishes with Brother Wu, political maneuvering by the school and Wu's father—the town leader, ultimately leading to Wu and his father proposing the tournament plan to their Japanese overlords. The tournament will pit the great Japanese masters of the various fighting styles—including sumo—against any willing challengers. Of course, the fights are fixed and all the challengers are killed by the Japanese masters.
Our hero and the head of the martial arts school see it for the trap that it is and forbid any of their students from participating, but eventually their honor and the safety of their friends is so threatened that they must test their styles against the Japanese.
The whole thing works. The fight scenes are fun, the villains are sufficiently mustache-twirling, and the story isn't too bad. Sure, there's the scrappy kid who is useless and annoying and forces the hero's hand later, and the hero's girlfriend whose role in the movie is to get killed to inspire him to fight back. That's doubly disappointing because the leader of the guerrillas is a woman and it would have been really easy to make the girlfriend involved with the underground in the town. Just give her a little something to be a character as opposed to a button to activate heroic action. Despite those two issues, it was fun.
The movie also works on a bad film/camp level. The dubbing is bad to the point where I wonder if the dubbers were being sarcastic, you can make jokes about what's going on without diminishing the film, and it has a literal “Your mother!” moment. +2 movie.
I came away from this with the sense of the old sword & sandal films, although that might just be because it's a dub from the 70's. My copy was formatted for television and it really should be in wide-screen. The choreography is pretty okay and, on top of that, the movie has sequences of Kung-Fu versus guns. I want to see all of that.
There is no copyright notice on this movie and it shows up in Film Chest's Public Domain film list, so I've uploaded an MPEG of this to archive.org here.
008. The Creeping Terror (1964)
Director: Vic Savage
Writer: Robert Silliphant
From: Cult Cinema & Sci-Fi Invasion
A newly married couple witnesses a flying saucer crash. As they alert the authorities, one of the monsters on board escapes. While the military is busy investigating the saucer and the creature chained up inside, its fellow traveler is moving ever-closer to the town, claiming victims as it goes.
I have seen this movie a ridiculous number of times, mostly due to The It's Alive Show. They played the episode featuring this movie a lot, or maybe I just feel like they did because of their affection for the admittedly strange “Bobby!” exclamation in the movie.
This movie is such a slow, goofy spectacle. When I tell my students about my bad movie hobby, I reference this film and describe it as “hallucinogenically dull.” My jaw was on the ground watching this because nothing is done right. Nothing.
The movie features a narrator describing what characters are saying in the movie including during scenes where you hear the characters speak. The filmmakers had the actors' voices reading the lines but still muted them in favor of another voice telling you what you were watching and what the characters were saying. This is not the most strangely incompetent part of the movie, though. This is the classic picture where the monster, the hulking alien beast roaming the landscape, is a bunch of carpet remnants quilted together and being shaken by a guy underneath. The monster lurches on to its victims, some of who have to drag themselves through the doggy-door-style flap on the front to be effectively consumed. The actors involved should be praised for not constantly giggling in the face of this “horror.”
It is glorious.
I know I'm not giving the standard detailed run-down of the plot, but there's none to give. The editing and content of the film is so strange, so ad-hoc, that I wonder if things didn't just fall apart half-way/three-quarters through and they decided to see what kind of film they could make just with the material they had. This movie is so strange, put together in such an odd fashion that it feels like a documentary made by aliens. The Wikipedia entry for the movie has a brief description of what happened during production, but I want more. I want the Ed Wood of the making of this movie.
Even though it is dull, the movie is too weird not to recommend. Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured it as episode 606. It's available on MST3k Volume 1 or on YouTube. Unfortunately, the film itself is still under copyright and so I can't share my copy online.