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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Country of Beauties (1981) review


Linda Young/Elsa Yueng Wai San (Queen Nadanwa), Wong Tao (Lu Tin Ying), Fong Fong Fong (Chung Chi), Ng Hau Ling (Chin Chi), Wong Ma Lee (Yin Chi), Ha Kwong Li (Chau Yi), Tsui Jun Jun (Fei Wan), Ching Sau Ying (Su Chi), Hsu Pu Liao (Da Hai), Pa Gwoh ("doctor" Pa), Cheng Fu Hsiung (Pirate Captain)

Directed by Ou Yang Chun (Au Yueng Jun)

The short version: An occasionally goofy, but extravagantly chintzy adventure-martial arts movie jam packed with a series of increasingly strange and outlandish elements. The director is successful in conveying both humor and pathos in several crucial moments during the movie. Not so much a kung fu film as it is an adventure movie, those looking for something on the outskirts of cinema might well be entertained by this First Films curio. An underrated cult item.

An island of beautiful amazons live in hatred of men condemning any male babies fathered by those they capture to the sea. The men are then castrated to live as outcasts. With frequent attacks by pirates, three other bumbling male treasure hunters land on the island of the amazons and become objects of interest. To save themselves from being castrated, one pretends to be a doctor, another a breeder and the other is truthfully a cannon maker. His skills are put to use in aid against the marauding pirates. Meanwhile, a representative from men's island seeks an audience with the Queen in an effort to allow them to return to the land from where they were born. However, the presence of these men causes a ripple of emotions to disrupt the natural order of the amazons.

Two eggs and a banana--the preferred meal of castrated men everywhere

I first saw this movie on the old USA Network program, NIGHT FLIGHT back in the mid 80's. It was under the title of ISLAND WARRIORS. It's one of the wackiest and weirdest martial arts films I have ever laid eyes on. It's a difficult movie to pigeon hole. There's humor, action scenes, nudity, romance and just plain hysterical situations.

Princess Pai, aside from being very attractive, can kick major ass

The male born children are sent out to sea while the men that bred them have their nuts cut off

This hilariously ambitious Taiwanese hokum is great fun mainly for those seeking goofy thrills. It's a reworking of Alfonso Brescia's BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS (1974) which was remade by the same director as a cheap-jack and childish comedy action flick under the title of (among others) AMAZONS & SUPERMEN (1975). There's also a hint of SHE (1965) in there, too. This Chinese version differs slightly in several ways. The men captured by the women have to wear chastity belts. Castration is also a cruel and unusual punishment featured throughout. COUNTRY OF BEAUTIES goes one step further by making the men homosexuals after their jewels have been removed.

Taking away a pirate's "jewels"

I bet that tickled just a little bit

There's also a totally weird Chinese disco main theme that is heard at regular intervals during the movie that only adds to the nuttiness of the whole thing. In addition to this seemingly original piece of bizarre music, cues from sources as varied as FIRST BLOOD (1982) and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) are included. 'Jill's Theme' is put to good use here I must say. It fits the film quite well. There's also a brief cue that sounds a lot like a version of the James Bond theme with a backing 'wa wa' guitar sound.


Another script addition different from its Italian counterpart is the inclusion of a second faction of amazons on the island. Residing in 'Virgin Palace', the beautiful, but lethal Princess Pai (an actress whom I cannot find a listing for) trains the women in the fighting arts. The Princess practices 'Virgin Kung Fu', a style that gives her eternal beauty and superhuman strength so long as she remains a virgin.

"Only my kung fu can save him!"

There's a great scene where the male interloper, Chun Ping, who knows how to build a cannon, is injured and his body is taken to the Virgin kung fu princess Pai who says, "Only my kung fu can save him!" We're then treated to a shot of her breasts getting bigger and exploding out of her vest.

Bust forth...and multiply

Exhausting her strength, the man wakes up to a gorgeous and very naked women laying beside him. Aroused, he decides to make his move and the princess is slightly resistant at first. Once they're making love, the bamboo trees in the forest begin exploding all over the place. This humorous moment symbolizes the princess having her first orgasm. But this has disastrous consequences on the princess since she has now lost her virginity.

COUNTRY OF BEAUTIES shows us Chinese pirates wear toboggans with skull and cross bone emblems sewn on them

Kung fu fans will probably not enjoy COUNTRY OF BEAUTIES that much. The fight scenes are average at best with little to recommend them. The scenario and varied plot elements are what's most attractive about this one. Seeing it in widescreen improves the overall experience, but does nothing to enhance the lackluster action choreography. Perhaps it's because so much of it occurs on a sandy beach? None of it is overly memorable, just basic action. However, the finale is quite expansive culminating in a massive battle complete with lots of explosions.

Da Hai ends up being forced to breed with two wild women in one of the funnier scenes

"I never realized it was so ugly!"--Doctor Pa pretends to know how to deliver babies

The women are pretty to look at...that is till they raise their arms (The Queen is shaved, though). There's several plots going on all at once which makes me wonder if this film didn't transmogrify several times during the script stage, if there was a finished script ready by the time this film went into production. These indy movies were often shot on the fly and scripts were made up, or abruptly changed as they went along. Some of the main characters disappear at the end and we never learn of their fates. Such is the case with the three treasure hunters.

The amazons try to force Chin Ping to sex up an old woman

Yun Chung Yue (left) and Wong Tao (right)

The movie jumps back and forth with the tawdry shenanigans of the three stooges and the seriousness of Wong Tao's character when trying to barter for the men's return to the island where they were born. He ends up falling in love with one of the women and this creates a huge problem for the Queen and the others. Meanwhile, one of the oversexed treasure pilferers tries to make it with one half of a lesbian couple. Stealthily snatching the key to his chastity belt, the horn dog gets caught with his pants down resulting in his painful castration. What makes these ball busting scenes humorous are the array of 'small to large' hooks used to tear the testicles from these poor saps.

An amzonian funeral in a truly poignant sequence in the movie

Interestingly, the version of this film that has floated around for years as ISLAND WARRIORS on various VHS labels such as Best Film & Video as well as cable television, has translated credits in English. These credits also appear in different places as opposed to this widescreen Chinese version, but dubbed in English. Instead of having their names listed in a credit title card, the actresses (most of them) have their names appear onscreen adjoining their first appearance akin to the way Chang Cheh did in many of his movies.

Linda Young has been in a number of indy flicks including NINJA AVENGER, LIFE OF A NINJA and CHALLENGE OF A LADY NINJA (all 1983)

Containing a great many elements for a raucously cheesy good time, COUNTRY OF BEAUTIES has it all: Beautiful women, lesbianism, sex, dancing, martial arts fights, buried treasure, pirates, a giant statue that shoots cannonballs from its eyes, humor, male babies thrown to the sea as shark food, 'virgin kung fu' and anything else in between. Fans who only care about lots of fighting will probably not find too much to interest them here. Trash flick fans and kung fu freaks will want to check it out.

This DVD can be purchased here-- FAR EAST FLIX


Carl (ILHM) said...

I bet it wouldnt surprise you to learn that Ive never heard of this one, V?

Looks like there is enough awesomeness to warrant a view, who can deny the almighty power of lesbian warriors??

venoms5 said...

yeah, this one is definitely a movie you could get into without being a kung fu fan. Lots of goofy potential here. This was the first time I'd seen it widescreen. On tv and video it was always fullscreen and bearing the ISLAND WARRIORS title.

I been trying to play something resembling catch up with some non Shaw Brothers martial arts films. COUNTRY OF BEAUTIES has a lot of potential in my opinion, and that DRAGON ON SHAOLIN TOWERS really freakin' impressed me. Best indy fu flick I've seen in a LONG TIME.

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