Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Boxer's Omen (1983) review


Philip Ko (Chan Hung), Wai Ga Man (Chan's girlfriend), Wang Lung Wei (Chan Wing), Elvis Tsui (Qing Zhao), Yang Tze/Bolo Yeung (Bu Bo)

Directed by Kuei Chi Hung

***WARNING! This review contains gruesome images of gore and nudity***

Bolo Yeung (right) battles veteran Shaw villain, Wang Lung Wei (left) during the opening moments. Bolo featured in a number of Shaw Brothers productions in the early 1970's before landing a small role in ENTER THE DRAGON. Bolo went on to appear in dozens of kung fu quickies including a handful of Bruceploitation movies

Chan Hung's brother is brutally paralyzed after a Thai boxing match when his opponent becomes incensed over losing the fight. Chan journey's to Thailand to avenge his brother shame. Once there, bizarre occurrences lead him to a Buddhist monastery where he discovers a curse on his family. Chan is linked to a dead monk who, in the process of becoming immortal, lost a duel of magic with an evil wizard, who wanted him dead for killing one of his evil disciples. Chan must now take up where the previous monk left off and only if he defeats the dark magician will the monk attain immortality.

Hong Kong horror extraordinaire, Kuei Chi Hung directs the wildest horror movie of his long career as a director which began back in 1973. An assistant to the famous action director, Chang Cheh, Kuei co-directed the gritty and grimy modern day action tragedy, THE DELINQUENT in 1973. From there, Kuei embarked on his own turning out some truly despicable motion pictures such as the exploitation classics, THE BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1973) and KILLER SNAKES (1974).

A handful of behind the scenes shots from THE BOXER'S OMEN from the October 1983 issue of Southern Screen magazine

Kuei excelled in brutal realism, or often times, the exaggeration of brutality. By the time he had gotten around to the 1980's, he directed a series of nasty black magic movies that were far more gruesome than those made popular by Ho Meng Hua in the mid 1970's. THE BOXER'S OMEN is the supremely psychedelic sequel to the less extravagant (but no less disgusting) BEWITCHED from 1981.

Kuei prepares to shoot a portion of a wizard duel involving a slew of bat creatures

Where that film was a dark tale about the dangers of infidelity built around various curses and a showstopping magic duel, BOXER'S OMEN is all style and gruesome flamboyance. The art design by prolific Cheng Chin Shen is vividly sprawling and at times, spectacularly gaudy. Combined with the vision of its dangerously ambitious director, the film looks like the product of a mad genius. At times, BOXER'S OMEN appears to be a schlocky nightmare come to life and at others, it contains some articulate and enormous sets that belie it's tackiness.

Kuei was often a tyrannical director seemingly demanding blood on occasions. He also took a hands on approach to his movies designing and overseeing the props seen in the film. Kuei spent a year prepping the movie and makes good use of locations outside of Hong Kong such as Thailand and Nepal. The latter two add greatly to the already bizarre and mysterious atmosphere found in the picture.

Kuei's movie contains pretty much every single HK horror gross out sequence imaginable and also sports some then fairly decent effects shots such as a scene where the evil wizards head separates from his body and proceeds to strangle Chan Hung with its dangling veins and blood vessels. This type of black magic monstrosity is a legendary creation of Malaysian origin. Having been featured in such movies as Indonesia's MYSTICS IN BALI (1981) and Hong Kong's WITCH WITH THE FLYING HEAD (1977). A variation of this legendary evil spirit was in the form of a huge, flying human heart(!) from the bargain basement kung fu horror film, FIREFIST OF INCREDIBLE DRAGON (1983).

As in a lot of Asian culture and folklore, crocodiles feature prominently in this film. Prop skulls are used in magic rites and a gigantic crocodile carcass is used to house a rotted corpse that ultimately gives birth to a fully naked sorceress with elongated fingernails! A monster crocodile also figures into the climax of the movie.

Possibly the single most disgusting sequence in the entire movie

One sequence is one of the most incredibly distasteful things I have ever seen in any movie. It involves three disciples of the dead wizard (the one who wanted vengeance for the death of one of his OTHER students; wars between wizards can get confusing at times). To bring this even more powerful sorceress to life, the three wicked wizards utilize a potion that involves eating apparently rotten fruit, banana peels and a maggot ridden chicken carcass. They then puke up this mess and pass it on to the next sap who in turn pukes up the bile then passes the disgusting mass on to the next guy. Then, they take a chickens anus and eat that, puke it up, pass it on and repeat. They then put the regurgitated glop inside the naked corpses mouth prompting the witch woman to spring to life. Like the Italian cannibal movies, Hong Kong horror is naked without a puking scene.

There's also an army of bats and crocodile skulls and once more, puking followed by the consumption of the regurgitation. This up chucked mess is then used to bring to life some totally bizarre creature that emerges from an egg sac not unlike the ones seen in ALIEN (1979).

There's also a striking sequence where Chan Hung is awakened in the night with an upset stomach only to throw up a very large eel! At the end inside a sacred Nepal temple, Chan Hung does battle against statues come to life and a giant crocodile summoned by the demon sorceress.

At another point, furry worm creatures fall off of the priestess and onto Chan Hung who is being held down by clawed skeletal arms(!) The worms crawl into his nose and ears in a scene that reminded me a great deal of the creatures in STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982). Then, Chan Hung calls upon an even more powerful spirit who rips the sorceress demons skin completely off(!!) She then shits up some inexplicable blue mass just prior to giving birth to three cocooned creatures. The skinless priestess then dissolves into a million maggots.

The three offspring grow to full size within seconds and appear to be wrapped in gooey saran wrap till they are revealed to be the three evil disciples reborn. The three stooges of black magic then proceed to kill themselves all over again. One of the bodies splits open and out pops three cyclopean stop motion poodle monsters(!!!)

The bizarre burial and rebirth sequence

The special effects range from elaborately creative to mind numbingly terrible. At times the effects have a strangely hypnotic impact on the viewer. This is not a movie to watch if you've had a few to drink, either. Each wildly erratic sequence constantly strives to outdo the last complete with all manner of opticals, thunder, lightning and sound effects from FLASH GORDON (1980) and musical cues from ALIEN (1979). Those who recall the photographic effects of the melting demons during the finale of THE EVIL DEAD (1981) will see similar shots here, too. However, THE BOXER'S OMEN is a far more ambitious enterprise in offensiveness and the geek show mentality.

Philip Ko (left) pushes for his brother (played by Wang Lung Wei; right) to get up and fight

Philip Ko will be familiar to kung fu fans and those who love modern day style HK actioners. He married 'Girls With Guns' star, Yukari Oshima as well as forming his own production company, directing and choreographing action sequences. Ko has appeared in dozens of old school kung fu movies and alternated between playing good and bad guys. He was good at both, but more effective at being an antagonist which complimented his imposing facial features.

The Shaw's had a knack for finding the biggest breasted Asian women to fill out their exploitation movies

Elvis Tsui, who plays the monk trying to become immortal, later became a frequent performer in many of HK's category 3 soft core porn movies. In his early career which began in 1983, Tsui had supporting roles in over a dozen Shaw Brothers productions such as SHAOLIN PRINCE (1983) and its follow up SHAOLIN INTRUDERS (1983), both of which were shot simultaneously.

With all the mind blowing insanity the BOXER'S OMEN has only one real negative going for it and it's not totally a negative. The script contains much information on actual Asian black magic rituals as well as a legend of an actual monk who was said to have become immortal. During the middle portion of the movie, things slow down just a bit as we watch Chan Hung become a monk in order to do battle with the villain. These moments aren't totally free of wacky imagery, though.

THE BOXER'S OMEN (1983) was a success in Hong Kong. Not to a degree of say a Jackie Chan movie, but 4.1million isn't too shabby for an adult horror movie. The similarly themed RED SPELL SPELLS RED (1983) was released about a month after OMEN and made just a slight bit more at the Hong Kong box office, despite being an inferior movie. Oddly enough, THE BOXER'S OMEN was a VCD only title in Hong Kong when its restored, uncut version was released there back in 2006. It did not get a DVD release until it came out in America via Image Entertainment.

Kuei's garish, extremely over the top horror master work is a highly recommended piece of filth filmmaking and a product of a bygone era that will likely never be repeated. It's tremendously creative energy ensures one of the most mind boggling cinematic experiences anyone is ever going to be put through. Whether you find it absolutely amazing, or stunningly awful, one thing is assured--you will never forget THE BOXER'S OMEN.

This review is representative of the Image region 1 DVD

For an additional review of BOXER'S OMEN, check out this cool site here...


Razorback (1984) review


Gregory Harrison (Carl Winters), Arkie Whiteley (Sarah Cameron), Bill Kerr (Jake Cullen), Chris Haywood (Benny Baker), David Argue (Dicko Baker), Judy Morris (Beth Winters)

Directed by Russell Mulcahy

"There's something about blasting the shit out of a razorback that brightens up my whole day"--Jake Cullen played by Bill Kerr

The hunter finds his quarry

Out in the expanse of the Australian outback a gigantic razorback terrorizes the people in the isolated hamlet of Gamulla. A young NY doctor searches for his wife, a reporter who went missing there while doing a story on kangaroo poachers. He meets an old hunter who is tracking the wild beast after it ate his grandson two years earlier.

Just one of so many exhaustively surreal compositions in this visual buffet

Having finally been able to see this movie in widescreen format via the Australian extras packed DVD, I have a far greater appreciation for the film than I did initially. RAZORBACK is a beautifully macabre feast for the eyes. There's barely a scene that goes by that isn't rich with atmosphere, or shot in an unusual fashion rife with music video style editing. That being Mulcahy's forte, it's put to good use here. The monster might be the star of the show, but the cinematography and overall look of the film plays just as much a major role.

This was the directors first movie just prior to directing one of the most popular cult movies ever made with HIGHLANDER (1986). Mulcahy was primarily a music video director who shot videos for such huge bands like Duran Duran and Queen. While Mulcahy's giant killer pig movie has the look of a big budget studio production, the filmmakers made the most of their modest finances. It's truly one of the most striking films of its kind. Having been compared with JAWS since its release, Steven Spielberg is a big fan of this outback monster movie.

The psychotic Baker boys

Not only does RAZORBACK bear all the traditional marks of a 'Killer Animal' movie, it also embraces the concepts seen in the post apocalyptic genre which officially began with the violent excess of George Miller's MAD MAX (1979). The wild, unkempt kangaroo killers seen in the film prove to be just as villainous as the giant pig monster itself. Even the natural locations give the impression of a vista bereft of life; barren, sun scorched landscapes that seem to go on forever. The night scenes, enshrouded in an unholy fog, often give off a dank, isolated and hellish otherworldy image.

Yet another fantastic photographic sequence from Mulcahy's "post apocalyptic" monster movie

One awe inspiring shot sees Harrison running through the outback amidst a dense fog and what appears to be two moons in the sky. A tree supports the weight of a car trapped atop its branches. A scene later in the film confirms how it could have gotten there. Another interesting bit is a nightmare sequence wherein the protagonist finds himself lost in an ever changing, perpetual wasteland.

The killer razorback seen in the film was an intricate and elaborate creation that cost a quarter of a million dollars. Like other similar extravagant contraptions (KING KONG '76 being an example), it's barely utilized in the film at all. An equally detailed and incredibly lifelike giant pig head was used in much of the film. The filmmakers also used what was the largest pig recorded at that time. Making an already gargantuan porker bigger, the filmmakers covered it in a suit to give it even more size. This real "monster" is seen in the film notably just prior to the reporters death scene.

Beth Winters dies violently in her car near the beginning of RAZORBACK

Mulcahy's movie is also quite gory and violent in several places. Some of the cast die in spectacularly grisly fashion. The movie was heavily edited of a lot of the more nasty shots for its theatrical release. The death of Beth Winters, the reporter killed in her car, is a bit longer.

Jake, the hunter pursuing the giant razorback that ran off with his grandson, is seriously injured by the Baker brothers. Helpless, the rampaging pig corners Jake in an old shack where he meets his grim fate.

Jake's last scene is one of the more gruesome kills in the film. His face is literally chewed off before being devoured. Dicko Baker's death is probably the longest and deservedly so for such a despicable character. What's interesting about the death scenes is that not once does the monster eat a person that isn't important to the film in some way. RAZORBACK doesn't have a huge body count, but the deaths all mean something.

Carl lures the razorback onto a conveyor which houses a large, rotating, bone crushing blade at the end

When it came time for the big finale and the demise of the monster, the production had run out of both time and money, so a quick solution was figured out. Some of the participants were notably dissatisfied with the conclusion, but it does offer a more creative death scene for its monster than the standard "blow it up" motif seen in so many similar movies.

Investigating his wife's death, Carl ingratiates himself upon the demented and brutal Baker brothers

RAZORBACK (1984) did little business in either America or, amazingly, in Australia during it release. Considering how much hype and confidence there was during the films production, it was puzzling why it didn't catch on especially in its own country. It bears the same kinetic energy seen in the best of the Aussie action thrillers of the time. The filmmakers state that the negative stereotypes of the outback people turned a lot of the audience off. Warner Brothers reportedly showed great interest in the film, but seemingly dumped it rather quietly where it died quickly. However, RAZORBACK found an audience on video and cable television (which is where I first saw it) where it has more or less survived as a cult item.

Gregory Harrison awakens after a hellish night out in the middle of nowhere

Director Mulcahy utilized the same style of unique editing melded with striking visual sequences for his next movie, the huge cult favorite, HIGHLANDER. Both movies are very similar. There main difference is that one features a rampaging, maniacal, sword wielding decapitator and the other features a rampaging, filthy, gigantic, flesh eating pig. Mulcahy returns to killer creature territory with the upcoming horror movie, BAIT (2010), about a group of individuals trapped inside a flooded supermarket surrounded by hungry tiger sharks after a devastating Tsunami.

Warner Brothers recently released RAZORBACK (1984) as part of their 'Archive Collection', an 'On Demand' style label done as high quality DVD-R releases. The Australian release is more respectable. It's an extras packed edition including a 70 minute making of documentary and the cut gore scenes among other features. RAZORBACK (1984), as its makers attest, was well ahead of its time. It's a frightfully engaging horror film from down under and it's high time it was re-discovered for the modest horror classic it truly is.

This review is representative of the Australian Umbrella all region special edition DVD
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