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Friday, March 18, 2011

Black Magic With Buddha (1983) review

image: HKmovie database


Chen Kuan Tai (Chin Ben), Candy Yu (Annie), Lo Lieh (Exorcist Master), Linda Chu (Ben's sister)

Directed by Lo Lieh

***NOTE: A Divix copy was the source of this fairly brief review. I am unable to do images at this time.***

Ben and his old master descend a cave in some remote location and uncover a coffin housing a mummy. Upon removing the brain from the corpse, his elder master hands him a flask of holy water and instructs him to send the demon brain back once he has been granted but a single wish. Building a shrine to the great brain and being greedy, Ben uses the powers of the pulsating mass for other wishes including murder. For each extra wish, the brain becomes enraged and must be fed. Not wishing to undertake the plane trip to the jungle to return the brain back to its home, he buries it in his backyard. This causes even more problems.

Absolutely absurd and undeniably enjoyable trash about an evil, heavy breathing brain that grants wishes, but with disastrous consequences. Lo Lieh, the man with the FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH, directs this outlandish Indonesian lensed horror flick that attempts to, and succeeds in reaching new heights of ludicrousness; at least till the holy grail of gory Hong Kong hokum, THE BOXER'S OMEN (1983) splattered theaters a few months later. What keeps this movie with the most ridiculous of scenarios interesting is that, outside of the last ten minutes, it's played totally straight. Once Buddha comes down to Earth surrounded in a FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981) opening credits sequence light show, Lo Lieh's Exorcist Master is "joined" by the 'God With the Four Faces' to bring down the 'Brain Devil', which has consumed Ben with the help of about a dozen brain beasts. Covered in some kind of egg sac, Ben emerges a walking brain monster and confronts the two wizards.

Chen Kuan Tai plays totally against type in this one and the scenes where he's praying to this obscenely heavy breathing, blood caked brain are a riot despite the serious air the filmmakers are aiming for. Lo Lieh, whose only other notable directorial effort was the Shaw Brothers production, CLAN OF THE WHITE LOTUS (1979), is apparently channeling his past glories in some of his Shaw Brothers horror outings such as BLACK MAGIC 2 (1976) and HUMAN LANTERNS (1982), only here, he opts for a good wizard complete with white fright wig. Incidentally, a scene in a disco plays that "Don't Let Go" song that's also heard in both Wang Chung's MOBFIX PATROL (1981) and George Romero's CREEPSHOW (1982).

Sadly and inexplicably, BLACK MAGIC WITH BUDDHA has yet to make an appearance on DVD, but was released on VHS tape and VCD at one point. It is surely the only movie on the planet where a bloated, breathing and glowing brain assimilates over the face of a Mona Lisa painting backed by cues taken from Ridley Scott's ALIEN (1979).


Anonymous said...

"Black Magic With Buddha"? If nothing else, it has one of the greatest titles of all time! Sounds like an Asian-import giallo, almost.

Nice write-up.

Jack J said...

Thanks to Tim Paxton's zine "Naked! Screaming! Terror!" I learnt about this film almost two decades ago, and I reviewed it for the first issue of my own zine "Banned in Britain" (in '94). This belongs in in the genre that I like to call the "Dark and Nasty HK horror movie genre of the 80s". LOL.

I have the Rainbow sell-thru video which unfortunately has a pretty boring cover compared to the poster/video art in your post.

Hmm, now that I think about it I suddenly recall that Paxton actually posted a scene from the film on his FB page a couple of months back!! These films certainly have a tendency to stick with us (well, some of us anyway). LOL.

Movies on my Mind said...

Where the heck do you hear about these movies from?

Jack J said...

If nothing else they're mentioned in the book "Asian Trash Cinema". That's were I learnt about them originally. The info in that book isn't all that good but it is a good way to discover them. Unfortunately a lot of these horror films are overlooked today simply because they're not on DVD.

venoms5 said...

@ Jonny: Thanks, JM! Now that you mention it, it does sound like a HK giallo!

@ Jack: I read about it in FEF's catalog from 1990 or '91. John kept pushing me to watch it and I finally sat down recently and checked it out. I would have done some screen caps, but it was a divix copy and my computer dvd player wouldn't do it.

@ Movies: A friend of mine runs a dvd company called Far East Flix. I first heard about it back around 1990 or 1991. Back then, there were lots of mail order catalogs that offered stuff like this. JARS Video Collectibles were another outlet for Asian stuff. I made a couple posts here regarding mail order adverts for VHS tapes back in the day if you're interested in seeing listings for movies from the gutter.

@ Jack: I have a good stack of those digests, but considering Weisser just randomly made up movies and plots for a lot of things, his stuff offers little outside of aggravation, or amusement. All of his books are like that, too. Amazing the man is/was able to get anything published what with the rampant and seemingly intentional false info he was spreading about.

Jack J said...

Brian, you're hitting the head on the nail in regards to ATC (both mag and book)!! However, as you know, in around 1990 it wasn't like now where you can find info on most HK/Asian films by a few clicks. HK horror cinema was unknown to non Asians apart from a handful of hardcore fans. So getting that book certainly made a few people aware that the films existed and then (despite the faulty info) you could start trying to hunt down those films. That was my start anyway.

But actually my first "version" of the ATC book was the "Cinemasian Special" issue of N!S!T! (#4/5) which was later reprinted for the book (after it was also reprinted for ATC #1). Or rather... Thomas Weisser's reviews were reprinted but zine editor Tim Paxton's stuff from that mag wasn't and now in hindsight it was actually his longer, well-written reviews that blew me away. They were FUN to read and made you want to track down the films. And I just checked my old copy and it was indeed Tim who wrote the "Black Magic With Buddha" review. Nowadays Tim isn't silent about why he left the fanzine business, ie. that exact issue and Weisser's way of handling it! Too bad.

venoms5 said...

I hear ya Jack! I know a few people who feel the same way regarding the exposure of movies that were rarely known about, much less heard of.

My only beef with this thought is that it cancels itself out particularly if said movie never existed in the first place. What good does it do to learn of a film that was never made?

What makes this behavior EVEN MORE baffling is that Weisser would bash, or praise a certain movie when in many cases, no such movie existed, or said flick did exist, but his descriptions are totally made up from top to bottom. The guy had an amazing set of balls to propagate rampant lies the way he did.

Personally, I'm glad his mag is done. I quit buying them when he told a reader that asked where the HK reviews had gone to. Weisser's response was he was going to discuss movies HE wanted to see(!?!?!?!), more or less giving the finger to the HK film lovers that bought his stuff. I thought that if you ran a magazine, you would write about things YOUR READERSHIP were interested in. The point is TO KEEP THEM. I think the guy watched/participated in one to many rope/torture/rape/roman porno movies.

And Ric Meyers.....Weisser was definitely in good company with that falsehood king.

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