There's been a fair number of books written about martial arts cinema by a gaggle of respected authors and lovers of the field. However, none are likely more vilified, or irritating as Thomas Weisser--the "brain child" behind the now defunct ASIAN TRASH CINEMA (later as ASIAN CULT CINEMA) magazine, a digest sized assemblage of Asian film reviews, articles and interviews with the big names in the industry. The man is infamous for writing "reviews" for movies that either do not exist, or contain bizarre, twisted plots with little connection to what is actually in the movie in question. The letters page in his magazine looks suspicious as well. Weisser (and with his equally "falsehood as factual" and liable partner in crime, Ric Meyers never far behind) made it his mission to become THE reigning purveyor of prevarication.
With the release of ASIAN CULT CINEMA: THE BOOK over a decade ago, Weisser reached yet another milestone in mendacity. His previous book on spaghetti westerns from the early 90s was an amazing, falsehood filled tome that, astonishingly, remains in print, and in its SECOND printing as of 2005! Needless to say, their are several frustration filled threads on various forums across the net on Weisser's fantasy reviews spanning spaghetti westerns and Asian cinema. I refused to buy the spaghetti western book, but after having purchased numerous ASIAN CULT CINEMA magazines and perusing his JAPANESE CINEMA ENCYCLOPEDIA, the level of lies and utter perjury excreted in those books is obviously par for the course in an untold number of Weisser's writing endeavors.
*ASIAN TRASH (CULT) CINEMA FLASHBACK!*
This was the first issue of Weisser's digest I ever picked up back in 1995. With that image of the then new GAMERA movie on the cover, how could I resist? At the time, I was unaware of the full extent of the controversy surrounding Weisser, his books and his Video Search of Miami company. What makes this issue of minor importance wasn't what was on the front cover, or inside, but what was on the back cover. To my surprise and embarrassment, I realized after I'd gotten home that Asian Trash Cinema (a few issues later it became Asian Cult Cinema after severing ties with European Trash Cinema editor Craig Ledbetter) sported images of naked Japanese models on their back covers!
I had been unknowingly walking around Borders Books Store with the back cover in view for all to see. Later on, the publication came under fire for the open nudity (mind you these weren't bagged like other adult mags) so they switched to keeping the naked Nippon models relegated to inside the magazine. From there on out, the women on the back covers would be clothed, or in various stages of undress, but no overt nakedness.
Now, a fan can approach Weisser's shameful contempt for his audience in one of two ways--either as purely unintentional comic genius, or a maddening, nerve grating equivalent to a noisy fly that, no matter how many times you swat at it, the damn thing just won't go away. In the Foreword in ASIAN CULT CINEMA: THE BOOK, Weisser blatantly mentions a flurry of errors claiming that for this particular volume, they have all been corrected!!! Below are a small, very small sampling of some of the nonsensical nonsense an Asian film fan will find within these purjurous pages. A handful of these are re-printed verbatim here for the maximum in hysterics and others with just minor details mentioned.
1. CHALLENGE OF LADY NINJA is listed as a 1979 production and aside from omitting main actress, Linda Young from the credits, Chen Kuan Tai is purported to be the main star. He's also apparently gender switched as HE is referred to as a SHE: "Chen Kuan Tai looks okay, but her kung fu shenanigans wear thin in this unremarkable might-vs-right tale."
2. CRIPPLED HEROES: MORTAL COMBAT (1983)
Director: Chan Cheh. Lo Wang, Kou Chu, Sun Chen, Chan Cheh *1/2
Kou Chu is the blind warrior. Lo Wang is the deaf-mute fighter. Lu Fang plays the no-armed kickboxer. Sun Chen is the legless female boxer. And Chan Cheng (yes, the director) is unbearable as the village idiot. They all band together, using deadly tiger-style kung fu, to fight evil Tin Tan Wong in this chopsocky hybrid.
What makes that above review so endearingly AWE-FUL is how inexplicably fabricated it is. Only the "names" of the actors contain the slightest modicum of association with anyone living or dead that is anything but a coincidence. What's even more mind boggling is that the REAL movie this above synopsis is supposed to be about appears AGAIN later in the book under its proper English theatrical release title of MORTAL COMBAT with correct Chinese title and much better cast list, but totally mucks up the plot synopsis! See below...
"Armless cripple unites other handicapped specialists into his army against an evil ruler."
Anyone who ever caught MORTAL COMBAT (CRIPPLED AVENGERS) in the theater, or on Black Belt Feature, Kung Fu Theater, Martial Arts Theater, or on restored, widescreen DVD can attest that neither of those plots fit the actual film.
3. THE BEASTS (1980) is listed as a 1988 production and is arguably one of Weisser and his minions at Video Search of Miami's most notorious "mistakes". Aside from erroneously crediting the scriptwriter as the vengeance seeking father (it's actually famed HK screen heavy, Chen Sing) seen in the film, Weisser and his zoo crew allegedly were responsible for a fake version of the film. Emblazoned with the falsely christened title of THE FLESH & BLOODY TERROR, this newly fabricated version had porn inserts edited into the movie!
4. WONG FEI HUNG BRAVELY CRUSHING THE FIRE FORMATION is not only listed as a 1972 production, but also directed by Chang Cheh(!) and starring Chen Kuan Tai(!!) as Wong Fei Hung(!!!).
5. EIGHT MAN ARMY from 1976 and directed by Chang Cheh...never heard of it.
6. MYSTERIOUS ISLAND from 1982 and directed by Chang Cheh...never heard of it. Possibly a "mysterious" retitling of BRAVE ARCHER & HIS MATE (1982)?
7. In the review for BLACK MAGIC WITH BUDDHA, it's not only listed as a 1989 production, but director, Lo Lieh is also credited with the direction on SUMMONS TO DEATH--a 1967 film actually directed by Lo Wei.
8. According to Weisser's book, IRON FINGERS OF DEATH aka SHAOLIN PRINCE (1983) was made in 1975(!) and was "an early directorial effort from director Tang (LEGEND OF WISELY, BURY ME HIGH)". Well, Tang Chia (a Tang Chi Li is listed here in Weisser's review) only helmed three films and none of them were in the 1970s. Also, a Tang Chi Li was not behind either the WISELY film nor the BURY ME HIGH picture; two movies from two different directors.
9. The review for Chang Cheh's MASKED AVENGERS gets the "incredible fight sequences" right, but totally misses the mark when stating "some of the masked heroes aren't alive when the final credits roll". Anyone who has seen the movie knows what I am getting at.
10. MERCENARIES FROM HONG KONG is credited as a Sun Chung movie when in actuality it's a Wong Jing picture.
11. DESCENDANT OF THE SUN (1982) is listed as being from 1986 and states Yuen Biao is the main star! Check out this nutty synopsis that's a highlight of the carefree Pinocchio level of fabrication found within Weisser's works: Hsuan Shu Shang (Yuen Biao), a good and holy magician, fights the evil black queen (Cherie Cheung) for control of the netherworld. Obviously, he wins. But first we are forced to watch a long and predictable flashback summarizing his mystical life. A lesser film from the Shaw Brothers.
WOW. The only two things in the above mess that is true is that Cherie Chung is in this and that it's a lesser Shaw Brothers production.
12. SHADOW WHIP (1971) starring Cheng Pei pei is listed as being from 1977 and allegedly followed by a sequel entitled WHIPLASH--only that film, which has nothing at all to do with SHADOW WHIP, was made in 1974. The mind continues to boggle maddeningly.
13. There's some rib tickling amusement found in the listing for Chang Cheh's ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS and ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS 2 (don't ask). According to Weisser (or whoever provided this particularly insightful capsule write up), ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS is the title of what is widely known as THE WATER MARGIN (and it's stated it was a troubled production that took three directors to finally finish!) Oh, and it's also listed as being known under the titles of SEVEN SOLDIERS OF KUNG FU and SEVEN BLOW OF THE DRAGON. Confused?
*ASIAN CULT CINEMA FLASHBACK!*
This issue here is special (not just for the Teruo Ishii interview) in that it contains an interview with Lo Mang, 'The Toad' of the FIVE VENOMS (1978). Actually, this particular interview is one of the most perplexing pieces ever printed and if it had been me, I wouldn't have even bothered. If this is even what was really said, this "interview" reveals little to nothing that warrants being printed. Honestly, there are no revelatory pieces of information and the questions are poor across the board. The interviewer seems more interested in buying Lo a drink, or weaving alcohol into what constitutes a conversation here. Lo seemingly remembers nothing of his Shaw Brothers days and some details contradict those of far more reliable sources.
In a Lilliputian level of defense, Weisser's digest did manage a handful of informative articles from time to time and amazingly, he was able to wrangle in an impressive roster of writers on occasion including the likes of August Ragone, Patrick Macias, Pete Tombs and Steve Puchalski. Even Oliver Stone contributed to the diminutive Asian Cult 'zine. In another example of shock and awe, Weisser used to be a record producer of all things prior to establishing himself as one of the most controversial writers of genre cinema.
That's not to say that the man's poor credibility and credentials should be overlooked because of his connections. His high profile associations still do not negate the outright irresponsibility of the plethora of "fantasy writing" on his part and that of his "co-conspirators". There's also the question as to why somebody would take the time to just make up fake movies, fake synopsis, wrong cast list, year, etc. Weisser is either a compulsive liar, or a comedy genius. Rarely has a writer evoked both emotions of anger and laughter simultaneously tossing both in a blender creating a miasmic concoction of disbelief and befuddlement.
*ASIAN CULT CINEMA FLASHBACK!*
This issue is worthless of mention mainly for Ric Meyers column, 'Ric & Infamous'. In this info filled fluff piece, Meyers brags about himself and his accomplishments as well as responding to a readers letter about "wasting his god given [writing] talent" on Japanese Pink Films". Incidentally, Weisser responded to this readers query in Issue 15, the response to which can be read below and there's a funny story along with it. Anyway, Meyers plugs his first book calling it "a good foundation". The annoying part is his comment calling Bey Logan's 'Hong Kong Action Cinema' a "considerable continuation". Then there's "Stefan Hammond and Mike Wilkins' 'Sex and Zen & A Bullet In the Head' is a fine fan's celebration". Yet he refers to Bill and Karen Palmer's 'Encyclopedia of Martial Arts Movies' and the two 'Asian Cult Cinema' books as "Exhaustive compendiums"(are you kidding me???)--both publications he contributed, or is associated with. He then proceeds to heap praise upon Fred and Barry Long's 'Hong Kong Cinema', another book that he was involved with in some capacity.
There are some who, in their own inimitable fashion, come to Weisser's (and also Ric Meyers) rescue claiming that such a book with so many rare and obscure titles listed is a monumental effort in itself. How is this so??? If your book is predominantly made up of films that DO NOT EXIST and contain glaringly incorrect cast lists and year of production, what use does this serve anyone? What kind of referential service is the author providing exactly??? Granted, WE ALL make mistakes, but this mountainous level of lies is inexcusable. It shows nothing but contempt for not only the fans, but the genre itself.
*ASIAN CULT CINEMA FLASHBACK!*
Continuing from the above mention regarding issue #15, Weisser responded to the readers letter by stating Ric Meyers "starred in, wrote and directed such underground whip-n-torture features as KIDNAPPED GIRLS AGENCY (with Linnea Quigley) and WOMEN IN TROUBLE (with Michelle Bauer)". This is funny because there is no listing for a film entitled WOMEN IN TROUBLE and both Quigley and Bauer (who are both no strangers to horror and sleaze fans) starred in the above mentioned KIDNAPPED GIRLS AGENCY. In another amazing coincidence, Weisser previously was a record producer (stating to have produced some hits--"Debbie Gibson pap" as he puts it) and worked with Quigley on a Spanish single that apparently never got released. You can view Weisser's discography HERE.
Just how in the hell Ric Meyers continues to garner accolades for "all he's done for the genre of martial arts cinema" is a jaw dropping factual faux pas of the highest order. Here is a man who claimed the Shaw Brothers library was destroyed in a fire, stated Liu Chia Liang was dead and in at least two incredibly laughable moments of absurdity, reads the wrong director and fails to recognize the main actress for the movie in which he is doing DVD commentary! The movie was INHERITOR OF KUNG FU (1977), one of two films bearing that title. Despite Pao Hsueh Li's name splashed across the screen, Meyers believes he's watching actor turned director Chen Hung Lieh's version. Meyers must have been doing the commentary with his eyes closed. He's that good. I suppose the only people that are going to be fuming over such fallacies and irresponsibility are the diehard fanbase and possibly a scant few casual viewers.
One viewpoint no one seems to have brought up, or observed is what if a casual viewer were to pick up any of Weisser's books and read a synopsis such as the ones listed above prior to running across the actual film itself? Weisser's "opinion" (as made up as so many of them are) will likely be a deciding factor in said casual viewer either purchasing, or renting said movie. If anything, so-called "fans" like Weisser and Meyers are doing both damage and a disservice to the genre. Regardless of what some may think, if virtually NONE of your research, or writing has any bearing in truth, you're wasting YOUR time, you're wasting YOUR PUBLISHERS time and worst of all, you're wasting THE READERS time, and that's readers both learned, new and curious to whatever genre you're writing about.
*ASIAN CULT CINEMA FLASHBACK!*
This issue here contains an interview (it's honestly worthwhile) with Bill and Karen Palmer, authors (along with the wisened Temple Abbot, Ric Meyers) of the "Exhaustive compendium", 'The Encyclopedia of Martial Arts Movies', two people whom I was told actually thought Philip Ko and Ko Fei were two different people. Also, in an amazing bit of jaw dropping irony, Weisser makes a comment in his opening piece about "much erroneous information" being spread regarding Japan's censorship. Kettle, meet pot......
But as long as you have people like Oliver Stone and Max Allan Collins making wholly unbelievable statements as "This is the bible...an invaluable contribution to this explosive genre" and the classic--"Tom Weisser-whose pioneering efforts in Asian Trash Cinema magazine ignited the current enthusiasm for Far Eastern Films-provides entertaining and informative reviews of hundreds upon hundreds of movies...READ THE BOOK! SEE THE MOVIES!"--the man's books will continue to remain in print and both irritate the true fan and "enlighten" the uninitiated. Entertaining? Maybe. Informative? Not just NO, but HELL NO.
For an absolutely hilarious article on this same subject, click on the link below for Mike Sullivan's 'Impossibly Funky' and funny take on the Weisser phenomenon....
Thomas Weisser's American Cinema Classics