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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sex, Lies & The Weisser-Heimer: Truth Or Consequences?

***WARNING! This article contains nudity!***

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.


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."


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?

More gratuitous nudity just in case you're confused, or getting bored reading all this.


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.


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.


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.


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 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


J. Astro said...

Hmmm... that Sakiko chick may inspire some dirty dreams for Uncle Astro in the near future. Thanks a lot, man. :)

Hans A. said...

Hey venoms5,

I know Weisser's poor reputation with cult film fans. I understand. I, however, have softened towards his work over the years. I have many of the ACC issues, including the early ATC, his book on HK cinema, his two Japanese film books (Pink and the more general cult film one), and his Spaghetti Western book.

Some of his Asian reviews are from films that pre-dated DVD. I'm certain he wrote some of those early reviews from VHS with burned subtitles which were, more than likely, "creatively" subtitled. Watching some of those old HK VHS is extremely difficult. Also, some of the VHS that he had seen might not have had subs at all, so Weisser gleaned the plot from the on-screen action. This is why, in my opinion, some of those Asian Cult reviews are inaccurate--at least in the regards to their plot synopses.

Weisser deserves praise for being one of the purveyors of the "holy shit" school of cult cinema criticism: Westerners who were seeking something offbeat and different in Eastern cinema. To that extent he succeeded with me. I learned of titles like Wolf Devil Woman, The Haunted Cop Shop, Evil Dead Trap, I Love Maria, and The Ebola Syndrome--all from Weisser. In addtion, he championed cult director, Herman Yau, and cult actress, Jade Leung, two of my favorites, before anyone.

As introductory texts, they're adequate. As definitive encyclopedias, definitey not.

A very nice article, venoms5, and I hope all is well.

venoms5 said...

@ J: Yes, she's quite attractive, isn't she? You're very welcome, J!

@ Hans: Hi, Hans. I haven't softened at all, but find his stuff both funny and irritating at the same time. A lot of the movies he "reviewed" were available in good quality tapes. I have, or used to own a lot of them. I used to own 1,500 tapes, myself.

Something like CHALLENGE OF THE LADY NINJA or even the Chang Cheh movie CRIPPLED AVENGERS aka MORTAL COMBAT was frequently on television so the fact that that review is totally made up from scratch is inexcusable. If you're not going to watch the movie you're reviewing, than don't review it. It's just mind boggling that somebody would take the time to waste paper on something that doesn't exist. And the "scary" part is that some people might actually seek out "that movie" and upon getting it, might be pissed to find they've gotten something else entirely.

I was collecting tapes in the mid 80s and by the late 80s was warned about VSOM so I stayed away from them altogether.

Thanks for commenting and stopping by, Hans!

A hero never dies said...

I had the HK book and a few issues of the magazine, more out of enthusiasm than anything else, but soon realised as I started seeing more movies that serious errors were being made. This of course makes you question everything else in there and I got rid of them all soon after. I've only heard Meyers commentary for Johnnie To's Throwdown and he seems more interested in talking about himself than anything else, he also makes a few baffling comments on To's work.

Great piece!

venoms5 said...

Thanks, H! I've listened to a handful of Meyers's commentary tracks and on at least one occasion, he gets into an argument with his co-commentator. A few years ago, Meyers was one of the people behind bringing Lo Mang over to Philadelphia for a 'Lifetime Achievement Award'. There were a lot of people who refused to attend believing it to be a load of crap because of Ric Meyers involvement. It didn't help much that the date was changed from August 5th to August 25th and nobody could be bothered to change the date on the website! I almost ended up going by myself as my two friends who were accompanying me felt it was a big joke, too. However, we did get to meet the Toad, Lo Mang after all. Meyers was their, too, decked out in Asian garb with this ZZ Top style beard thing going on.

CiNEZiLLA said...

Hilarious and splendid piece! As a lot of us I looked at the Weisser books (and mags) as true reference guides to stuff that otherwise was quite hard to find... although when I started getting hold of Japanese New wave & Pinky Violence like Sogo Ishii and Hisayasu Sato as an example, it quite soon became obvious that the guy knew fuck all about some stuff and then there where the movies that one never ever could find... so yeah, sure he was important at one point in time, but damn those fucking lies stripped him of any credibility he ever once had.

and that's without even getting into the VSoM discussion... Jesus F. Christ!


JSG said...

I loved this article. This blog is always fantastic! I am a big fan/ collector of 80s disco music and that includes almost all of the records Tom produced. Most of them are actually considered classics! I have almost all of them (and a couple issues of Asian Trash Cinema too). I never put together the TW on the credits was the same one from the zines - small world!! Thank you so much for this one. Can't wait for the next piece on Chung Sun!

venoms5 said...

@ CiNEZiLLA: Thanks for the kind words. I must say it was quite the shock to rent, or buy a particular movie than realize the actual film was vastly different from the way Weisser worded it. And the movies he simply made up simply makes no sense even today.


@ Joel: Thanks again for the kind words, they're much appreciated. I had actually forgotten about him being a record producer till I dug out some of the magazines for this piece! The Sun Chung article is finished, by the way. All three parts have been posted. They should still be accessible in the sidebar to the right or they can be found in the 'Articles' section.

Take care!

Fazeo said...

Superb article! I actually have that Asian Cult Cinema book, and even back when I got it in the 90s I knew something was iffy about the author. Still I was really becoming obsessed with HK and Asian cinema in general back then so I bought it anyway.

venoms5 said...

I was a aware from some of the Asian Cult Cinema mags I had bought. For whatever reason, I would buy them. I guess it was because there was nothing else at the time save for Oriental Cinema magazine. Maybe it was the pictures? I don't know, but I bought the book hoping it would be a different case entirely. Sadly, it wasn't. It kind of irritated me back then, but now, since there's other books on the market, this one is pretty funny to read the brazenly made up material. Glad you enjoyed the article, Fazeo!

Django211 said...

I just found your site, Great stuff!!

When I started watching HK cinema there simply wasn't much written about it. I have a number of those ATC magazines as well as "From Bruce Lee to the Ninjas" and the Encyclopedia of Martial Arts Movies. I haven't looked at those books in ages but since you mentioned it I do remember watching films based on reviews/synopses and it being completely different than what was written.

Better books were written and the internet helped open up more information on some wonderful films.

It's impressive that Weisser & Meyer have gained respectability (in some circles) as authorities on Asian cinema. In fact if you check out his article on Inside Kung Fu, Meyers is listed as "the world’s foremost authority on martial arts film and entertainment."

venoms5 said...

Hi, Django, glad you found the site of interest! I have a bunch of old Inside Kung Fu Magazine issues and at one time, I looked forward to Meyers column till I began noticing an alarming trend regarding his "work". Ditto for Weisser. A shame, really.

Unknown said...

Hello! Great read!
Randomly my Weisser books on my shelf caught my eye this morning, so I took to the internet to see if he or VSoM is around anymore. Honestly, in this age of social media and all that, I kinda would expect VSoM to wither and maybe ATC to have a website or something. Well, they're all gone! I could only find a few references to them and your article was clearly the best!

That said, wayyyy back in 93, I somehow found Weisser's phone number in a zine or something, and called him up. He was quite pleasant and seemingly knew his shit (to which I did not, so his "knowledge" was welcome back then!), so I ordered a catalog and got busy buying VHS tapes from him. At the same time, I moved to NYC to actually edit an early online magazine and was keen on keeping the light on Euro and Asian weird films. I also had great video rental and purchasing options down in Chinatown! So, when I did order tapes from VSoM, they had to be pretty hard to find!

By the late 90s, Kim's video on St. Marks, was selling a bunch of imported books on Euro and Asian films. Plus, online chat groups were starting to boom. Suddenly, almost out of nowhere for me, I could start to see the cracks in ACC/VSoM, and all the misinfo they were spewing. By the end of the 90s, I was done with them. I think that I might have bought a few more issues of (now called) ATC at Tower here and there, but mostly flipped through them and left 'em on the rack.

Also, by the late 90s, I was attending Chiller Con twice a year and whatever G-Fan cons or other genre cons around NYC. I met Craig Ledbetter at Chiller once. I was with another writer who was doing a bunch of writing for British genre mags, etc. Craig was your typical middle aged nerdy film fan and a very nice guy. He didn't really dish the dirt, but did explain the straw that broke the camel's back for him at VSoM: He spoke of a phone conversation with someone looking to buy porn which featured women fellating men to the point of gagging and vomiting on their genitals. Yeah, apparently that's a real thing. So, Craig said "enough is enough" and split.

About this time, Tom sent out a free compilation VHS of clips from the weirdest films they had. A brilliant move, as you could finally see some of the stuff you've been reading/hearing about! That, and they started subtitling some of the films themselves. Another great move! Yes, the subs weren't any better than the mostly laughable HK subs over at Tai Seng! Those things implied that he CARED about these films... That was great until you read his books (AND the subtitles)! HAR!

Still, those books worked as a great guide UNTIL I was old enough to walk on my own.

Oh, above, were you saying that Weisser printed that Eight Man Army never existed or where YOU saying the film doesn't exist? Either way, I just wanted to make sure that everyone knows that Cheh's film IS called Seven Man Army... slight misprint!

And another thing: VSoM's tapes were indeed about 20-25 bucks, but that was kinda average for VHS pirate tapes back then. Yes, he skimped on box art; so your money didn't go into that. I remember seeing some tapes for over 50 at other places! Before I moved to NYC, I had zero access to everything in the VSoM catalog, so I didn't mind. In NYC, yes, we had 43rd Chamber, Kim's, Chinatown, etc., and could either rent for mere dollars or tapes for ten. But, that was NYC.

It was also interesting to read that Tom was a music producer in NYC! He co-founded Dice Records!! Don't get me wrong, the guy is probably beyond scummy, but has anyone really dug into his story? Honestly, it'd make for a great article somewhere or even book chapter: What's he doing now? What's his side of the story about what went on down there in Florida in the 90s? What the hell are his kids like NOW? Is his wife still with him? What's HER story? Love him or hate him, the guy surely left his mark on pre-internet film fandom!

venoms5 said...

@ Unknown: Those are from Weisser's Asian Cult Cinema: The Book. There's a listing for a movie titled Eight Man Army; only that film doesn't exist. So my saying "Never heard of it" is my being sarcastic. I believe it's also listed in The Encyclopedia of Martial Arts Movies (as is SEVEN MAN ARMY) which had contributions from frequent Weisser co-conspirator and well-known falsifier Ric Meyers.

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