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Burning Godzilla
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Over at the Kung Fu Fandom boards, our monthly review theme is films made or distributed by Filmark, which was run by Tomas Tang, one of the three men (the other two being Godfrey Ho and Joseph Lai) notorious for taking unreleased or unfinished movies, filming new scenes with Caucasian actors, and splicing the two together, recording new dubs to make the Frankenfilm look sort of coherent. I'll post my two entries here, for your reading pleasure.

Ninja in the Killing Field (1984)

Starring: Stuart Smith, Louis Roth, Sun Chien, Chiang Tao (Kong Do), Dorian Tan

Director: York Lam

Action Director: Kong Do

It has been said that when something is placed in front of us, it's human nature to try to make sense of that thing. So imagine my bewilderment as I watched Tomas Tang's Ninja in the Killing Field, a cut 'n paste ninja film from a period when those movies were absurdly common. The title promises the much anticipated marriage between the ninjasploitation genre and the non-existent Kmersploitation genre. The actual film, however, is your average "fight the Golden Triangle drug dealers in SE Asia" romp with some random ninja scenes thrown in. That might been fine in and of itself, but then the movie includes Dorian Delon "Flashlegs" Tan Tao Liang *and* Sun "The Scorpion Venom" Chien in the cast and puts them in but a single talking scene. So my hopes of this being those superkickers' equivalent to Ninja Terminator were dashed to pieces. Boo.

But divorced from my own personal expectations, how was this movie? Let us find out.

We open with a bunch of ninja in black pajamas doing their thing inside a tunnel. Then cut to a darkened room where the ninja, led by a mustached guy in a red outfit with a purple shuriken headband (Louis Roth), are watching the events of the other movie on a television. This brings up one of my favorite cinematic questions: Why is it that in a lot of movies, when we see "footage" taped of some events from early on, they are never presented from the vantage point of the person recording? It's always the same scenes we saw presented cut for cut on the TV. Watch Mr. Nice Guy for a funny example of that.

The footage being watched is of a convenience store robbery in Bangkok. The robbery is foiled by a mustached cop with the help of the army (!!!). This display of bravado leads to the cop being enlisted by the International Anti-Drug Agency to take down the the Ninja Organization, who apparently was behind both the convenience store robbery and the local drug trade. Red Ninja is on to the law, and figures that there's a mole in the organization. Apparently the clan's female ninja used to date another ninja named Steve (Sorapong Chatree), but he left her and is now dating a girl named Susan and is a police informer. Kunoichi girl is sent to kill Steve, but after a katana duel in a stadium, is unable to do it (at this point I couldn't figure out if the original Thai movie footage had ninjas in it, or if Tomas Tang did an especially good job of camouflaging his new footage).

The Thai government asks the Internation Anti-Drug Agency for some backup, who comes in the form of Caucasian ninja extraordinaire Stuart Smith. He arrives in Bangkok and is immediately attacked by some ninja in disguise, but fights them off handily. So the Thai drug dealers react by bringing in a pair of killers, one of whom is a woman. This leads to an interesting scene in which one of the Thai thugs says that he doesn't think a woman is cut out for that kind of work, and that women are only good in bed. The woman gets up and says that if all the men in the room can beat her in a fight, they all can screw her (note: those are her words, not mine). Needless to say, she wipes the floor with all the challengers. Later on, one of the higher ups among the Thai drug dealers comes on to her.

"Didn't know that a woman with your fighting skills is such a good kisser."
"You're not so bad yourself. Didn't know that someone such as yourself, from the underworld, could be so gentle."
"Did your ninja training camps also teach you lovemaking?"
"They taught us to kill while making love. It makes the victims die in a state of bliss. Would you like to try that?"
"For you I would."

We then get another random fight between Stuart Smith and some black ninja underlings. The Thai drug dealers then send some henchmen to Steve's house to silence him. A big fight breaks out and we learn that his girlfriend Susan is actually a pretty good fighter. Steve's sister isn't, and she pays for that gaffe with her life. Following that, there's a big action set piece at the docks, but it's mainly gunplay. This is from the Thai movie footage. We should've got some woman-on-woman fighting from Susan and the Thai "ninja" girl from the previous paragraph, but alas, no. Just people getting shot to death. After everybody is shot dead, the Thai army leads a raid on the Golden Triangle, complete with tanks and heavy artillery. Spliced into the footage are scenes of black ninja underlings keeling over dead every time you hear an explosion. Finally Stuart Smith transforms into a yellow ninja and faces off with Louis Roth, who's no match for his ninja wrist blasters. The end.

The plot is mostly silly and incoherent, and the dubbing is frequently laughable. There's a bit where mustached cop guy (who's really the main character) is promised "air support, navy support and military support." Uhhh...yeah, I guess I shouldn't think about that too much. And yet, this is an infinitely more coherent movie than Fist of Legend 2: Iron Bodyguards, in which there is a rudimentary attempt to merge the two films into a single plotline (although why international drug dealing ninjas would involve themselves in convenience store robberies is beyond me...).

The action is frequent and ultimately average. About half of it is gunplay of the generic variety, and the rest is fighting. The second fight between Stuart and the black ninja underlings is probably the best, although Girls and Guns fans may enjoy the brief (if C-grade) fights involving the female characters from the Thai portion of the movie. I'm not sure which scenes Chiang Tao actually choreographed, but I'm going to guess that he did the newer footage. I don't think Hong Kong was exporting talent to the Thailand at the time. The Phillipines? Probably. Thailand? Not sure. But yeah, this one of those movies that you watch with people who are in the mood to make fun of something. And screw you people for having a movie that purports to star Sun Chien and Dorian Tan, and do nothing with them! [Dave Chappelle as Samuel Jackson] "Yes they deserve to die! And I hope they burn in hell!"

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Sat Jan 16, 2016 3:09 pm
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Instant Rage (1983)

Starring: Sun Chien, Chiang Tao (Kong Do), Sorapong Chatree (?)

Producer: Tomas Tang

Okay, here we have another Thai action film that Tomas Tang took and spliced scenes of Caucasian people talking and turning into ninjas into, but the end result is a lot more coherent and ultimately less goofy (and fun) than Ninja in the Killing Field. The ninja scenes are sparse (there are only two, excluding the ninja scene that the Thai film itself already had). So sparse, in fact, that you almost wonder why they were included in the first place.

Thai film synopsis: So, there's a family consisting of a man; his wife; their daughter, Carol; his brother Peter; and his daughter. The man and Peter own a company, that is being eyed for a merger with Gary and Robert's companies. The problem is that Gary and Robert are mobsters and the wife has close ties to them, so she's pushing for the merger while the men of the family are trying to resist. When the man threatens to expose his wife's mob ties, she has Robert's thugs attack and beat him. He is rescued by Brian, a martial artist who has superhuman jumping skills and who can hear the disembodied voice of his master, Obi Wan style. Brian teams up with Carol and the police captain to protect Peter from Robert and Gary's assassins. More people die and Robert is fingered as the culprit and arrested. The wife then kills Gary and starts killing everyone in her family so that everything will belong to her. When the wife tries to kill Carol, Brian and the captain strike back for a final shootout.

Inserted scenes: Most of the events of this movie are being watched from afar by two parties of ninja. The first one is the good white ninja, Wilbur. Now let's stop here for a moment. Asian people, especially Chinese people, are notorious for choosing Anglican names that have gone out of style in the West, or just sound odd, like Pompson, Dickson, Mavis, Bosco, etc. But Wilbur? That just takes the cake. Who in Buddha's name is going to take a ninja with the Christian name of Wilbur seriously? Anyway, Wilbur is targeted by the black ninja, led by a white guy named Steve. According to the dubbed dialog, Steve was hired by Robert to do away with Wilbur, who's in league with the Thai police, as evidenced by a scene that would make the editors of the Radioactive Man movie proud, in which Tang and company splice scenes of the police captain talking with someone with scenes of Wilbur talking to nobody together to make it look like they're having a conversation, the difference in scenery not withstanding. Yeah. Two of the ninja in Steve's platoon are played by Kong Do and Sun Chien, but they never actually fight. Screw you, Tomas Tang!!!

The rest of the action is basher style stuff, some of it undercranked to the point that Donnie Yen's 90s films look restrained in comparison. In one scene, the Thai guy Brian (who looks like Norman Tsui Siu Keung with a tan) is performing a kung fu form, which I thought was interesting. No muay thai here. I guess that the Thai, like the South Koreans, were trying to imitate Chinese chopsockey movies at the time. Nobody stands out, actionwise, though. There is a memorable scene when a Thai ninja shoots a girl in the eye with a blowgun, but that's about it.

So yeah, pretty forgettable Filmark fluff that wastes the talents of Sun Chien.

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Sat Jan 16, 2016 3:10 pm
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Project Jaguar (1988)

Aka Cannibal Mercenary

I found this movie by accident. The other day I was reading through Thomas Weisser’s infamously-inaccurate Asian Cult Cinema looking for hidden gems that might be interesting to watch. One that looked particularly interesting was a Thai movie called Cannibal Mercenary, whose synopsis promised something of a mixture of Apocalypse Now and an Italian cannibal movie, complete with the over-the-top Asian action that us fans love. I looked it up on Youtube and found that it was available under a second title, The Jaguar Project. So I looked that up at the IMDB, and it turns out that The Jaguar Project was the Filmark-Tomas Tang treatment of the aforementioned movie. Since I’m reviewing Filmark movies this month, this change of pace was perfect.

Synopsis [Thai movie] – Okay, so we learn from some inserted footage of Sun Chien in a long blonde wig that there’s a former Thai military officer living in the hills/jungle of Vietnam who’s apparently convinced that the war hasn’t ended and is leading a reign of terror against, well, everybody. We also learn that he’s smuggling heroin hidden in bamboo. Nobody has brought him down yet, so the military turns to a former soldier, Tony. This wasn’t explicit in the Filmark version (granted, I saw it dubbed in Spanish), but apparently Tony’s daughter needs an operation and the only way he can drum up the money for it is to accept the mission. He gets some men together—the rescue team from Predator these guys aren’t—and heads out into the jungle.

After killing some gun-toting backwoods types, our team picks up a native girl who may or may not be a spy (which also reminds me a little of Predator). This new addition to our team of rag-tag heroes affects two members of the platoon in different ways. One guy starts getting plagued with visions of walking in on his wife/girlfriend having sort-of explicit movie sex with another man. Another guy, the one with the sleazy mustache, tries to rape her on no less than three occasions. Hilariously enough, the second attempt results in an act of violence against his penis that I’m still trying to figure out how it happened (did she have mousetrap hidden down there?). Anyway, they go deeper into the jungle and have more encounters with the bad guys’ goons until they are finally captured and tortured. In the case of two of the good guys, they are also partially devoured by the general’s men (although Tomas Tang’s editor reduces that gruesome twist into a mere background detail). Eventually the female “captive” shows up with a cheap crossbow and some armed men and things go boom and people are brutally killed. The end.

Synopsis [Filmark Footage] – There are three Caucasian guys (one of whom wears military fatigues) who are stationed in Vietnam/Thailand. There’s news of treasure being hidden not too far from where the evil general operates. So they spend their screen time walking around the same Hong Kong botanical garden (or the boondocks of Hong Kong) listening to other movie’s gunfights “nearby” until they finally kill each other. The end.

Much more than Ninja in the Killing Field and Instant Rage, I think the original Thai movie, Cannibal Mercenary, had no need for cheaply-filmed inserts of white people doing stuff. For one, those scenes act more as a story parallel (“…meanwhile, a half mile away from the action…”) than a story complement. I mean, the film has scads of gunplay, cannibalism, graphic violence and even some (undercranked) kung fu. Those things could easily sell a movie by itself. Too bad Tomas Tang didn’t see things the same way. In any case, I think the casual Asian action fan will find something to enjoy in both versions. There is a lot of 80s-style gunplay, where you have dozens of bad guys armed with automatic weapons who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn—one may have a drinking game in which they take a shot every time a bad guy fails to hit one of the good guys with an M-16 while firing from 15 feet away or less. The fighting is of the brawling style, although we get some brutal undercranked muay thai (sort of) near the end and some more (and better) fighting at the climax. People die from explosions despite them being visibly out of the blast radius. It’s the sort of thing that The Expendables celebrated, but presented in a deadpan manner as if the filmmakers had no idea how silly it was. It’s almost kind of sublime when you get right down to it.

But yeah, of the three Filmark movies I’ve seen in the past month, this one was easily the best. It’s dumb and exploitive, but over-the-top and fun. It’s certainly no Eastern Condors or even Angel 2 (I haven’t seen Heroes Shed No Tears so I can’t compare those two). And people who know me may find it weird that I’m saying this, but I just wished that the cannibalism subplot had been given more attention in The Jaguar Project version.

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Tue Jan 19, 2016 1:38 pm
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Hman wrote:
So yeah, pretty forgettable Filmark fluff that wastes the talents of Sun Chien.


I lead such a sheltered life I've never seen Sun Chien in anything other than a Venom Mob film.

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Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:22 am
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Charnelhouse wrote:
Hman wrote:
So yeah, pretty forgettable Filmark fluff that wastes the talents of Sun Chien.


I lead such a sheltered life I've never seen Sun Chien in anything other than a Venom Mob film.


The sad thing is that with one or two exceptions, Sun Chien hasn't done anything worth mentioning outside of a Venom Mob film.

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Tue Jan 26, 2016 10:48 am
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Ninja Terminator (1985)

Starring: Jack Lam, Richard Harrison, Hwang Jang Lee, Phillip Ko Fei, Maria Francesca Harrison, Chiang Tao, Jonathon Watts
Director: Godfrey Ho
Action Director: Alan Wong, Dennis Shin, Hyman Lee (I sure hope nobody broke him during filming...har!)

With the success of movies like The Octagon and Enter the Ninja at the beginning of the 80s, the Ninja Craze became an official phenomenon all over the world, whose effects are felt even today. Ninjas have become a regular part of pop culture thanks to the success (or notoriety) of the movies that flooded theaters and video stores during that decade. While some of them were honestly good movies (by genre standards), many of them were notoriously bad. In fact, most mainstream viewers mightly hardly consider them to be real movies.

The purveyors of such crap included the triumverate of evil: Godfrey Ho, Joseph Lai and Tomas Tang. Those three men, threw their studios IFD and Filmark, had the ingenious idea of taking unreleased or incomplete films from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Korea or god-knows-where in Asia, filming new sequences with Caucasian actors (and usually a slumming Chiang Tao and/or Philip Ko), splicing them together and dubbing them so as to form a semi-coherent story. So unsuspecting viewers might pick up a film promising awesome green ninjas (I've personally loved green-clad ninjas back since I played Shinobi as a kid) fighting on motorcycles, only to get some Taiwanese film about a love triangle, while poorly-inserted scenes of ninjas break up the action.

Ninja Terminator has been held as the gold standard for these sorts of films, so I decided to check it out. In addition to the scenes featuring Richard Harrison (Medusa against the Son of Hercules) fighting for control of a mystical statue, we also get non-stop tae kwon do from a Korean action film featuring Jack Lam and legendary superkicker Hwang Jang Lee. How could this be bad?
On the 20th anniversary of the "ninja empire," three pieces of a mystical statue have been procured by ninjas Harry (Harrison) and another dumpy white guy. The ninja "emperor" (Chiang Tao) uses the statue to grant him invulnerability to any kind of attack. Later, the two Caucasian ninja, plus a Japanese one named Tamashi, steal the pieces of the statue and go their separate ways. They are obviously marked for death by ninja emperor, who sends his men, plus the Ninja Terminator (Philip Ko Fei) to get the statue back.

Tamashi is killed in short order and his statue piece is retrieved. Enter footage from a South Korean film called The Uninvited Guest. A girl named Michiko and her brother are visiting the grave of their brother, which the dubbing suggests is Tamashi from the newer footage. Meanwhile, we discover that dumpy white guy ninja is the head of a criminal empire, whose main enforcer is Tiger Chan (Hwang Jang Lee in a blond wig). Tiger sends his men to harrass MIchiko and her brother in order to find out where Tamashi's piece of the statue is, not knowing that the empire reclaimed it.

Coming to the rescue is Jaguar Wong (Jack Lam), a likably arrogant, high-kicking tae kwon do expert who beats up everybody who crosses his path (granted, everybody who crosses his path just happens to work for Tiger Chan), while he's not going down on his ex-girlfriend, Lily, who herself happens to be sleeping with Tiger's second-in-command, Vic Lee. Jaguar Wong's scenes mainly consist of him beating people up and stealing Tiger's heroin shipments. Eventually, Michiko is kidnapped and Jaguar must rescue her before a time bomb blows her up.

Meanwhile, back at IFD studios, Harry and dumpy white guy have set aside their differences (although they didn't bother to tell Jaguar and Tiger about that) in order to prepare for a duel with the Ninja Terminator. In the end, the good guys win, the bad guys lose, Philip Ko uses his ninja magic to blow himself up, and Harry presumably becomes the invincible ninja master. The end.

The rewards of this piece cut n' splice-sploitation epic are many. Marvel at bad-a** Richard Harrison taking calls at his apartment via a cute Garfield telephone! Be stunned when we learn that the preferred method of ninja communication are toy robots! Be blown away by the technological marvels of top-loading VCRs! Feel the mature ethnic themes of a Korean actor in a Chinese film talking like a jive black guy before getting his a** handed to him by Jack Lam himself!

Speaking of which, there's a lot of quality action in this film, at least with regards to the original Korean footage. Jack Lam is a solid kicker, and occasionally gets in some nice flying double kicks. His footwork lacks a bit of the altitude of his contemporaries Casanova Wong and Dorian Tan, although he delivers the bootwork quick and crisply. Hwang Jang Lee ultimately outshines him during their extended fight at the end. Hwang unleashes the full arsenal of his kicks, including the triple no-shadow kick, the bicycle kick, the "clap your feet against the temples" kick, the "wrap your leg around the neck and kick you in the face" kick, etc. I take isue with the photography of the fight, which often fails to underscore the awesomeness of Hwang's signature moves, but okay. At least it's visible.

On the other hand, the newer ninja footage is merely adequate, I guess. It's mainly generic katana swinging and jump cuts of ninja disappearing and reappearing, but lacks much of the WTF-ness that dominated the collected works of Robert Tai. Those hoping for an ultimate showdown between the now-unstoppable Harry and the invincible Ninja Emperor (that is, Chiang Tao), will be disappointed. I guess Chiang Tao was appearing in so many of these that he simply didn't have time to film a fight scene. Our loss.

I suppose if you must watch a cut n' splice-sploitation flick, this would be your best bet. It's not quite as inept or over-the-top as other entries in this truly bizarre sub-genre, but it might be the best way to ease yourself into a universe-within-a-universe of martial arts films that even the most hardened B-movie veterans can have a hard time digesting.

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Thu Jun 15, 2017 2:13 pm
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