film

Double Feature Madness! MAD GOD + ONE-ARMED BOXER

Written and directed by Phil Tippett, “Mad God” is a film thirty years in the making from the special effects pioneer Phil Tippett who worked on the original Star Wars trilogy and the first Jurassic Park. With those credentials alone I was initially eager to see this so called masterpiece of stop motion and old school special effects by one of the best in the business. Well, let me tell you- this film is one hell of an experience. “Mad God” is essentially an exercise in practical special effects experimentation, and that’s about it. We follow one, or several depending on your interpretation, WW2 era figures that endlessly trudge lower and lower into the depths of what I can only assume are various circles of Hell. Adorned with gas masks and other cumbersome gear, the figure/s frequently witness horrific monsters that kill other beings of various shapes and sizes. These wanderers trudge through occasionally beautiful landscapes and meticulously hand-crafted worlds but then encounter disturbing creatures or humanlike machines/monsters with lots of defecation spewing out of and into every various orifice imaginable. Some creatures are more animalistic, while others are closer to the human form. The story is really what you make of it, there is no dialogue. I have to say that the film is a real feat in the realm of practical effects and that’s amazing, all the hard work that went into it does occasionally feel miraculous. However, for every fantastic scene realized onscreen, there’s a dozen moments of pure stomach churning nausea. This is a movie that felt like an assault on your senses and eyeballs, and I’m not alone in this. I had a small watch party of close friends stop by for the occasion and this was the general sentiment from all involved. I’d say it’s worth a watch once to see all of the work that went into the puppeteering and set design, but it may be a difficult watch for most. “Mad God” is currently streaming on Shudder, a Horror themed streaming service.

Written, directed, and starring Jimmy Wang Yu, “One-Armed Boxer” is an old school Hong Kong Kung Fu clash. The plot mostly consists of two schools of martial arts styles battling out a feud based on the poorly placed bravado of The Hook gang and their scheming ways to prove their superiority and prowess in fighting skill over the students and master of the Ching Te martial arts school. Tien Lung (Jimmy Wang Yu), the best fighter at the Ching Te martial arts school, and company immediately defend themselves and send the Hook gang underlings back to their school in defeat. When Chao Liu (Yeh Tien), the boss of the Hook Gang, hears of this disgrace (his students lied to him about the details of the first fight) he brings a cadre of his best men to the Ching Te school and then promptly loses the battle with a culminating fight between masters of opposing schools. After Han Tui (Chi Ma), Tien Lung’s Master, thoroughly trounces Chao in front of everyone, he vows vengeance. Chao then hires a team of martial arts mercenaries that consists of two karate experts and their teacher, a Judo master, a Taekwondo expert, two Thai boxing fighters, a Yoga expert, and two mystic Tibetan lamas. When Chao returns to exact his revenge, his mercenaries kill all the students of the Ching Te School while Chao’s Japanese professional (who comes equipped with villainous fangs) literally karate chops Tien Lung’s arm right off in one swing! After that you can probably guess where it goes, but the plotting and story beats aren’t exactly why you give this movie a go. Its because of the insane multi-member Kung Fu fights and ridiculous, over the top, nature of the filmmaking. After the One-armed boxer decides to strengthen his one arm to unbreakable levels, he goes about exacting his revenge in style and flair. I’ve always loved this style of Kung Fu movies, and “One-Armed Boxer” excels in style and entertainment. I really loved how they used the camera in the fight scenes. The snap zooms, whip pans, and rapid inserts, its all great in my opinion. When the camerawork moves in tandem with the energy of the story at hand, that’s hardly ever a bad thing. I heartily recommend giving this one a chance sometime. “One-Armed Boxer” can be found through Arrow Video on Blu-ray and DVD.

*This was one of the most insane double features I’ve ever watched, and I’m so glad I did with good friends. For a horrifyingly unique cinematic experience, I challenge anyone reading this to throw a watch party with these two films- if nothing else you’ll have shared a weird experience with friends that you’ll likely be talking about for weeks to come! Enjoy!

*Here’s my most recent review over at Films Fatale, show them some love and check it out:

https://www.filmsfatale.com/blog/2022/6/15/jurassic-world-dominion?rq=Cameron%20Geiser

film

25 days of Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman: #22 Zatoichi Meets The One-Armed Swordsman (1971)

Writer/Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda & Takayuki Yamada (2nd film)/ Kimiyoshi Yasuda (5th film)

Summary: “Zatoichi Meets The One-Armed Swordsman” was truly a delight! Not only is it my favorite film from Kimiyoshi Yasuda within the Zatoichi film series, it’s also one of my favorite Zatoichi films in general. This one harbored a far more lighthearted tone than the most recent films, hearkening back to the first half of the film series, while maintaining the exaggerated violence from the more recent evolution that’s taken place since “Zatoichi The Outlaw”. This film is another crossover similar to Zatoichi’s encounter with Toshiro Mifune’s Yojimbo. I’d only recently heard of Jimmy Wang’s Hong Kong action oriented character “The One-Armed Boxer”, which is a ridiculously entertaining and over-the-top Kung Fu style film (I’ll link the trailer the below, it’s worth a watch!). Which, in doing some light research just now, is not the same character as the “One-Armed Swordsman” despite both characters being portrayed by the same actor and both only having one arm. Huh. In any case, when the One-Armed Swordsman travels to Japan, he encounters a family of fellow Chinese nationals now living in Japan. The mother, father, and child, offer to guide him to his destination- a temple devoted to the study of martial arts. While on the road, the family and One-Armed Swordsman encounter a procession of Samurai transporting a tribute to the shogun. As the father explains to the One-Armed Swordsman, the law requires that any and all travelers kneel at the side of the road to let them pass. As they do so, the child’s kite flies from his hands and under the foot of the first Samurai. The kid runs for his kite and the Samurai raises his sword to slay the offender- but the mother and father run to save their son, but end up being slain instead of the boy. The One-Armed Swordsman jumps into the fray killing several Samurai before escaping, though he loses the boy in the chaos. Several bystanders witness the carnage that followed as the Samurai killed every innocent bystander kneeling by the road, farmers, peasants, everyone. Of course, they then blamed the slaughter on the One-Armed Swordsman, a Chinese citizen that speaks very little Japanese, the perfect target for such corruption. Initially, even through the language barrier the two swordsmen formed a fast friendship with the young boy roughly translating for them. Later, when scheming Yakuza bosses and misinformed side characters persuade Wang Kang into believing that it was Zatoichi that sold them out to the Yakuza, the two are set against each other. Unfortunately for the One-Armed Swordsman, he didn’t figure out that Zatoichi was a good man until it was too late.

My favorite part: Jimmy Wang’s One-Armed Swordsman was a real treat within the Zatoichi series. He’s the only combatant that Zatoichi’s ever faced that can move the way he did in battle. Wang Kang, as he’s referred to formally, performs some high level acrobatics- jumping from his enemies shoulders like Legolas, and he’s also incredibly powerful with his punches and karate chops- slicing trees in half with his bare hand! His wuxia antics were enjoyable, and he was a heroic character that was manipulated into fighting Zatoichi by the end of the film. He was tricked and lied to by his closest Chinese friend in all of Japan, clearly he had not encountered the type of double-crossing that’s often utilized in the Zatoichi films. Since he was even portrayed as a Chinese character, and spoken in Mandarin mostly, there were some great conflict and confusion that came from the misunderstanding of intent between him and Zatoichi. In fact it’s the main source of conflict between the two major characters, with lots of misdirection and scheming by Yakuza bosses- which comes with the territory in Zatoichi’s world.

Why it’s great: The crossover effect between not just two cinematic icons, but of two different countries and languages, worked excellently! This one may have been more playful and not quite as heavy as recent Zatoichi films, but it earned it’s place with the inclusion of Wang Kang’s wuxia, martial arts, and moral character work. This film has the most snap-zooms out of any Zatoichi film this far, and since it was filmed in 1971, there’s a funk insurgence within the soundtrack that plays into the nature and tone of this film well. Reportedly, the Chinese edit had more wuxia content with scenes showing Wang Kang walking across the tops of trees, and also featured a different ending where instead of Zatoichi it was the One-Armed Swordsman who was victorious in their final fight, and he didn’t kill his opponent. This was a fascinating experiment in the Zatoichi film series, and I had a great time with it!

Final Score: One Arm

Trailer for “The One-Armed Boxer”: