FantasticFest is the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and action movies from all around the world. Here's a list of some of our favorite movies at FantasticFest.
Among the last of Chang Cheh's Shaw productions before he went independent. While listed as being released in 1983, the film's title card gives a date of 1982. Regardless this film is very typical of late Shaw Bros. and of late Chang Cheh. Confusing and full of chintzy special effects.
The first 10 minutes of the film is very confusing and it wouldn't surprise me if the film was based on a popular novel. Once the exposition is out of the way the plot sort makes sense. Near master Taoist disciple Yu Ji is commanded by his superior to sacrifice himself to General Sun, an arrogant super martial artist, whose growing power unnerves the regent of the Han empire. The regent sends Xao, a cunning bureaucrat, to manipulate Sun into a situation where he is killed. General Sun puts Yu Ji to death after the monk creates rainfall the save the starving townspeople. The rest of film revolves around Yu Ji's dead body mediating (!) until it can regain his spirit and be reborn. Yu Ji's five young disciples have to protect the body while resisting Xao's tricks to get them to kill Sun for the murder of their master.
At least that's what I think it's about.
The film is first and foremost a ghost film with a large helping of martial arts. The special effects are wires, simple camera stops and starts so people appear and disappear, smoke, bubbles (yes bubbles) and colored lights. Yu Ji is apparently the "Weird Man" of the title and he looks it with an unruly mop of tangled black hair and beard. His spirit however is represented by a young man in typical Chang Cheh hero fashion. That is, he shows a lot of shiny chest and wears a Roman style man's dress the shows a lot of leg. Yu Ji's disciples are first seen doing a flaming sword ritual in their underwear and when they finish they quickly put on their Roman style dresses. True to almost all of Chang Cheh's later films the men are in revealing clothing or get their shirts pulled off to reveal a fishnet style undershirt. Yu Ji's spirit is first seen flying thru the air dressed only in underpants!
Discussion of Chang Cheh's leanings aside, is this a good film? If you are looking for goofy Chinese ghost shenanigans with martial arts without concern for plot or character development, this isn't terrible. The martial artists in this film are all very very good and the spirit played by Ricky Cheng Tien Chi (who also choreographed) just bounces around the set with great glee. The action scenes are very good except when the "spooky" effects get in the way. At one point the spirit is stabbed by a spear but instead of blood, bubbles shoot out. Then the bubbles turn into inflated latex gloves! I'm not kidding, it looks like cow udders bouncing around. Unfortunately unlike other Shaw films from this time the craziness is not enough to overcome the lack of concern I had for the characters. Film insanity like "Holy Flame of the Martial World" has better character development.
Fun for some, a confusing mess for others.
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