know, I wasn't even going to review this movie; it received high marks
(from whom I cribbed a couple of the pics for this week) and this intrigued
me enough to obtain and view it for my own pleasure. It was great fun,
but, at the time, I didn't consider it proper fodder for this site.
After all, it had no giant spiders, smoking rocketships, rabid hippies
or mad scientists. But it continued to linger with me, moments and events
leaping unbidden into my brain when I least expected it. And finally,
it caused me to re-examine what I considered to be a Bad Movie.
Bad Movie, as I have stated before in my Philosophy
rant, represents the best-laid dreams and plans of someone gone terribly,
terribly wrong - these are your Robot
Monsters, your Plan 9's, your Astro-Zombies.
But there are other kinds, those that exude a delicious, creamy cheese
filling by their own design, yet are very well-made (From
Dusk 'Till Dawn, Evil
Dead II), and those that go beyond bad and should have been
used as mulch (I Drink Your Blood, something called
Forever Evil). Then there is another
sort, the kind that dumbfounds you and leaves you constantly saying,
"What the f*@k just happened?" These are the movies
that drop you down the rabbit hole, "ass over teakettle",
as Harlan Ellison likes to say, and deposit you in the middle of strange,
unexplored turf. Eraserhead is such a movie. Drunken Wu Tang
no mistake; I normally avoid foreign comedies like (insert favorite
disease here). No matter what some pedants might claim, comedy is not
the universal language (that title more properly goes to violence).
Oh, there are exceptions, certainly - there's a reason Marcel Marceau
and Red Skelton kept wowing the United Nations - but most comedies depend
upon the spoken
word, and it's a rare bit of wordplay that survives the translation
process. This is especially true when dealing with a rich, multi-tonal
language like Chinese, whether Mandarin, Cantonese, or something in
in Drunken Wu Tang, the dubbing has done a fairly decent job
of capturing at least the flavor of the jokes (which were pretty
darn silly to begin with, it seems), and the plentiful slapstick humor,
being based in violence, works nicely.
very first scene piles weirdness upon weirdness as a cross-eyed palm
reader finds a widow has "the husband killing line!" in her
palm; she leaves in a huff as the reader wails "You haven't paid!"
A bizarre, red-clad figure apparently hanging upside down from the
ceiling offers to pay. The reader, ignoring this gigantic crimson
bat next to him (and how he got there) happily accepts the coins, but
notices the red guy doesn't have any lines on his palms. The red guy
- who will be known as Old Devil, the villain of the piece - immediately
kills the palm reader. Sheesh. How touchy!
body of the fortuneteller knocks over a screen revealing a man meditating
behind, who rouses himself and calls Old Devil by his former name -
Ruthless (note to parents: choosing this as your child's name is just
asking for trouble). The meditating man was apparently some sort
of judge who sentenced the criminal Ruthless to a bunch of nasty punishments,
including what appears to be riding a steel sled down a metal slide
that is heated from beneath by fires, with the result that he has to
be scraped off the sled like a pancake. Hence, the lack of lines on
his hand. (Yeah, I'm sure they used that punishment a lot, too)
mandatory fight follows, during which the judge pulls off his shirt,
revealing a vest covered in back by sharp nails - the video box calls
him Porcupine Back - which explains his unusual kung fu style of leaping
into the air and landing on things on his back. Old Devil, however,
has an even more bizarre weapon, a cannonball that splits and shoots
out eight smaller balls, as well as bouncing about the room and generally
obeying his commands. Porcupine Back, dying from his beating, refuses
to tell Old Devil where the "Sacred Document" is hidden. There
were a lot of Sacred Documents floating around China in those days,
to judge from the many movies who use this as their MacGuffin.
we are treated to the outlandish sight of some manner of wicker bumper
car shaped like the head of a rat. This is piloted by a merrily humming
inebriate known as Ratface, a perfectly appropriate name. Seated within,
he cannot see a thing, yet he continues to peddle away, drinking all
the while. As he rolls into the temple run by his brother, the local
Taoist priest, he succeeds in running over housecleaning monks, causing
general chaos, and accidentally desecrating the temple's idol. Whoops!
As penance, he has one month to find a virgin boy born on the 15th of
August, to perform a placatory ritual.
is where our other major character comes in -Cha Li, who is studying,
under the tutelage of his Granny (played by a man),
though not to become a monk but a witch. (I don't know - just try to
keep up, okay?) His final test involves claiming the Sacred Document
- now upgraded to a Sacred Book - from a training chamber. The chamber
is laden with all manner of deathtraps, and Cha Li overcomes the pressing
walls, the burning coals, and the sharpened bamboo, but he cannot get
past.... the Watermelon Monster!!!!
me, you do not want to meet the Watermelon Monster in a dark alley.
Perfectly round, with flashing red eyes, whipping tentacles and a gaping
maw, not a whole lot of money was spent on the Watermelon Monster, and
it is very bitter about that. It uses its tentacle/antennae to whip
itself about the room, and it's huge mouth has a predilection for snapping
at your groin area. Eeee! It also has an annoying screeching
voice that would be perfectly at home shrieking, "I'll swalla
yer soul I'll swalla yer soul!" Cha Li bails on the test and
goes to help his girlfriend, Jun, instead.
route to that, he comes upon Ratface fighting with the two henchmen
of the Princess (apparently some local cult leader), who
appear to be named Shining Knight and Fat Chick *
. Fat Chick's kung fu consists of spinning like a top and falling on
you (comically pounding you into the dirt like a tent peg), while Shining
Knight later demonstrates some bizarre style that allows him to pull
his head and arms, turtle-like, into his breastplate. Right now though,
his major duty is accidentally getting beaten up by Fat Chick, while
Ratface employs his trademark drunken style that makes it appear he
isn't even fighting at all. Cha Li jumps in with his more aggressive
style, causing the Princess to also join the fray - and she uses
that weird weapon, a long cloth sash with coins sewn in the lining,
making it pack a wallop, and generally behave like a two-by-four. Phew.
Got all that?
Devil starts cropping up and thrashing Cha Li every now and then, since
he's still searching for the Sacred Book. Granny
shows up and saves the day, first by wielding the World's Largest Knife,
then by leading Old Devil into the Testing Chamber. Whereas Cha Li defeated
the deathtraps by brains and cunning, Old Devil blitzes through with
his superior martial skills... but even he is bumfuzzled by the
hastily graduates Cha Li to full-fledged witch and entrusts the Sacred
Book to him. Old Devil manages to poison the Princess with some potion
that will - if an antidote is not taken every so often - cause her to
grow old and die in a matter of minutes. Then Old Devil decides to take
the book again, but this time he somehow defeats the Watermelon Monster
and Granny must intercede, using her incredible Giant Meerschaum Pipe
kung fu (the lady is serious about her giant props). During the course
of the battle, Granny discovers how the villain overcame the Monster
- it's not really Old Devil, it's the Princess in disguise! (Apparently,
this makes a difference) Distracted, Granny is mortally wounded, and
with her dying breath, tells Cha Li that Ratface is his only hope to
defeat Old Devil.
the most part, this probably sounds like a typical, action-oriented
kung fu flick, but nooooooooo, that would be wrong. I've left out a
lot of the comedy sidetrips. The reason that Cha Li stops his
testing to help Jun, (his girlfriend, remember?): Jun's sister, a very
recent widow, is trying to take up (far too soon) with a philandering
wretch. Cha Li uses all manner of witchy tricks to make the lovers think
they are being haunted by the dead husband. Then Jun manages to switch
places with Granny during a seance and instruct her cowering sister
that in order to avoid violent death, she must marry a man with a rat-like
face. So, for the rest of the movie, the bewildered Ratface is pursued
by the sister... hmm. Running away from an attractive woman with lovin'
on her mind... Yep. Different culture.
Wu Tang staggers like a drunkard itself, staggers from goofy comedy
hyper-frenetic fight scenes and back to low humor without blinking.
You may be tempted to fast-forward through the comedy pieces, but don't
- they're short enough, weird enough, and you'll only have to rewind
again because suddenly people are flying all over the place on wires
or Old Devil has shown up out of the blue. Again. The plot synopsis
above has barely taken you past the half-way mark of this singular
film. There is still much mayhem - and mirth of a sort - ahead.
now you probably know if this movie would be your cup of tea (or wine,
to be more apropos). But if you're teetering on that fence, or
if you're in the mood for something truly different - and more than
occasionally astounding - Drunken Wu Tang is at least
worth a rental, or the purchase of the impressively cheap EP version
also offers (although not if you plan to make video captures - learn
from my mistakes!).