Monthly Archives: July 2013

Calamitous War God

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Japan does not have the monopoly on giant monsters. Throughout the years, other Asian countries have contributed to the genre, notably Korea, Thailand, Honk Kong and Taiwan.
The surprising thing about these films is how they often recycle a religious or historical figure as the hero. Further examination, however, reveals that this is not so much a question of faith or folklore but rather one of economy: the central character is one for which costumes already exist and that audiences already identify with.

Thus, Thailand, for example, will match-up monkey god Hanuman with Ultraman and the Kamen Riders, the Thai Giant will be paired with Jumborg Ace in co-production deals of various levels of legality.

Taiwan chose to make the legendary general of The Three Kingdoms, Lord Guan into such a gigantic hero.
Who is Lord Guan? For most westerners, he guards the door of many a Chinese “all-you-can-eat” buffet. This warrants the following educational interlude.

It does make sense to make him the hero. Not only are the costumes available but so are the stage swordsmen, capable of wielding Guan’s battle axe with great artistry.

(Frankly, I think that’s a great idea and I’m trying to script one about a giant Easter Bunny that lobs chocolate eggs as a method of attack. It’s proving a very impractical idea as I keep eating the bunny’s arsenal.)

War God (a.k.a. Calamity) casts Guan as defender against a full fledged invasion by Martians.

Not aliens- martians.
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And not just any martians but the cartooniest, goofiest martians you ever did see.

Starting at around the mid-movie mark (45 minutes to be exact), these three gigantic denizens of the Warrior Planet start smashing everything in sight. Fortunately for humanity, “grampa” has been busy carving a big red faced likeness of Lord Guan which becomes gigantic and starts wielding that battle axe around like a gargantuan Bey Blade. (He also makes this bizarre buzzing sound as he fights.)
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The calamity that ensues is jaw dropping and puts even Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel to shame. Buildings come crashing and overpasses full of model cars collapse with apocalyptic abandon. The filmmakers want to make sure we understand the gravity of the situation and pepper the carnage with shots of drivers crushed in their cars or office workers having the floor collapse from under them. Buildings turn to rubble. Rubble gets smashed to pebbles. Pebbles get crushed into sand. Sand becomes dust. It’s that final.

Everyone dies, but the important thing is we defeated the alien menace. Yay!

SPOILER ALERT: Everything is fine again. (!)

Just like that. Grampa resumes his sculpting and everything is just back to normal.

Has there been an ellipse during which all was rebuilt?
Did everything get fixed with a bat of Lord Guan’s eye?
Before we can even ask these questions, the movie is over.
Who cares how? The important thing is everything is fine again.
And thus begins your new mission in life: to tell everyone you know about this incredibly awesome epic.

Here it is in all of its faded glory. Originally a “scope” film (2.35:1 aspect ratio), this copy has it cropped at the sides to fit your 16:9 screens. This means that the “chinglish” subtitles are often missing the first and last words of a line. This only adds to the spice.

Pain Level: 8/10

Quality of Pain: Full combo with Egg Roll
Painjoyment™ Index:
MAX

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Double Header

head-transplant-rhesus

Scientists are claiming that face transplants are not just for John Travolta and Nicholas Cage anymore; in fact, complete head transplants are now feasible.

Personally, I think they’re getting it all backwards. It’s not the head that should be transplanted but rather a whole new body grafted onto the head. Call me old fashioned but a new head on an old body just wouldn’t be the same person.

Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was The Head That Wouldn’t Die but it turned out I already had a blog entry for that masterpiece. Here it is with the links fixed:

https://thecinemasochist.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/cerebral-cinema/

But of course, that movie is only about an attempt at such a transplant so my piece, which I hoped would be a serious cautionary tale, needed to show the consequences of a successful transplant.

I was blessed with not one but two films. A real double-header.

Though those films are not about a full on head swap. They’re really about having to share a pair of shoulders with another head and the friction that may cause.

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Now the first one is the straight-on exploitation B-flick The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant which sees a crazed murderer having his head grafted onto the body of a gigantic but powerful moron. What could possibly go wrong?

Frankly, there’s not much to recommend in this somewhat pedestrian film. It just barely lives up to the goofy promise of its premise. Even former Marilyn Munster Pat Priest can’t save it.

A year later, though, the ever prolific R Lee Frost would crank out this memorable Blaxploitation classic The Thing with Two Heads.

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This movie is a vast improvement over AIP’s previous dual-noggin epic. For one thing, it has star power: not only does it feature Oscar winner Ray Milland (now working through the “anything for a cheque” phase of his post-Oscar career); it has Rosey Grier, the former NFL player who became a household name after wrestling Sirhan-Sirhan to the ground at the Robert Kennedy assassination (which, as a bodyguard, he failed to prevent) . For anyone who grew up in the 70s, Grier was as ubiquitous as Charo, clocking in more airtime than even Regis during that decade. There’s not a game show or prime time drama or variety show from that era that didn’t get a visit from the gentle Rosey. More recently, Grier’s claim to fame was to be spiritual counselor to O.J. Simpson.
A true renaissance man, Grier was also the bestselling author of this manly manual.

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We need volunteers to tell Mr. Grier this endeavor isn’t very masculine.
Anyone?
Yeah…thought so.

But despite all of Grier’s efforts to grab enduring fame over the decades, he will most likely be remembered for his role in The Thing with Two Heads as a convict who volunteers to be a human guinea pig which leaves him with a rich old-fart bigot’s head (Milland) grafted onto his neck and his girlfriend wondering “is there two of anything else?”.

They say pain makes memories stick. This could be a prime example of it.

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So here we go with our double-header:

and

The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant
Pain Level: 7/10
Quality of Pain: Dull
Painjoyment Index: Mild

The Thing with Two-Heads
Pain Level: 6/10
Quality of Pain: Emancipated
Painjoyment™ Level: High