For the inaugural review of an animated feature for this blog, I had to pick out something that really captured the spirit we’re cultivating here at the Gilded Trough. There were a few options, like Alakazam the Great, the English version of an early Toho animated feature, and A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation, which is about as silly and garish as any Hong Kong movie regardless of its medium. I even thought about Ralph Bakshi’s Fire and Ice, being that it is the most eighties movie ever made and it would provide me with many opportunities to joke about Frank Frazetta’s fascination with big-assed women. But I picked a movie that’s far worse than those, an animated movie from Indonesia called Beauty and Warrior. But there’s a very particular reason why...
How could anybody pass up an animated movie from Indonesia when it’s presented by Joseph Lai and IFD Films?
Beauty and Warrior opens with a princess in a realm of gods being banished to the earth for marrying a mortal. Her handmaiden follows her, and after a protracted conversation in which each avers a mystical truth that is countered by the others mystical truth until both of them decide to part, the handmaiden flies around some caves and into an underwater kingdom with five gnarly demon-beasts to serve her. Bear in mind that this little sequence -- the young woman I suppose is the “beauty” referred to in the title taking her place as a queen of the underworld -- takes several minutes while consisting mostly of only a few frames of animation looped over and over again, much of it involving a flight through a cave tunnel that will be repeated no less than three times over the course of the forty-four minute movie.
At this point, two brothers pop out of nowhere, and after a brief physical fight with a couple of the beasts, one of the brothers decides to meditate in a cave while the other, more loquacious and aggressive brother keeps watch so that the monsters don’t sneak in and eat while his brother is astral projecting. The meeker brother floats along that previously mentioned tunnel as a blue line until he winds up in the underworld kingdom, where he fights it out with all five of the demon things. Once he does so, he gets busy with the new underworld queen, which is represented by the two of them turning into hearts, colored pink and blue (so we can tell them apart, obviously) and then the two of them reappearing holding a newborn baby while hearts shoot around them.
Truly, sexier sex has never been animated.
Returning from his mediation (again, the tunnel) the nicer of the two brothers now has a magic sword that appears out of thin air, which the meaner brother wants for himself. They fight. It lasts for the remainder of the movie. The meaner brother, after being defeated, is given the sword by the nicer of the two, for reasons as inexplicable as any other in this movie. When the good man’s mate shows up carrying his newborn son, he decides to chase after his brother, who left with the sword and ambitions of world conquest.
Is there anything weirder than this movie? The mere fact that it saw release on Region 1 dvd and used to be easy to find at Wal-Mart makes the whole thing even more bizarre. The company responsible for this, Digiview Entertainment, is a major provider of dollar bin dvd content, generally of the public domain. Aside from Beauty and Warrior, they also released a dvd of Thunder Prince, another Indonesian animated feature with lots of martial arts and also presented by Joseph Lai’s IFD. Digiview doesn’t just sell IFD releases of Indonesian animation; they also sell animated versions of classic literature, like Ivanhoe and The Odyssey, which were made by Australians and Eastern Europeans and nearly as poorly done as the Joseph Lai presentations. Obviously, if you’re buying a dvd for one dollar at a Wal-Mart or Dollar General, you ought not to be expecting quality.
Much like the live action films that IFD released, the dubbing team for Beauty and Warrior either doesn’t care, or didn’t bother to translate the actual dialog and doesn’t care. I think, based on the design of the titular beauty, that this might be a tale about the South Sea Queen of Javanese folklore, albeit one of very lax fidelity. But not knowing the original language of this production, nor if an original language version is even available, it isn’t possible to say that the intended product makes any more sense. Even then, the interminably long fight scenes lack any visual interest and consist of only a very few frames of animation and lots of key-framing. It’s a bad, nearly unwatchable, interminable forty-four minutes.
Joseph Lai, Godfrey Ho and Thomas Tang were the triumvirate of cut-rate entertainment at one point. But Ho now teaches film making at a University in Hong Kong, and Tang is not (to my knowledge) involved in producing films anymore. Perhaps it is a step down for Lai, to have gone from the premier purveyor of cut-and-splice epics like Robo-Vampire and the Thunder Ninja Kids series to the distribution of animation that actually makes less sense than the live action films Godfrey Ho used to assemble out of five hours worth of independently shot footage from abandoned film projects, Filipino and Thai B-movies, footage of Hong Kong stuntmen in ninja costumes fighting each other and Richard Harrison... being Richard Harrison. He shouldn’t feel bad, though, because of this image:
Is that a very bright yellow nipple? I don’t know what I’ll do in return, but if anybody makes me a quality “GoldenPigsy’s Gilded Nipple” banner out of that, there’ll surely be some karma coming his or her way.
By the by, this movie sucks.