Korean Dragon Ball: The Review -- The Reckoning

If you actually think about it -- believe me, I can understand if you have not -- Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball is one of Japan’s strangest cultural exports and should have been the least likely to achieve lasting popularity. Of course, it wasn’t immediately welcomed. The first attempts to dub and export it were considerable failures, and it wasn’t until Funimation, a Texas based entertainment company, dubbed and released episodes of the anime series in syndication under the title “Dragon Ball Z” that it found its audience. Even then, it didn’t become really popular until Cartoon Network included it in its Toonami block of afternoon programming.

I was an early fan. I woke up at six a.m. on Saturday mornings to catch “Dragon Ball Z” on what was then the WB network on channel 33, before the nationally broadcast Saturday morning cartoons aired. “Dragon Ball Z” was filled with huge, muscley guys with huge, spiky hair doing martial arts and shooting fireballs. The female characters had tons of cleavage and characters would die or have their arms ripped off and Goku went to hell for a few episodes. My parents would have been horrified if they knew what I was watching, but this was before the word “anime” meant anything to most people.
This movie looks horrible
But while the episodes that comprise “Dragon Ball Z” were unusual to me when I was kid, the earlier story arcs, referred to as “Dragon Ball” in the United States, still strike me as incredibly strange. Loosely based on Wu Cheng-En’s The Journey to the West, Dragon Ball began, supposedly, as a way for manga-ka Akira Toriyama to create a series less westernized than his previous works. But while The Journey to the West was a Buddhist fable filled with topical political and moral commentary, Dragon Ball seems driven more by Akira Toriyama’s desire to just draw whatever he felt like. References to King Kong, tributes to Jackie Chan movies, dinosaurs, giant robots, villainous armies in Soviet style regalia, aliens and busty females -- these are a few of his favorite things.
This movie is horrible
Que terrible!
So it is understandable that James Wong and 20th Century Fox would try to make sense of the giant mess that is Toriyama’s world building by opting for a generic, semi-sci-fi environment when they filmed DragonBall: Evolution. Granted, they also missed everything that made Dragon Ball popular, including themes that resonate just as strongly with American audiences as they did with the Japanese. But Dragon Ball was popular enough world wide that live action film adaptations were attempted in other countries. Chan Jun-Leung’s DragonBall: The Magic Begins is well known as terrible movie, but it isn’t one of a kind.

At one point, the South Korean Dragon Ball movie was my Holy Grail, that ever elusive bad movie that I thought I would never get to see. I have it. Really. And after watching it, I have a new respect for Chan Jun-Leung’s technical skills as a film maker.
Korean Dragon Ball (hangul: 드래곤볼), or Goku Fights, Goku Wins (Ssawora Son o gong, Igyeora Son o gong), is a lot like the Korean Street Fighter television series, in that both intend to visualize their source material as literally as possible on a prohibitive budget. Korean Dragon Ball visualizes the first story arc of the Dragon Ball manga in a manner that is frequently weird, inappropriate, ugly, and hilarious.

The movie opens with a theme song sung by a children’s choir, and then proceeds to follow the storyline probably all too familiar to fans who have read the manga, watched the anime series, the movies and played the video games. Bulma finds Goku living alone in the wilderness, finds out that he has a dragon ball, and convinces him to travel with her as a bodyguard so that she can collect all seven and summon the Dragon who will grant a single wish.
The film follows them up to the end of story arc with Pilaf. I’ve never figured out what Pilaf is supposed to be. Is he an Alien? A troll? Nobody seems to know. The film is slavishly loyal to the manga’s storyline, the only exceptions made being what the film makers apparently knew better than to try. There are no dinosaurs; the film makers replaced them with guys in robot suits. Sadly, Goku does not transform into Oozaru. Thankfully, very little of the nudity and crass sexual humor from the manga was included, though director Wang Yong appears as Master Roshi and does the “dirty old man” bit pretty well. As with "Korean Street Fighter," I was surprised by the sheer amount of wire work. There are some talented stunt performers (the guy who plays Yamcha does a Jackie Chan inspired stunt where he ducks underneath a car as it drives over him), who are more or less upstaged by bad special effects.
It's safe to say that director Wong Yong didn't know that much about making movies, or at least not good ones. The cinematography and mise-en-scene match their cheapness with garishness.
Watching anything that slavishly translates material from one medium to the other raises one of those irreducible questions that is always the hardest to explain. In this case, that question is, “why?” What is the purpose of retreading this particular story -- itself an imitation of centuries old literature, and a spastically referential one at that -- when one can experience it not only in its original form, but in video games and animation and even in other live action films? The obvious answer is that film and game studios wish to exploit it, but that doesn’t explain why the audience remains so willing to return to the same story.
Proverbs 26:11 comes to mind, and Dragon Ball, with its messy pan-Asian setting filled with bits and pieces of generic manga tropes and amalgamated references to other fragments of the greater pop-culture world, certainly fits the image. Maybe the reasons why so many keep asking for more is no more important than the reasons why film makers and game developers choose to exploit it. Dragon Ball’s enduring popularity seems inexplicable because it’s inexplicable. Korean Dragon Ball strikes me as a half-hearted attempt at cultural appropriation, to officially plant the Taekgukgi in the soil of Akira Toriyama’s never-never land. It isn’t terribly unlike certain American and European fans who, when arguing about the validity of the then upcoming DragonBall: Evolution, insisted that Goku not only could be played by a Caucasian actor, but that the character himself was an Aryan superman when in his "Super Saiyan" mode.
Dragon Ball, or Deulaegon Bol, I should say, is influenced by the same things that influenced Akira Toriyama’s original manga. In a sense they deserve each other. Korean Dragon Ball is a professional product that feels like a fan film based on a manga that itself seems too bizarre to have come from a professional author, much less one of the most internationally successful in his field. And after all that, I’m less sure than I’ve ever been of why I actually wanted to watch this movie, or why I care about Dragon Ball, or why anybody else does either.
Oolong's infamous wish: used panties.


The Weirdest Place

I became aware of B. R. Meyers because of his article (which he later extrapolated into a whole book) “A Reader’s Manifesto,” in which he took pains to scream “Penis!” at literary emperors like Cormac McCarthy (whom I like) and Don DeLillo (about whom I agree with Meyers). I didn’t know that Meyers was a widely read observer of the DPRK, and so I didn’t file his name in the back of my mind, where authors like McCarthy have permanent residence. I was almost finished with The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters when I realized that the author disliked one of my favorites and had to consider whether rereading Meyers’ book immediately to look for errors was a worthy use of my time. It really isn’t; The Cleanest Race is a worthy examination of North Korean propaganda as a reflection of its ideology, although flawed enough in other areas that I didn’t need my bias to notice it.

Meyers’ thesis is that the DPRK is a National Socialist (as opposed to Communist, Confucian, “hard-line socialist,” etc.) country whose government draws support from a population that believes itself to be so racially pure that it cannot survive the cruelty of planet earth without the guidance of its dear leader. He advances this thesis in two parts: the first a history of North Korea’s official culture, the second a close reading of the expansive canon of the DPRK’s propaganda (what Meyers refers to in its entirety as “the Text”) regarding various subjects.

The first part advances the notion that North Korea as a cultural entity actually formed in a Japanese womb, that it learned both its identity and its methods of identification from the early twentieth century occupation. In opposition to the Japanese occupiers, nationalists in Korea sought to use symbols and themes from their own history as contrapasso versions of the Japanese imperial race myth. Thus Mt. Beakje became equivalent to Mt. Fuji, and Dangun Wanggeom, legendary founder of the first Korean kingdom, became the founder of the imperial race to which both Japanese and Koreans belonged.

While these attempts at rousing nationalist fury against the occupation fizzled, propagandists who had themselves collaborated with the Japanese would utilize the mythic groundwork they laid. The Soviets who had pushed the Japanese off the Korean peninsula installed Kim Il-Sung, a mostly undistinguished guerilla fighter with no ties to the local Korean communist movement, as president. Retaining even the propagandists who had collaborated with the Japanese imperialists, Kim’s regime set itself to the process of creating a Korean identity free of the Confucian influence from China that mostly resembled the racial, imperial influence of Japan.

The difference between the propaganda of Japan and that of the new DPRK, according to Meyers, is tone. Unlike the confident Japanese, the Korean people of North Korean propaganda are so pure and innocent that they cannot long last in a world filled with decadence and greed. They need a protective parent, a nurturing mother who will defend her cubs from predators -- Christians, Japanese, and “Yankees” particularly. This leads into the second part of the study, which examines the “Text” and the formation of the personality cult surrounding the two Kims.

Meyers includes various bits from sources that the regime does not intend for foreign consumption, from poems and short stories to posters and paintings, all of which either vaunt the purity of the sacred race or decry the evil of foreign interlopers. These are well chosen and support his concept of a North Korea whose primary cultural ideology is racial rather than realpolitik. It certainly puts into perspective a few of the North Korean films I’ve had the dubious pleasure of viewing -- particularly The Tale of Chun Hyang (Yu Won-Jun, 1980), in which the Chunhyang’s suitor is a more compelling compelling character (for at least the first hour of its interminable run time) than in Shin Sang-Ok’s version -- where the characters are apparently designed foremost as icons of racial purity.

But I have a quibble with Meyers on a key point, and the reason comes from viewing propaganda pieces that a racist interpretation does not fit perfectly. Meyers claims that Juche is a “sham doctrine… more often praised than read… a prop in the personality cult.” While he does provide anecdotal evidence that the average North Korean citizen is no more well-read in Juche than I am (the most that one DPRK refugee can explain is that “Man is the master of his own destiny”) most historians and political scientists seem to view Juche as the defining aspect of North Korea’s disastrous insistence on self-sufficiency. Furthermore, it seems to me that North Korean propaganda film Hong Kil-Dong (Kim Il-Kin, 1986) spins its tale of the “Korean Robin Hood” as a “master of his own destiny” first and foremost (well, besides being good-natured and spontaneous and child-like as a pure Korean should be). And my pool of North Korean propaganda is much smaller than the one in which Meyers is fishing.

What I cannot possibly wrap my mind around is his assertion that people who flee the DPRK voluntarily return and that those who don’t “remain fervent admirers of Kim Il-Sung.” This seems to fly in the face of the numerous memoirs of people who escaped the country. Neither am I fully convinced that this is precisely how the North Koreans see themselves. Given reports of a highly active and vicious secret police, I find it difficult to believe that one can accurately assess how much support the regime enjoys or how well the aims of their propaganda are achieved. Meyers contends that even the South Korean media, which North Koreans have begun to consume, is xenophobic, but signs of xenophobia are not the same as xenophobia as national ideology.

But in spite of these objections, I found The Cleanest Race an illuminating study of North Korea’s enormous body of propaganda and how it reflects, if not the beliefs of the actual nation, than certainly what its cultural arbiters want them to believe. It would be incomplete and conjectural as a work of political science, but as a close reading of the Text it gives real insight into the often mystifying actions of the Kim regime. A good read for those interested in North Korea, the weirdest place on planet Weird.


Magic Sword (Ding Shanxi, 1993)

I hope, as I ready myself to write the following admission, that honesty is something that you, the readers, value in a shit-movie blog, because even though I’ve watched Magic Sword twice since acquiring it, I honestly don’t know what’s going on in the movie, nor what late director Ding Shanxi was trying to accomplish with it. I cannot tell you most of the characters’ names, nor their relations to each other. And I really can’t remember why I wanted to see this movie so much, other than that it is rarely seen or talked about.
The plot, when boiled down of its many extraneous parts, is about the violent usurper Lord Kwan’s desire to conquer his neighboring kingdoms with superior weapons forged by Gan Jian, a swordsmith who has discovered and developed steel. There are lots and lots of incidentals. Family members decimated by Gan Jian’s singular focus, particularly his attractive wife, Mor Yi; peasants and artisans abused by Lord Kwan. A rival noble’s wife has an affair with Lord Kwan, but seems to do so only for the pleasure of tormenting him over his lack of potency. Interminable dancing and montages set to music with expository lyrics pad the film’s run time.

Magic Sword is the sort of movie where every conversation is a series of declamations stated at an ear-abusing decibel. Mor Yi decides that since Gan Jian is more concerned with swords than her, that she will imbue herself into the forging process, and then does just that, leaping into the forge. Lord Kwan threatens to sacrifice an unruly child to the forge, then picks him up and throws him in. This is, I suppose, an old-fashioned, theatrical approach to events of historical consequence. The story is set in the turbulent warring states era, though whether upon a preexisting myth or legend I couldn’t tell you. One of the great things about adapting old legends into films is the potential to show the humanity of mythic figures. Ding Shanxi apparently likes figures better than characters.

But that’s probably not fair. Ding wrote the screenplay for the 1967 Shaw Bros. film, King Cat, which is filled with characterization and dialog, even if much of it is, honestly, kind of stupid. Magic Sword makes a pair with his other 1993 film, The Beheaded 1000, his (and Jimmy Wang Yu’s) final film. Both films are special effects driven fantasy movies with cheap-but-garish sets, wild overacting and budgets stretched beyond their capacity. Both are old-fashioned in terms of direction, as one might expect from a director active since the 1950’s. The cinematography in Magic Sword is typical of Hong Kong/Taiwanese films of the nineties (everything looks as though it were filmed through a fish eye lens and the night scenes through a blue filter) which might feel incongruous if not for the early CGI effects, which are just timelessly bad.

Magic Sword is at least harmless and colorful. The battle scenes at the beginning of the film have what used to be referred to as “a cast of thousands,” although it’s closer to hundreds in this case, and the set for the forge is pretty impressive. It seems like Ding Shanxi was trying to make a technical showcase but he came up with a movie that’s not any better than the cheap and cheerful films of Chan Jun-Leung and Chui Chung-Hing.


Big Land, Flying Eagles (Au Yeung-Jun, 1978)

I don’t know if anybody has ever bothered to do so, but somebody with an inordinate amount of leisure time ought to compile a list of all the movies out there based on Gu Long novels, and categorize them as such. Prolific a writer as he was, Hong Kong and Taiwanese studios seemed determined to film the whole Gu Long literary archipelago, often using the same actors for the same (or similar) parts. If you’re enough of a nerd, there’s lots of fun to be had trying to piece together a full cycle of stories out of the film adaptations that span both countries and several studios, directors and stars. I tried to do this once with the films based on the Chu Liu Xiang novels, but got confused while trying to place the Adam Cheng films in proper context with the Chu Yuan directed Shaw Brothers films starring Ti Lung. Besides, I still don’t have all of the films based on the Chu Liu Xiang novels.
But much of what Gu wrote were single volume stories, and so quite often one happens across a bewildering film with Gu’s name in the beginning of the credit sequence for “story by” or “story advisor” or something along those lines. I’ve watched Dressed to Fight (Au Yeung-Jun, 1979) four times and I still don’t really understand what it’s about. Maybe it makes sense if you’ve already read the story, or maybe the dubbed/cut version is just terrible, or maybe the original novel doesn’t make any damn sense. It’s kinda a mystery, and since I don’t know Chinese and only one Gu Long novel has been professionally translated into English, it will, for me, remain so.
Big Land, Flying Eagles (大地飛鷹) is one of those many films based on Gu’s literary output that seems to be a one-off, another Taiwanese wuxia movie starring Wang Kuan-Hsiang and the ubiquitous Ling Yun. Quite unlike the urbane locales seen in the Chor Yuen adaptations for the Shaw studio, like Death Duel or Full Moon Scimitar, Big Land, Flying Eagles is a spaghetti western-esque desert intrigue film set on the Mongolian-Chinese border. Xiao Fung, a notable swordsman, has killed the son of a local warlord, Lee San, and the 3,000,000 taels that Lee charged his son with transporting seem to have gone missing. Xiao Fung is now marked for death by Lee San, but finds protection from “Killer Eagle” another swordsman of great repute, and a band of nomadic Mongolian traders. Nevertheless, Lee sends killers of unusual backgrounds, including Buddhist monks, to hunt Xiao Fung down, while Xiao Fung seems curiously preoccupied with a woman who is herself embroiled in unstated conflicts with practically everybody.
One of the reasons why I find Dressed to Fight so strange is because director Ulysses Au-Yeung Jun also directed this movie, which is enormously superior. While I have no idea of the spatial relations of any of the places where the characters in Big Land, Flying Eagles fight, have sex, argue or fight some more, I at least have a grip on what those places are and why the characters go there to fight, have sex, etc. Of course, those locations actually look really good too, and the dry, arid desert is complimented by music (one assumes) pilfered from spaghetti westerns.
But I also have to say that comparisons to Italian westerns are a bit misdirected. The protagonists in the films of Leone or Corbucci are stoic killers or loquacious assholes, but they always work in their own interests. Xiao Fung and Killer Eagle are saintly by comparison, and the dialog is typical of films based on Gu Long -- stilted and goofy when translated into English but no doubt originally clever in untranslatable ways. It’s also a typically byzantine Gu Long plot. The above synopsis boils it down to its essentials, but so much happens during the film’s ninety minutes that I’m amazed at how well the ending wraps up all of the loose ends. It’s really quite unlike Li Chia’s The Lost Swordship, another Taiwanese Gu Long adaptation I enjoyed, which is really not an action film, but a melodrama revolving around a love triangle. Big Land, Flying Eagles is definitely an action film foremost, with a murder mystery and love story as incidental elements.
And it’s a lot of fun. There’s a scene where Xiao Fung and a female accomplice are trapped in an outpost, surrounded by Lee San’s murderous thugs. They decide to drink while they wait for something to happen. When Xiao Fung’s attractive young consort asks (she’s played by a very young, very cute Ha Ling Ling, who also appeared in Island Warriors and Thrilling Sword) he tells her that Lee San intends to trap them there for a year -- enough time for her to bear him a son, so that Lee San can take revenge by killing his first born. They both find this idea hysterical. It’s that kind of movie.


Finding Peace with Wolfe

Upon finishing my second reading of Peace, I attempted to envision how I might write a review that encompassed all of the Wolfean brilliance that, I believe, finds its fullest, richest expression in this single volume, in which Alden Dennis Weer recounts his life in overlapping, elliptical narratives. I thought about how I might trace themes of memory and unrequited love and the echoes of allusive imagery that sound throughout history, the occidental canon, the human unconscious, and the Wolfe oeuvre. If it is not completely clear, based on the turgid writing of this opening paragraph or the superficiality of my other reviews of Wolfe’s work, I am entirely unprepared to do so.

I am perfectly prepared to gush about Gene Wolfe, Fantasy/Science Fiction writer of immense nuance and skill, the fascinating interviewee, the prose stylist. I can offer pithy, vapid assertions masquerading as observations, such as: Peace would be on many required Lit Analysis 1101 reading lists had it only been written in Spanish (I am still bitter over all of the Marquez I was forced to read as an undergrad). And while it is tricky business to assume that any character’s words stand in for those of the author, I could pinpoint quite a few from Peace that I might appropriate for myself. (“Mosquitoes are all Baptists anyways.”) And I’m plenty willing to drop scary names with whom Wolfe ought to be mentioned, and to do so in a tone that’s all but combative. Faulkner, Borges, Nabokov, Proust!

But none of this says anything of substance about the author or his remarkable novel. And I’m not sure that anything I write actually could. A synopsis might read something like: Alden Dennis Weer -- child, juice concentrate magnate, old man, treasure hunter, possible murderer, ghost -- ponders the events of his life, written in vignettes, from within a house of seeming infinite rooms modeled after those he lived in throughout his life. And (here comes another of those pithy non-observations) Citizen Kane is about William Randolph Hearst and Moby Dick is about a bunch of guys chasing a whale.

It must be quite obvious that this is not a review in the traditional sense. It is a recommendation. Wolfe is one of those authors whose writing speaks for itself, and doesn’t need me to explain or defend it. But I do want more people to read Wolfe’s books. I badgered at least a couple of friends for months (over a year, in one case) into reading stories or novels that I knew they would like. I don’t know which of my closer friends would like Peace; it’s a mélange of southern gothic elements and Proustian ruminations on the nature of stories and memory set in a bucolic mid-west that’s both eerie and ethereal. Most of my friends (and myself, I admit) tend towards books about dudes who hit dragons, wizards and each other with sharp things.

Neil Gaiman said that his second reading of Peace obliterated his first reading’s interpretations. My second reading was less dramatically different, but I still found myself sitting agape at details that I missed before. It’s like looking at a Norman Rockwell painting while images pop out at you, “Magic Eye” style, of murders and deceptions and other unromantic though terribly human behaviors. Peace is a beautifully written, scary, nuanced, insightful book. And since I have once again devolved into gushing about its author, I will leave this not-a-review here, with a recommendation for those who don’t venture far from mainstream, generic fantasy, and those who judge fantasy only by its mainstream, generic exponents: you really ought to read Peace.


The Devil's Sword (Ratno Timoer, 1984)

The first movie that I ever special ordered from Borders was the Mondo Macabro dvd for The Devil’s Sword, which I bought in July of 2008. That was the year that I learned of Indonesian cinema, after seeing stills from The Warrior, Mystery of 8 Pendekar, and others popping up on forums that I read with eyes larger than (among other things) my wallet.
Indonesia’s premier studio during the 80’s, Rapi Films, had a winning strategy similar to that of the Italians and Roger Corman: take a popular genre film from another country, add a bit of local flavor, et voila, an exploitation classic. But for as much as they tried to court international distribution with movies like Lady Terminator (H. Tjut Djalil, 1988), the really interesting films are the ones that are uniquely regional. The previously mentioned The Warrior (original title: Jaka Sembung) was based on a comic book in which the hero, Jaka Sembung, regularly foils the plans of Dutch interlopers, and spawned a whole wave of Indonesian martial arts movies that pilfered more from Hong Kong kung fu movies than from anything produced in the west. Thankfully, Asian people beating the shit out of each other have long made for popular cinema regardless of the location in which it’s set, filmed or shown. Quite a few of these movies were dubbed and distributed, if not in theaters, than at least on video.

I only say all this because I’m tired reading that The Devil’s Sword is an Indonesian Conan the Barbarian. One might say that it is similar in that it is heroic fantasy or swords and sorcery from Indonesia, but The Devil’s Sword does less to actively mimic Conan than most of the movies made by the Italians and Roger Corman (natch). The story -- travelling swordsman/adventurer Mandala aids a bride-to-be in her attempts to rescue her fiancé from the Crocodile Queen, a man-eating, demonic local deity, while her servant and former cohort of Mandala, Banyu Jaga, teams up with other evil martial artists and magicians to find the Devil’s Sword, a magical weapon forged from a meteor, which will give them unmatched power -- is similar only in the sense that it’s fantastical and that it was put to film in the eighties. The comparison is dull.

But the film sure as hell isn’t. This is one of those perfectly stupid and indescribably funny movies that plays best after a few drinks and (not that I’m advocating) some sort of illicit substance abuse. There’s so much poker-faced lunacy that making fun of it is pointless; the fun makes itself. In the very first major scene, Banyu Jaga literally explodes into the frame, kicks a boulder into the air, rides said boulder into the village where he is going to capture the Crocodile Queen’s next man-whore-slave, and leaps off the boulder, which continues to travel and crushes a man against a tree. You know the rule about not starting on a show stopper? That’s not the weirdest scene in The Devil’s Sword, which has crocodile men getting gutted and decapitated, a villain with a flying guillotine, lasers shot from palms, cannibalism, exploding mushrooms, paper mache cycloptic rock monsters, and Barry Prima, king of the 1980’s Indonesian action scene, rockin’ a sweet mullet.
The dubbing also includes some of the most bizarre lines I’ve heard since Nine Demons. “You polluted bitch!” is one of the funniest.

There are telling things in this film. The fear of female sexuality sounds loud and clear, and leads to some of the funniest sex scenes in cinema history. Other Indonesian films include more graphic nudity (although they were shown locally with a glowing effect to hide nipples), and perhaps it was an attempt to avoid censorship that led to the Crocodile Queen’s orgy looking like a lot of nervous cuddling (some of the male extras look like they’re afraid to touch actress Gudi Sintara). Banyu Jaga, played by Barry Prima’s usual opponent, Advent Bangung, has an even more ludicrous, sub-aquatic sex scene with the Crocodile Queen, in which she turns into a crocodile whilst in the throes of passion.

Freud believed that anxiety over repressed desires manifests itself as nightmares. Is this relevant to The Devil’s Sword? I think it is. Nightmarish is probably the best way to describe this film without superlatives regarding its generally poor quality and foreign weirdness. Or rather, it manages to express those and other qualities. Between the senseless dialog, inexplicable fantasy elements, unusually bloody martial arts set pieces, ugly sets, bad editing and cheap special effects, The Devil’s Sword at least manages to be consistently bizarre and startling with its imagery. The boat ride with death is so unforgettable that it verges on cinematic genius.

Director Ratno Timoer made only a handful of films after this one. Particularly interesting is Blind Warrior, which I’ve mentioned before (and will probably mention again soon). None of his other films seem to be available, meaning that The Devil’s Sword is probably the penultimate example of bizarre Indonesian exploitation. This is one of my favorite bad movies. I’ve watched it with Pilgrim, who sat wide eyed, confused, and accepting of its lunacy. Film isn’t about story, narrative, or even visual quality. Film is about images. And Hay-Soos, does this movie have those.

Note: Mondo Macabro is one of the best cult film labels ever. If you want to see this movie, please support them. This isn’t some bootleg VCD operation out of Thailand. The MM DVD for The Devil’s Sword has one of the cleanest transfers I’ve seen from a movie of such origin and vintage and is packed with special features, including an amazingly incoherent interview with Barry Prima (rightly dubbed “an encounter”). Respect. Support Pete Tombes.