This is not the Bloody Parrot
This review is part of the International Bloody Parrot Blog-a-thon, which consists entirely of it and Houseinrlyeh's review of the movie that he posted last week over at The Horror!? House just made Bloody Parrot sound so damn good that I literally had to run out to Chinatown that very day and find a copy.
Now, normally I am happy to have an excuse not to write about a film, and have usually found the fact that some other blogger in my circle has already done so the best excuse of all. But in this case I felt somehow compelled -- mainly because I just couldn't resist the opportunity to type "Bloody Parrot" over and over again, but also because it allowed me to make some screen-grabs from the film available for your viewing. You see, House usually eschews the use of screen-grabs, preferring to paint for his reader a vivid word picture of the film. Me, I prefer to paint a half-assed word picture of the film and then fill in the gaps with picture pictures.
The thing about these films from Shaw Brothers' waning years is that the fact that many of them stink of desperation doesn't necessarily make them any less entertaining. In Bloody Parrot's case we see the studio taking a stab at taking one of its old standbys, the wuxia film, and incorporating elements of two of its more disreputable house genres; namely sexploitation and grizzly "black magic" horror films. Thus we get the more painterly aspects of the swordplay genre as established by director Chor Yuen -- though on a much more modest and less artful scale -- combined with lots of maggot eating, vomiting of viscous fluids, and truly nauseating autopsy sequences, all lovingly garnished with a generous dollop of nudity and soft-core sex.
The onus for providing those last mentioned ingredients in the stew falls pretty much entirely on the narrow shoulders of actress Jenny Liang, who steps up to the task by spending most of her plentiful time onscreen absolutely starkers for no discernible reason. In fact, Liang even has to do her fair share of the grue eating and vomiting, too, which, given the brevity of her filmography, makes my heart hurt a little bit for her. The bio provided for her on the Celestial DVD is uncharacteristically uncharitable, saying that she starred in films about "witchcraft, gambling, and sex" and that she "gradually retreated from the limelight due to an unpromising career". Let's just hope that Jenny's retreat from that career marked the beginning of a more promising path for her in some other area of endeavor.
One of the noteworthy things about Bloody Parrot is just how quickly a reasonable person will give up on trying to make any sense out of it all. While Chor Yuen's wuxia films are often dauntingly complex, they generally give the impression that, if one were to dedicate the required attention to them, a coherent picture would gradually form. In Bloody Parrot's case it's hard to escape the suspicion that no amount of effort will wrest any kind of meaning from it, and near impossible to resist just going with that suspicion. In my case, a half hour in I was already completely unclear about what it was that was supposed to be driving the protagonist's actions. Was it the search for the missing treasure, to avenge his friend's death, or to uncover the identity of the Bloody Parrot? And at what point did the Bloody Parrot become a "somebody", anyway? I thought it was just a flickering blob of vaguely parrot-shaped light that was supposed to be made of demon blood or something.
Even before that point there was quite a bit of ambiguity -- as House has already indicated -- around who Bloody Parrot's protagonist even was. Among the many faces flashed before us in the first act is that of Lau Wing, who plays a wily detective role that's very similar to the Lu Xiaofeng character he played in Chor Yuen's popular Clan of Amazons and Duel of the Century. That association lead me to peg him as our hero, but then his character is apparently killed, at which point Jason Pai Piao, looking like a Martial World version of James Hetfield, steps into the spotlight.
But you know what? None of that really matters. What really matters about Bloody Parrot is that it is a film in which a woman uses a human face as a Frisbee. Because it is just such examples of absurd and ghoulish invention, paired with seriously manic pacing, that are going to carry you through this film. Seriously, do not even try to pay attention to whatever story you think this film might be trying to tell, because Bloody Parrot will only mock you for your efforts. It's all about the face Frisbee.
It's also all about director Hua Shan, who also directed Inframan -- which, if you live in my world, is one of the most important films ever made. To my mind, this alone is enough to warrant giving any picture he made at least a cursory look. Hua Shan directed at least one other film in the same mold as Bloody Parrot, 1983's Portrait in Crystal, but in my opinion it is Bloody Parrot that stands tallest in the realm of gross-out sexploitation wuxia.
And I am happy to confer that standing upon it without further investigation. After all, it might turn out that there's a whole flock of Bloody Parrots out there, and I want this one to remain special.