Saturday, October 10, 2009

Taiwanese-style Kaiju









The above screen grabs were taken from the 1982 Taiwanese fantasy wuxia The Fairy and the Devil. The monster footage itself, however, is taken from a much earlier Taiwanese fantasy film, 1971's Tsu Hong Wu. I'm not sure how successful of a film Tsu Hong Wu was, but it's apparent that its monster sequences were very popular with other Taiwanese filmmakers, as The Fairy and the Devil is not the only movie to have borrowed them. They also turned up in 1977's Sea God and Ghosts, and, for all I know, could've been pilfered by dozens of other Taiwanese film, as well.

In any case, I'm hoping to have a copy of Tsu Hong Wu to review in the coming weeks. In the interim I thought I'd cull a little bit of the information I've come across regarding other films of its type, in the process leaning heavily upon the hard work of other bloggers while I simultaneously type and huff multiple cans of air duster. Yay!

It would seem that Japanese-style giant monsters are a rarity in Chinese language cinema. However, I would have said the same thing about Indian cinema a while ago, and just look at how wrong I was about that. In any case, with the very notable exceptions of Shaw's The Super Inframan (great film, or the greatest film?) and Mighty Peking Man, most of those Chinese films featuring suitmation beasties that we do hear about seem to come from Taiwan. On this blog alone, for instance, we've already seen the swoon inducing giant octopuses of Little Hero, as well as Thrilling Sword's fearsome nine-headed serpent and demon Cyclops.

Still, despite my obviously heroic efforts in this area, I simply must tip my hat to Tars over at Tarstarkas.net, who, when he's not busy tormenting hate-mongering loonies, is doing the good work of sniffing out obscure monster movies from every corner of the globe.



For example, back in July, Tars gave us this post, in which he reviewed the 1970 Taiwanese children's film Young Flying Hero, which, while not a monster movie per se, does feature the above pictured -- rather anticlimactic, by the sound of it -- battle between a man-in-suit giant frog and an also man-in-suit goofy dragon. A number of people got pretty excited about Young Flying Hero back when it looked like we were never going to get a chance to see it. But now that it's become available on the gray market and has been revealed to be not quite the big kaiju smack-down that we were hoping for, it's lost its luster somewhat.

Fortunately, there are other Taiwanese giant monster films out there that really do seem to no longer exist, and are hence incapable of ever disappointing us. Just like pretend girlfriends! For instance…



Back in April, Tars posted pictures of an amazing collection of original promotional materials for Devil Fighter, a 1969 film directed by Young Flying Hero's producer Poon Lui (the man also responsible for the Shaw spy film Poison Rose, which was reviewed here last month). The poster for this batmonster-rich film shows up on eBay from time to time, but so far the movie itself is MIA.





And then there's 1976's War God, about a giant mythical hero defending Hong Kong against some gargantuan -- but also kind of adorable -- alien invaders. Once again, Tars posted an impressive collection of stills and promotional materials for the film, which can be seen here. Colin over at Kung Fu Fridays has also recently posted about the film, and in his comments section, one of his readers has referred to it as being directed by Chen Hung Min, the same man who gave us Little Hero. Try as I might, it's very hard for me to imagine this movie being anything other than awesome. And it looks like I may never be disabused of that notion, because, like Devil Fighter, War God has also so far proved impossible to find.



But impossible is not a word that's in our vocabulary when it comes to the prospect of finding these seemingly "lost" films -- though we are quick to apply it to mundane and actually quite do-able tasks that we just don't feel like tending to at the moment. Somewhere out there, there just might be someone who has that one golden kernel of information necessary to us finally having one or more of these movies in our fidgety little hands -- or even someone who at this very moment is using the film canister for War God to prop up a faulty table leg. If that describes you, our operators are waiting for your call.

11 comments:

Vinayak said...

There is a giant monster in Shahi Kapoor's Ajooba (1991) but not exactly in true Japanese tradition. But then the film did have a friendly giant crab from the deep sea.

Tars Tarkas said...

Thanks for the shoutout again!

War God has aired on Taiwanese TV (at least eight times from 1996 to 2001) so there is hope it will show up again and get capped. Susie Arabia has a bit of info on that: http://blog.livedoor.jp/susie_arabia/archives/51465540.html

Devil Fighter has not shown up anywhere and I am sad.

There is a Taiwanese film called Merciful Buddha that briefly has a giant ape (along with plenty of other crazy stuff), look for a review in a few months. I also have at least two more Taiwanese films with a dinosaur-ish thing in it (Phantom Madam Peach Blossom and Legend of Mother Goddess) upcoming

Supposedly there are two Sea Gods and Ghosts, but only one is in the grey market.

Michael Barnum said...

More, more, more (as Andrea True would say)...what delights to look forward too!!

Thanks Todd and friends, I hope you locate all of these goodies, someday!

Todd said...

Vinayak: The monster in Ajooba was for the longest time the only example of a Bollywood kaiju I was aware of, until I discovered Dara Singh's old movies

Tars: That's great news about War God. I'll keep my fingers crossed. I'll also be looking forward to your reviews of those other films you mentioned.

Apparently The Fairy and the Devil is sometimes referred to as Sea God and Ghost 2, so that may be the other Sea God and Ghost you're thinking of.

Michael: You're welcome... and I hope so too!

prof. grewbeard said...

floored again! who knew? glad you & your friends are digging all this up for us to get dizzy over(well, i'm dizzy)- those stills with the giant Take-Me-To-Your-Leader-guy look great! i suspect Taiwan imported Japanese craftsmen for effects work, which they often do, of course. jeez, is there no end to it? i hope not...

Todd said...

It's quite possible, Prof. The monster footage in The Fairy and the Devil (or, more accurately, Tsu Hong Wu) is pretty spectactular. And if it's not the work of Japanese special effects craftsmen, it's definitely the product of people who paid very close attention to those craftsmen's work.

GoldenPigsy said...

Taiwanese film makers used giant monsters well into the eighties, like The Phoenix with Betty Pei Dee and Richard Kiel (he's not the Kaiju, he just looks like it standing next to everyone else), which not only has giant monsters but a giant Betty Pei Dee.

Todd said...

Thanks, GoldenPigsy. Sounds like one more to track down!

Todd said...

Interestingly, the HKMDB lists The Phoenix as a "historical drama". Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

"The Phoenix" was actually released (on VHS) in the US as War of the Wizards. You can find it on Cinemageddon.

Todd said...

Brilliant! Thanks.