Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taiwanese-Style Kaiju - UPDATE!

Back in my earlier post on this topic, I mentioned that I was hoping to soon set my hands upon a copy of the 1971 Taiwanese fantasy film Tsu Hong Wu. Well, now I can tell you that I have set, not only my hands, but also my eyes upon Tsu Hong Wu and that, having done so, I can tell you that the information I previously conveyed to you about it was partially wrong. Of course, that also means that the information I conveyed about it was partially right, so let's have a great big, partial "hooray" for me. (As long as there's a "ray" sound in there somewhere so that I can continue in deluding myself that I mostly know what I'm talking about.)

Anyway, in that earlier post I stated that the 1982 Tawanese fantasy film The Fairy and The Devil borrowed all of its monster-intense special effects footage from Tsu Hong Wu. But now, having watched Tsu Hong Wu, I see that, while virtually all of its giant monster footage does indeed appear in The Fairy and The Devil, there is still a great deal of such footage in The Fairy and The Devil that does not appear in Tsu Hong Wu -- much of it, interestingly, featuring the same costumes and sets that were featured in those sequences in Tsu Hong Wu.

For instance, the white ape, red-haired giant and golden dragon from Tsu Hong Wu all make an appearance in Fairy, but the giant, rather than being defeated in battle by the dragon, as he is in Tsu Hong Wu, is instead defeated in Fairy by the white ape, who grows to giant size in order to fight him -- something that he isn't shown doing in the earlier film. In addition to that, Fairy also features some scenes involving monsters -- specifically a giant, kraken-like sea creature and an enormous floating demon head -- that make no appearance whatsoever in Tsu Hong Wu. And, by the way, is this not the geekiest post on this blog ever? Impressive.

Fortunately, it turns out that there has been some discussion about these films on the forums in the past weeks, with one poster in particular, Megatone over at the Cinehound.com forum, doing the hard work of identifying the possible sources of some of this footage. According to him, the aforementioned sea monster sequences in The Fairy and the Devil earlier appeared in the appropriately named Monster from the Sea, a Taiwanese film from (possibly) 1974 helmed by Yu Hon-Cheung, the clearly deranged director of the previously discussed The Dwarf Sorcerer. On top of that, he says, Fairy's sequence involving a fight between the golden dragon and an evil green dragon also appears in the earlier Sea God and Ghosts, a film which I, also apparently mistakenly, characterized as also borrowing all of its effects footage from Tsu Hong Wu.

Still unaccounted for, however, is the origin of the scene pitting the growed-up white ape against the red-haired giant, so there is still plenty of mystery to be wrung from The Fairy and the Devil's hodgepodge of stock monster footage. Also begging for coroboration is another Cinehound poster's translation of Tsu Hong Wu's credits, which apparently list Tsuburaya Productions' Koichi Takano, a special effects director who worked on a number of Tsuburaya's tokasatsu television series, as being responsible for the effects.

As for Tsu Hong Wu itself, the film focuses on the early years of the Hongwu emperor, the first ruler of the Ming Dynasty, covering the period from his birth through his time spent as a young boy at a Buddhist monastery. Of course, this telling of his story also includes lots of magic spells, homonculi, dragons and people being enveloped in cartoon auras, all of which would probably be disputed by some stuffy academic types -- but, hey, they weren't there, right?

As I was admittedly just watching the film for the giant monster battling action, almost all of which was crammed into its final minutes, I have to confess to having been a bit impatient with it, That said, had I been blessed with a copy with legible subtitles, and were I not consumed with such a pressing agenda, I think I would have found it quite entertaining. It's got fairly high production values for a Taiwanese film of its era and a pleasingly light tone. It's just too bad that the grim business of internet-based monster hunting doesn't afford me the time for such trifles. Onward!

4 comments:

Tars Tarkas said...

Since good copies of Fairy and the Devil, Tsu Hong Wu, and Sea Gods and Ghosts all showed up at the same time on the grey market, there has been an explosion of interest in the three films on the net. One can only hope certain other genres where there are lots of missing films will have similar spots of good luck, particularly the many missing Filipino superhero films.

Still got a few other films to go through before I can watch those three, but as I am watching Yatterman now there is a certain Mecha in it that will remind you of one of the Thai kaiju...

houseinrlyeh said...

I'll try and help you heighten the geek quotient for the post even further by positing that there is a secret core film from which all Taiwanese monster films have stolen all their monster footage, apes and dragons and sea gods, its return foretold by legend and myth.

prof. grewbeard said...

so where's this Grey Market everybody's talkin' about? is it in the same strip mall as Flo's Wigs & Nails?...

GoldenPigsy said...

I think the "gray market" they're referring to is Cinemageddon. But all of these (except Tsu Hong Wu, which I'm not sure about and haven't seen) have been floating around among the tape/dvd-r trader-collectors for years.