Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Special Silencers (Indonesia, 1979)

My pal Durian Dave just got back from Malaysia and delivered unto me a sack-load of VCDs of crazy looking Malaysian and Indonesian movies, so, not surprisingly, those are going to comprise a lot of what you’ll be reading about here at 4DK over the coming weeks. Of course, none of these VCDs are subtitled, but I imagine that won’t be too much of a problem. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ve long ago given up on me ever reviewing a film that I actually understand anyway.

First up is Special Silencers (Indonesian title Batas Impian Serbuan Halilintar), a vehicle for Indonesian action star Barry Prima that I’ve been wanting to see for quite some time. Barry’s The Warrior co-star -- and one time wife -- Eva Arnaz, is also on hand, and shows herself to be no slouch in the fighting department herself, although the filmmakers seem to use her high-kicking exploits more as an excuse for lots of up-skirt shots. I guess, given Indonesia’s strict codes of film censorship, opportunities for titillating content had to be taken where they could. (Unless you were Lady Terminator and just didn’t give a f**k.)

So, anyway, now I have seen Special Silencers, and it is indeed special. But, although parts of it left me speechless, I refuse to be silenced. Actually, I don’t really know why the movie is called Special Silencers. My guess would be that it was an attempt by those cagey Indonesians to fool distributors into thinking it was some kind of straightforward, Western style action movie. It’s not, though. Instead it’s another example of Indonesian mysticism-inflected freakiness, in this case mixed in with lots of scenes of Barry Prima and Eva Arnaz dispatching goons with airborne kicks.

So here’s what I can tell you about Special Silencers aside from the huge swaths of the story that I had absolutely no comprehension of at all. There’s a guy, see, and he steals an amulet containing a bunch of little red pills from an old holy man. He than goes around and surreptitiously slips these pills to a series of people without their knowing, and then hangs around in the shadows to watch what happens. And what happens is that these pills, once ingested, apparently make a full-sized tree instantly grow inside the digestive tract of the victim, with the result that the gore-soaked branches come poking up out of their stomachs and kill them. This, of course, is portrayed with an almost documentary-like realism.

One of the victims is the traveling companion of Eva Arnaz, who just happens to have recently made the acquaintance of motorcycle-riding free spirit Barry Prima. This man may have been Eva’s husband or boyfriend, but, once he’s out of the way, Barry makes his move pret-ty fast, is all I’m saying. Barry and Eva then take it upon themselves to get to the bottom of this whole abdominal tree sprouting business, with the result that the pill guy starts sending wave after wave of his minions to kill them, which in turn results in lots of entertaining ass-kicking. Finally pill guy captures Eva and submits her to all kinds of unspeakable tortures, which include her having to smell some guy’s smelly gym shoes (true). Needless to say, Barry eventually saves the day, and pill guy, as Fletcher Hanks would say, is made to die “by his own evil creation”.


Special Silencers has pretty much everything you’d want from an Indonesian exploitation movie. It has an outlandish central concept that’s inexpertly realized yet earnestly presented, hella gore, motorcycle stunts, farty synthesizer music, and nonstop action almost exclusively involving Barry Prima and Eva Arnaz yelling and spin-kicking people in the face. In fact, if it’s not a standout of the genre, it’s only because there is so much competition within the genre in terms of sheer apeshit insanity. In other words, they can’t all be Mystics in Bali or Lady Terminator, but that still leaves quite a lot of room for goodness.


Jack J said...

Gee, I'm working on a new blog and the first film I had planned to review is... "Special Silencers"!! Haha.

Oh, and you got it on VCD!! Wauw!! It would be pretty uber cool if you'd do a cover scan!!

I'm sure you're already aware there's an English dubbed VHS from Holland. Check the cover on my (not yet launched) new blog:



Jack J said...

Oh, and on CritCon Fred Adelman wrote about "Silencers":

This film officially makes it into my CritCon top 20 films of all time!


Todd said...

Thanks, Jack. I knew there was an English dubbed version of this kicking around, but I was perfectly happy watching it in this form. There are certainly enough visual, uh, highlights to make it entertaining without translation.

Jack J said...

LOL. Got ya.

carol said...

as a young kid, i had this fear of apple seeds sprouting in my stomach. it was mostly the fault of this japanese children's book my elementary school library read to us. just sharing.

Todd said...

I think the Japanese are on to something (again). While children are standing around waiting to become useful, why shouldn't they serve as decorative planters?

Todd said...

I wanted to reel back a bit and comment on the link that Jack J provided. It's nice to see that the Dutch VHS cover plays up the supernatural aspects of this film, because the Indonesian VCD cover just makes it look like a straightforward action picture. This just confirms my suspicion that, to Indonesian audiences at the time, things like trees exploding out of people's stomachs were so humdrum and everyday that they just seemed like meaningless padding.

carol said...

i meant to thank Jack J for sharing the cover scan. so thank you, Jack J!

Jack J said...

You're welcome! Click the scan and you can watch in it (almost) full size.
I got it from a friend in Holland (i.e. the happy owner of the tape) and it's free for all to copy and use. :D

memsaab said...


I don't like gore :(

Jack J said...

You might wanna stay clear of most of the Indonesian exploitation & horror movies from the 1980s then as most of them contain gore. Films like the Barry Prima series "Jaka Sembung" and the Suzzanna films, etc, all have splatter in them.

Todd said...

Sorry, Memsaab! I guess the mix on this blog insures that anyone who reads it regularly will eventually stumble upon something that's abhorrent to them. It also means that I'll be ending this SE Asian film jag eventually and moving on to less bloody territory, so please don't jump ship.

memsaab said...

Todd: I would have to be covered in my own gore to ever jump ship on you.

Jack: Ok good, I will. I don't need another obsession anyway :D

Todd said...

Aw, thanks, Memsaab. And for a person who doesn't like gore you have quite a way with the morbid imagery.

Agus said...

Todd, this movie remaining my adolescent time. It's amazing me at that time. Last time, I watch this on "layar tancap" or public open space cinema.

Oh would you like to upload on youtube the scene when Eva tortured by rats.

Thank you!