Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Xie qi (1981)

... aka: Curse of the Wicked Wife
... aka: Wicked Wife

Directed by:
"King Ming" (Kuang Hui)

A young woman (whose hair is covering her face) is almost raped three different times during the opening three minutes (!), seems to turn into a tiger and then kills her would-be attackers in quick succession. Master Kin (Hsieh Wang), a supposed philanthropist and pillar of the community, then sends a kind and charitable young man named Jen-hu (Liang Shew-Sun) out to investigate. Since all of the victims were patrons of a bar and whorehouse called "The Red Pearl Saloon," Jen-hu becomes a regular customer there in order to get to the bottom of things. He eventually catches eye of the beautiful owner / madam of the establishment, Miss Red (Lu Sen-Len), and learns a rumor that she supposedly is driven to kill every time there's a full moon. While out walking through the forest one evening, Jen is approached by Miss Red, who tells him "I was chased by some drumkers and I get lost." Yes, this one has those kind of subtitles throughout... Is Miss Red really some kind of tigress (literally!) who has been killing innocent men, or is something else sinister afoot? If you chose Option # 2, then congratulations, you win! You'll be receiving one warning to avoid this absolute cluster-fuck of a confusing movie.

Aside from Miss Red's shenanigans, this has a secondary possible antagonist in the form of an old, bearded, long-haired wizard named Shan-fei. He has a gang of bandits lurking about to do his bidding (most of them are useless drunks) and the special ability to kill by throwing handfuls of poisonous centipedes at victims that burrow under the skin. But there's a slight problem with this cat. Either the script-writer or the subtitle-writer forgot to give him any kind of tangible motivation for his actions. What exactly does this guy want... aside from just generally being a prick? Well, as it turns out, no one aside from our hero is really who they claim to be. And that includes Jen's possible love interest Da-nieu, who is gracious enough to treat us to a cheese-licious ballad ("The butterfly is flying... The bees is working...") and lots of whiny pining before her true colors are finally revealed. There's also a red masked man with a whip (who seems to be Miss Red's protector), two cartoonish gay men (one of whom turns to the other and says he wants to take a bath with him) and lots of obnoxious drunks (one of whom karate chops a sleeping prostitute in the head while she sleeps so he can rape her) to provide incessant comic relief throughout.

So yeah, this thing makes absolutely no sense. It tries during the very end to let the tiger out of the bag, but it's too little, too late. I don't like spending over an hour scratching my head saying "WTF?" at the events unfolding on screen only to get no less than three major revelations tacked-on during the final three minutes. Not that it really matters, because my head would explode if I even attempted to try to deconstruct this film's plot. I could say that it's an hour into the film that our hero reveals his "fiancé" (who's he's never even met!) has gone missing, that Miss Red has a flashback where her employer (who may or may not be the evil wizard!) tried to rape her and then murdered her mother, that there's a Scooby Doo-style reveal moment with the wizard, that one of the female's chief objectives is to steal a centipede poison antidote, that the 'transforming into a tiger' angle is a complete cheat and that anyone who is killed and not immediately buried returns to life as a clumpy-faced ghost bent on getting revenge on whoever killed them... but what's really the point?

If things couldn't get any worse, this is also victim to an abysmal editing job that makes matters even more confusing. Stock footage is used during the majority of the tiger attack sequences. There's an out-of-nowhere 'mondo' scene of three tigers killing and eating a goat. Then there's the startling image of a tiger leaping at, mauling and knocking down a terrified little boy. The quality of this footage, as well as most of the other footage of the tiger, doesn't match the rest of the movie. I looked around online and came across the same images from a 1977 film from the same director called Tiger Love (which was also released as Kung Fu Zombie vs. Tiger Claws [!?] in Germany) so the scenes here were swiped from that one... and I now have yet another film to add to my never-ending index. One scene that probably is original is the one where the villagers take jabs at an obvious stuffed tiger head.

The film's only saving grace are a few lively fight sequences. The leading actress does some impressive stunts; doing flips, high jumps, kicks and splits while taking on her opponents. She's also game enough to put live centipedes into her mouth and puke them up into our hero's hand at one point. So I'd like to salute Lu Sen-Len (in what may be her only film appearance) for going beyond the call of duty to try to entertain us. Nice try there.

It was released on VCD by Ocean Shores a long time ago and I believe that was it.


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