Saturday, October 1, 2011

Di yu wu men (1980)

... aka: Hell Has No Gates
... aka: Kung Fu Cannibals, The
... aka: No Door to Hell
... aka: We're Going to Eat You

Directed by:
Hark Tsui

Director Hark Tsui's second outing (following 1979's THE BUTTERFLY MURDERS) is a highly uneven combo of gory cannibal horror, crude comedy and nearly non-stop kung fu action scenes. Two guys arrive on an isolated island by boat. Almost immediately, they're attacked by four masked men in bloody smocks, who kill one and drag both back to their village butcher shop, where one is gutted, the other is sawed in half. Turns out the island is home to a clan of cannibals; all of whom seem to be driven delirious by the taste of human flesh. The Chief of the village (Hung Gao aka Eddy Ko) is a tyrant who tries to live high off the hog (or is that high off the human?) by taking most of the meat for himself and his security force, while throwing the peasants the scraps. Anyone who threatens to leave the island is killed, butchered and eaten. A bumbling petty thief disguised as a blind man (played by Kwok Choi Hon), and Agent 999 (Norman Tsui Sui-Keung aka Norman Chu) , a chain-smoking civil servant working for the Central Surveillance Agency, are the next two visitors to the island. The agent is there to locate and arrest a bandit named Rolex (Kam-seng Wong aka Melvin Wong), who has a fist tattooed on his chest. Predictable slapstick carnage ensues.

The premise itself is serviceable, but there's barely enough plot complication present to sustain a feature length film. The film tries to make up for that by loading it down with action (most of which is well-choreographed by Corey Yuen), which is OK if you're in the mood for nothing but loud, brainless action, but still grows a bit tiresome after about an hour. Hey, there are only so many times our hero can be apprehended and escape, eh? The humor is also of varying degrees of success. There are a few clever visual gags, bits of tasteless humor and some amusing lines, but unless you automatically find exaggerated facial expressions, nose-picking, STD's, messy eating and flatulence funny, many of the attempts at humor fall flat. One of the big comic subplots involves a sexually-insatiable transvestite whore named Vietnam Rose (played by a huge, ugly man in overdone makeup), who basically tries to rape every man 'she' comes across.

Strangely enough, some of this nonsense is clearly trying to make some sort of anti-Communism statement in regards to how the cannibal society is set up, how it's ruled (the Chief's mantra is "In our line of work, if you don't eat people they'll eat you!") and how poorly the general population on the island (including the local priest) is treated. It's a bit difficult to take seriously with all of the over-the-top juvenilia, but it's an interesting element to the film, regardless. There's no shortage of violence and blood either, with numerous slashings, impalements, dismemberments, decapitations, fingers cut off and the like. The effects work is pretty average, with rubber body parts and thin, watery blood that looks suspiciously like cranberry juice. But hey, how many other kung fu cannibal comedies can you think of?

It wasn't long after this that the director would become one of Hong Kong's most popular filmmakers. Born in Vietnam, his family moved to Hong Kong when he was 14. After primary studies, Tsui would travel to the U.S. to major in film at the University of Texas in the mid 70s. After some TV work, he returned to Hong Kong to work in television before branching out to do his own films. In 1984, he co-founded his own production company, which had a huge hit on their hands with the John Woo-directed international hit A BETTER TOMORROW (1986). Tsui solidified his status as a top filmmaker with such films as the award-winning ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA (1991). He'd also direct the genre films ZU WARRIORS (1983), A CHINESE GHOST STORY II (1990), A CHINESE GHOST STORY III (1991) and MISSING (2008).

The DVD is from Tokyo Shock, a division of Media Blasters. The only extras on the disc are unrelated trailers for other Asian films released through the same company.


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