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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mo (1983)

... aka: Black Magic 4
... aka: Boxer's Omen, The

Directed by:
Chih-Hung Kuei

If you want to see pure insanity captured on film, make sure to check this one out. A championship boxing match between a Hong Kong and a Thai boxer gets ugly when the losing Thai fighter, Ba Bo (Bolo Yeung), administers a post-match kick to the back of the winner's neck, fracturing his spine and paralyzing him for life. The injured boxer's brother Hung Chan (Philip Ko Fei) is almost killed by the evil fighter's gang of thugs that night but is saved by the ghost of a monk and later visited in his apartment by the same ghost and a floating upside-down "V" emblem. Upon a trip to the hospital to visit his injured sibling, Hung learns of his brother's wish: He wants to be avenged. Hung then travels to Thailand, challenges Ba Bo to a match that's to take place in three months time and then, on his way out, recognizes the golden "^" he'd seen floating in his apartment above a temple. There, he learns that there's another reason fate has brought him to Thailand other than to avenge his brother. Apparently he's living a parallel life to Abbot Qing Zhao, who was his twin in a past life... and has been dead for a year. The only reason Hung himself isn't also dead is because the monk was on the verge of achieving immortality and his body is still well preserved... at least for the time being.





Flashbacks reveal what happened to Abbot Zhao the year prior. He had gone to Hong Kong to battle an emissary of evil and managed to kill the guy (making him rapidly age to death) and captured a bat that climbed out of his mouth. The man he killed was just an underling for a more powerful, even more evil sorcerer and a battle of magic ensued. Said battle involved chanting, smoke, snakes and reanimated bat skeletons. The evil sorcerer milks three cobras, cracks open a worm-covered skull, mixes the venom in with the brain matter and then lets some rather plush-looking tarantulas suck up the mixture. Later that night, he snuck into the temple, scaled the walls and sent two of the spiders onto the sleeping Abbot. They bit him on the eyeballs and he eventually died. When Hung returns to his hotel room to let all of this soak in and contemplate it his next, he ends up getting sick and vomits up a live eel. Seeing as how he's on borrowed time as is, Hung decides to get more in touch with his spiritual side.





Hung shaves his head, changes him name to Kaidi Baluo and goes through monk training. He learns endurance by being forced to stand in a lake full of leeches and is put in a large clay pot where the words inscribes on the inside bleed over onto his body. To complete his indoctrination, he takes an oath to defeat all evil, follow the laws of Buddha and then must swear off gambling, killing, sex and money for the rest of his life. Almost immediately, the evil sorcerer who had killed Abbot Qing shows up to challenge Hung by cutting the head off a chicken, shaking the blood all over some crocodile skulls and then sending an army of bats after him. Through prayer, Hung is able to create a force field that protects him while the bats burst into flames. Hung is also able to ward off animated skulls. The evil sorcerer eats chicken intestines, pukes them up and then eats the puke, creates a green alien-looking monster and then detaches his own head. Hung is able to defeat and kill the sorcerer and thus release both Abbot Qing and himself from the curse.







Hung returns to Hong Kong and, having apparently decided not to stick to the same tenants of Buddhism he used to save his ass when he needed it, immediately gets down with his girlfriend in the shower. He then decides to go through with the match against Thai boxer Ba Bo and defeats him. Back in Thailand, the evil isn't extinguished quite yet as some other followers of the "Lord of the Dark" are busy at work. They kill a crocodile, gut it and place a female mummy inside. To resurrect her they chew up banana peels, decomposed bird and a chicken's tail (cut off a live chicken), then puke it up onto a plate and pass it to the next guy who then puts the regurgitated mixture into his mouth, chews and pukes it up again and finally feed it to the woman, bringing her to life. She uses her razor fingernails to poke the eyeballs out of a picture of Hung. After going temporarily blind and realizing evil is conspiring against him yet again, Hung (who has lost all of his powers for breaking the rules) learns he has just a few weeks left to live unless he can locate a Buddhist artifact (the Golden Ashes) in Nepal.



Hampered somewhat by inadequate characterizations and a frequently confusing storyline (which settles down fairly nicely by the finale), this is still one of the best of the Shaw Brothers horror productions I've seen. Visually, it's eye-filling, extremely colorful and quite astonishing, with outstanding art direction, great cinematography and kaleidoscopic lighting. It's also one of the most invigoratingly imaginative films out there, with a new surprise waiting for you around every corner. And did I mention it's extremely gory? There are many moments here that even *I* - with my iron-clad stomach - found pretty disgusting. The DVD - a nice and vibrant widescreen print with English subs - is from Celestial Pictures.



Director Chih-Hung Kuei made around 20 genre films for Shaw - including the entertaining nurses-in-prison flick BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1974), a supernatural spin on Les Diaboliques called HEX (1980), the necrophile shocker CORPSE MANIA (1981) and the serpent revenge flick THE KILLER SNAKES (1975), one of his only films that was dubbed and made it to American theaters. The Boxer's Omen was the last film he ever made and was a nice way to go out.

★★★1/2

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