Saturday, May 19, 2018

Xiao xia long juan feng (1989)

... aka: Chess Boxing Matrix
... aka: Chivalric Tornado
... aka: Fo men xiao jiang shi
... aka: Jiang shi zhuo yao
... aka: Labyrinth of Death
... aka: Vampire Strikes Back

Directed by:
Chih-Cheng Wang

A chubby emperor and his army do battle with a bunch of hopping vampires until a magical swordswoman (Yu-Neung Ti) flies in and proposes a more humane approach. She recommends (per the subtitles) "they have a chance to meet buhdasm" before zapping them off to "another world." Meanwhile, the white-haired "King of Evil" aka possessor of very ill-fitting vampire dentures, and three of his henchmen chase off a caravan of people who run away and leave a young princess behind. The King pulls back the girl's veil and doesn't like what he sees ("What an ugly lady... better than nothing"), but before he can put the bite to her, the swordswoman appears yet again to do battle. She zaps him to a crypt and then uses a crossbow to shoot a "bloody sword" into his heart which will keep him out of commission for a thousand years so he has time to mull over his evil ways. He's then sealed in a tomb with a magic mirror, Sky Dragon sword and a ruby.

Seven hundred years later we meet a Taoist Grandpa (Jack Lung) and his granddaughter Phi Phi, who oversee a bunch of hopping vampires at a temple. Grandpa has a mahjong obsession and gambling problem while Phi Phi basically tries to keep him in check. One night as Grandpa's leading a group of vampires through the forest, it starts raining. They seek refuge in a cave that turns out to be the same tomb the swordswoman sealed vampires in centuries earlier. How it manages to be just a few hundred feet from the temple yet never discovered in that time is anyone's guess. Thinking he's found treasure, Grandpa removes the ruby safeguard and resurrects the Evil King, along with a (not evil) vampire family consisting of a dad, mom (played by a man) and their supposed-to-be-cute but annoyingly whiny little vampire son, Chian Chian. Grandpa promptly gets possessed by Evil King, while the vampire family venture outside and become friends with Phi Phi.

At a nearby school, another Taoist who's just referred to as Teacher (Mark Lung) and two of his bumbling students, Black Boy and White Boy, also have their own pack of hopping vampires they keep in check with spell paper. Phi Phi, a local boy called Dark Face Tsai (?!) and the vampire family stumble upon them and they all fight over a jewel called the Pearl of Sun that was stolen from the tomb, while the Evil King and his three minions (bat, fox and spider) fight everyone else. Eventually, an adult woman joins our heroes, as does a well-trained teenage girl named Lun Lun, who flies in from 700 years in the past to help out. Some of these people are not in the film one minute and then suddenly jumping into fights the next, without so much as an explanation as to who they are.

This is going to be too incoherent, chaotic and annoying for most adults to endure (I barely made it through!), but trying to view this through the eyes of myself as a young kid, would I have enjoyed it? Probably. There's almost no plot to worry about but the action never lets up for a minute. This is essentially just one extended fight scene stretched over an hour-and-a-half with lots of lasers, weapons, gadgets, cheap special effects and comically overused wire work. The costumes and makeup are absolutely terrible but I don't think very young viewers would really mind. Children are also about the only demographic who are going to find some of these gags funny.

While crude humor is pretty commonplace in Asian kid's movies, it's hilarious imagining American parents showing this thing to their little ones. Here we get 1. Someone shooting diarrhea out of their ass. 2. The vampire mother getting turned on whenever her tits and ass are grabbed. 3. An arrow going up a man's ass. 4. Two young boys smelling each other's crotches while in a standing 69 position. 5. The vampire boy pissing in another boy's mouth. And that's not even including some profanity and the nonstop violence, including parents and grandparents being killed right in front of their children and little kids being punched, kicked, thrown around and killed.

Also for your money you get multiple possessions, some kind of man-in-a-suit horned bull / tiger monster (it looks even sillier than it sounds), a plant monster, a winged snake, four of the fighters joining into one Transformers-like super fighter, a "three treasures become one" fighting technique that looks like a cheerleader pyramid and an excellently overacted campy performance from the guy playing the King of Evil (whoever this actor is I'd love to know). And, one has to at least admire how they managed to keep the momentum going for as long as they did here even though it grows tiresome very quickly.

The director was the assistant director for Hello Dracula (1985) and went on to make Hello Dracula 2 (1987) and Vampire Kid II (1988), so this is very familiar territory for him. There have been numerous releases with English subtitles. Tai Seng released this on VHS under the title Vampire Strikes Back as did Xenon as Chess Boxing Matrix. The Digital Remix also released it on DVD under their "Black Belt Theater" banner as Labyrinth of Death.

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