Friday, August 27, 2021

Solimsa jucheongwidong (1982)

... aka: 소림사 주천귀동
... aka: 少林寺酒天鬼童
... aka: Firefist of Incredible Dragon
... aka: Firefist of the Incredible Dragon
... aka: Juchon-Gwidong in Shaolin Temple
... aka: Le sang du dragon (Blood of the Dragon)
... aka: Revenge of the Shaolin Temple
... aka: Shao Lin zi Jiu tian gui tong

Directed by:
"Jimmy Tseng" (Jong-seong Kim)

Corpses materialize in the snow and a human heart pops out of one of them, flies around and then kills four men. I'm sure you're wondering how a little heart can accomplish such a feat, especially since all we really get to see at the beginning is it flying close to people and then them spitting up blood and falling over, but, fortunately, we do get to see it do some cooler stuff later on. This got me thinking about all of the killer body part movies I've watched up to this point. I've seen killer disembodied hands, heads, brains, eyes... And killer teeth, hair and intestines. And even killer dicks, tits and vaginas, but I believe this may be my first ever killer disembodied heart movie. Hey, at least that's something!

The wealthy and evil Master Wu-Hong Liao (Bao-Liang Chen) holds dominance over a small village with his army of brutal thugs, who regularly terrorize the locals. A street performer / magician named Kun-Kun (Pung Im) mysteriously shows up in town one day and looks awfully familiar... almost exactly like a girl Liao and his men had previously killed and buried underneath the snow in the forest. Kun-Kun becomes chummy with a handsome fella named Tin-Chi Chen ("Jerry Young" / Jae-yeong Lee), who is investigating the disappearances of many beautiful young women in the area. As it turns out, Master Liao has been having his goons kidnap these girls so he can turn them into his personal sex slaves. Some are kept locked up in a room where they are kicked, whipped and occasionally pulled out and raped, while the more disobedient ones are killed. So it really should come as no big surprise that Master Liao's neglected younger wife, Yam-Chi, is carrying on a secret affair with his right hand man, Tao Shang Yi (Chang-Ming Pan).

Noticing that Tin-Chi and Kun-Kun are snooping around their home, Master Liao decides to put the kibosh on their activities. He has his men beat up Tin-Chi and then they make him stand on a stack of bricks on his tiptoes with a noose around his neck. Kun-Kun is beaten, stuck in a bag and taken to the woods where they plot to bury her alive. However, they run into a ghostly double of their proposed victim and several other scar-faced apparitions that scare them off. Is Kun-Kun herself a ghost? Does one of the ghosts just happen to look an awful lot like her? It's rather difficult to tell at first but it's eventually revealed that Kun-Kun is on a quest to find out what happened to her missing look-a-like sister, Shu-Shu, and brother-in-law, Ming-Hoi, who both vanished without a trace while traveling through the area.

Kun-Kun eventually runs across an "old" cave-dwelling hermit, who's clearly played by a very young man in a terrible silver wig with half his face covered in clumpy oatmeal-looking "make-up," who relays a flashback about what happened to her sister. Not surprisingly, she was another of Liao's victims. After being kidnapped, raped and beaten, she lost her baby, escaped from the harem and then ran into the snow and died. The hermit made a grave for her and has been watching over it ever since. After hearing this, Kun-Kun wants revenge but must also rescue Tin-Chi, plus help a friend, Uncle Chao (Chai-Choi Ai), when his daughter, Ah Fa, is herself kidnapped. Meanwhile, when Liao finds out his "scandalous slut" of a wife has been cheating, he ties her up, beats her and sticks a hairpin in her breast. I guess it's OK for him to rape and murder countless teen girls but for her to have a consensual affair? A line must be drawn somewhere!

While all of the above is playing out, the killer heart flies around doing its flying killer heart thing. It knocks a guy over onto a tree branch so he impales himself, smashes a guy in the face so his eyeball falls out, knocks a guy into a quicksand bog, rips an arm off, scalps a man, resurrects a corpse into a kung fu fighting machine, levitates a scarecrow, laughs in an echo female voice and even makes a body explode! It also shows up in a pretty great nightmare scene where Liao has visions of it resurrecting his past victims, who fly around in the woods and then corner him.

This is yet another instance where one cannot rely on the various titles, VHS and DVD covers and classifications on film sites to tell you just what you're really getting yourself into. While this has been packaged as a standard martial arts action film and is classified as such on nearly every film database, this is just as much of a ghostly revenge tale. While there's a decent amount of kung fu, there's even more supernatural horror to be found here. There's some comedy, too. Unfortunately. And it's all terrible and annoying, especially the bits centered around an idiot Taoist and his equally-dumb nephew (Lung Chin), who flop around seizure dancing, blowing on horns and making goofy faces as they attempt to exorcise the ghosts.

As usual with obscure Asian films, it's very difficult to find accurate information about this online. Hong Kong and Korean movie databases list this as an entirely South Korean production, while IMDb and some other sites have it as a Korean/Hong Kong co-production. However, most of the actors appear to be Taiwanese, so who really knows? For the time being, I am listing it as all three.

What we do know for sure is that much of the confusion stems from Tomas Tang's Filmark International out of Hong Kong, who are responsible for the 71-minute English-language cut. They've not only done their usual horrendous dubbing routine (likely with little regard to the original plot) but also taken it upon themselves to remove over 15 minutes of footage, including nearly the entire opening sequence (no wonder the plot makes little sense!), lots of female nudity (only a few very brief breast shots are left in the cut version) and a few extended torture scenes. Tang also added brand new fake credits ("Starring Maple Lin"), though he took credit as associate producer and "Benny Ho" (Godfrey Ho) is listed as dubbing supervisor. The producer is called "Richard Wong," but apparently acclaimed director Ki-young Kim (THE HOUSEMAID) was the actual producer of the original version!

The French release titled Le sang du dragon ("Blood of the Dragon") is the most complete cut of the film at nearly 88 minutes and is also in widescreen but, unfortunately, it's been dubbed into French and the print is horribly dark. I went ahead and skimmed through this version so I can note the major differences here and provide some images below. Cut scenes include the entire opening sequence of Tin-Chi encountering ghosts, a few human characters we see later on and a blind old woman while traveling alone at night (this runs about 5 minutes), a soft-core sex scene between a goon and a female captive in a barn that's interrupted by Master Liao (2 minutes) and full-frontally naked women in the barn being pushed down, hit and cowering in the corner as well as one with her hands tied above her head getting a pin stuck in her breast (1 minute).

One of the most notable omissions is a 4+ minute scene of Liao's wife taking a bath, opening her window and the heart flying in, hitting her in the stomach and "impregnating" her. Her lover then feels her stomach and recoils. She shrugs, hops back in the bath and notices it's filled with blood. The blood drains out in a time lapse effect and splashes all over the screen. In the cut version there is only brief mention of her thinking she may be pregnant in a later scene, which doesn't really serve any purpose as we just think she's carrying her lover's baby instead of being knocked up by the heart. And, yes, I do indeed feel extremely strange typing out a phrase like "knocked up by the heart."

On IMDb, this is given the English title Revenge of the Shaolin Temple, though I was unable to find any copies of the film with this title. Firefist of Incredible Dragon is the one used for all of the English-language VHS and DVD-R copies I've seen. IMDb also lists a third director called Wang-Yung Ling who is not listed on any of the versions I have run across.

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