Posts tagged "Cheung San Yee"

Little Hero (Review)

Little Hero

aka 諸葛四郎大鬥雙假面 aka Zhu Ge Si Lang da dou shuang jia mian
Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan
1978
Written by Cheung San-Yee and Wu Yueh-Ling
Directed by Chan Hung-Man

This is why Octomom shouldn’t keep her kids!

Polly Shang Kuan beats the fuck out of every phallus in China while transcending gender herself in Little Hero. This statement of fact comes thanks not only to the subtextual and overt piles and piles of dongs and balls, but by her obviously female character entirely referred to as “him”. How much of this is dubbing and how much is present in the original Taiwanese version becomes irrelevant, as we celebrate what the film has become thanks to its transformational event. Little Hero‘s evolution to a perfected form via weird dubbing is not a unique event, but it’s one of my favorite examples of a film improved by the dubbing (this is also conjecture as I’ve not seen the Mandarin-language original, it might be just as fun, but I do not think it can surpass the dubbed version.)

Polly Shang Kuan is no stranger to gender bending cinema, she often plays characters that are disguised as men, are tomboys, and occasionally actually are men. There is even historic precedence for that, with actresses playing male roles in Chinese films and operas since near the beginning of cinema in Asia (and became an interesting parallel to the old opera troops where every role was played by men!) Polly Kuan played characters disguised as men in both serious martial arts dramas and in goofy action comedies. Little Hero leans heavy towards the latter, with increasingly ridiculous villains and gimmicks as the Devil’s Gang breaks out all the stops to try to keep Polly’s character Chu-Kwok Su-Lan from breaking their whole organization.

Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan

I haven’t beat anyone up for fifteen whole minutes!


Chu-Kwok Su-Lan is referred to by every character as a male, despite being Polly Shang Kuan, wearing women’s clothes (and makeup and hair!), and having the male lead obviously attracted to him. It is interesting that Chu-Kwok continually calls male opponents ugly and said other things in regards to their looks, something they wouldn’t really care about unless Chu-Kwok was really a girl. This is one way in which Polly’s character moves beyond gender, he can equally lob insults that would be delivered by a male or by a female, and the villains respond appropriately. The same insults are lobbed at the female villain, who returns the same reaction as the men. The distinction between male gaze and female gaze has been knocked askew. I’m going to follow their examples and be consistent by calling Chu-Kwok Su-Lan male throughout the rest of the review and recap.

Things become a subtext labyrinth when the fighting kicks in. The battles are over two magical swords owned by a family (the magic swords being their own phallic symbols), which involves characters battling it out. At one point the heroes are ambushed by a avalanche of huge stone balls, and some of the huge stone balls have people inside who begin to fight the heroes. And the villains in the balls are crushed to death by other huge stone balls.

Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan

Condorman: The Next Generation!


Another villain takes up the stylings of an elephant, including two huge tusk weapons and a giant elephant head “tattooed” onto his chest. When you see a closeup of the elephant head, it is clearly sporting a giant dong where its trunk should be. At one point Chu-Kwok Su-Lan beats the tar out of him, then becomes angry at his gyrating elephant penis drawing as it moves around when his fat belly breathes up and down, so he stomps on the Elephant Guy’s tummy, gleefully dancing and stomping on this representation of patriarchal penile power.

Speaking of representations of penii, during the final showdown portion of Little Hero, two octopi emerge from the sea to battle Chu-Kwok Su-Lan. Each octopus is obviously a guy in a rubber suit, but are presented as actual trained octopi. And you don’t have to be Freud to understand the eight tentacles the octopi each have are eight nice phallic symbols for Polly Sheng Kuan to battle. And battle she does, stabbing and slicing off several of them! There is even a repeat of imagery where Chu-Kwok stomps on the heads of both octopi simultaneously, their bodies cut off just enough that it looks like Chu-Kwok is stomping on a giant gross ball sack! The octopi exhibit further powers – squirting both water and ink at their enemies (one of Chu-Kwok’s students gets blasted right in the face with ink!) In a final rejection of the feminine way, the octopi begin launching their own children at Chu-Kwok as weapons. This renunciation of motherhood is extreme, the octopi trained to treat their own offspring as expendable, as if they were no better than sperm flying out into the void.

Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan

All right, time to castrate everyone!


Chu-Kwok Su-Lan is awesome and fierce. An orphan child who gets involved in all the martial intrigue has heard of Chu-Kwok before he’s met him, and speaks of him as his big brother. Once he finds out who Chu-Kwok really is, the kid follows him throughout the film, dressing like Chu-Kwok (by wearing male-ized versions of Polly Shang Kuan’s wardrobe!) and declaring he’s going to be just like him. Chu-Kwok has a sort of love interest in Woo Ching Ping, but it is practically platonic (despite Polly Shang Kuan obviously laying on the charm) and he calls Woo Ching Ping his “best partner”.

Little Hero suffers from the plot being hard to determine, even considering that it will be wacky and full of gimmicks. Characters will declare they are about to do something, then do something else before getting around to what they were so urgently preparing to do. The intrigue is complicated, but all boils down to someone being jealous an old guy won’t die fast enough so they can become a legend.

For more fun Polly Shang Kuan films, be sure to check out The Zodiac Fighters, The Eighteen Jade Arhats,Shaolin Traitorous, and the Polly Shang Kuan-centric Infernal Brains Podcast episode!

Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan

My goodness, the subtext, the subtext…


Chu-Kwok Su-Lan (Polly Shang Kuan) – The most heroic of heroes, Chu-Kwok Su-Lan comes to town to beat the tar out of the Devil’s Gang just because he can. Has two students who follow him around and constantly get into trouble. Gains at least one more student by the end of the film.
Woo Ching Ping (Barry Chan) – Martial hero who helps Chu-Kwok Su-Lan investigate what evil stuff the Devil’s Gang is doing. Wanders around and beats up bad guys for most of the film. That’s what real heroes do!
Golden Mask (To tell would spoil the surprise!) – Ignore the fact you can figure out who the main villain is from the cast list and pretend to be surprised when he is revealed! A jealous madman who wants to control the martial world, but doesn’t want to do it fair and square. Enjoys wearing a gold mask and flying around in his flyer when he’s not commanding the Devil’s Gang to do evil stuff. Is constantly getting mocked by Chu-Kwok Su-Lan.
Silver Mask (To tell would also spoil the surprise!) – Silver Mask is totally not an obvious character seen early on in the film. Nope. He’s second in command of the Devils Gang and usually killing characters right before they talk and give away the whole plan.
Octopi (Themselves) – Two octopi that attack Chu-Kwok on the beach. Are pets of Golden Mask and vile tools of oppression.

Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan

This is the weirdest gym machine I’ve ever seen!


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 13, 2014 at 8:50 am

Categories: Movie Reviews, Ugly   Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Shaolin Traitorous

Shaolin Traitorous

aka 大太監 aka Traitorous

1976
Written by Cheung San-Yee
Directed by Sung Ting-Mei

Shaolin Traitorous
In the 1970s, the most dangerous occupation in Taiwan was being Polly Shang Kuan’s father in a movie. And once again, Shaolin Traitorous involves Polly playing a character that is avenging the deaths of her parents. But, shockingly enough, Polly isn’t the focus of the flick, it’s Carter Wong as Shang Yung, who survives the massacre of his family as a child and then trains at Shaolin Temple and eventually go get revenge.

Story wise, Shaolin Traitorous is a by-the-numbers revenge flick. But the choreography makes it rise a bit above the crowd. There is an obsession with array attacks, and there are multiple scenes with many guards stacked on top of each other in a huge human fence formation. Though fun to look at, I’ve never really understood how these attacks do anything except present a bigger target. But maybe that’s the trick…
Shaolin Traitorous
Aside from the many guards stacking, if you’ve seen one of these films, you know the score. If they’re your thing, then you will enjoy the crap out of Shaolin Traitorous. If you’re just seeking some kung fu thrills, it will do the trick. But it’s not going to be a film you rave to everyone about on Twitter.
Shaolin Traitorous

Shang Yung (Carter Wong Ka-Tat) – His parents were killed when he was but a lad, and after intense Shaolin training he’s back for revenge. Luckily the guy is so evil he wasn’t killed and didn’t die of natural causes in the meanwhile. Because that would be anti-climatic! Wears his slain mother’s bracelet as a necklace.
Hsiao Yun Erh/Tso Yun Lan (Polly Shang Kuan ) – Another victom of Tin Erh Keng wiping out her entire family, whe was even adopted by him (though randomly everyone thinks she’s a dude for a while, despite no disguise at all!) Now she wants revenge for her slain family.
Tin Erh Keng (Chang Yi) – Evil jerk whose favorite hobby is slaughtering all the members of a family except a young child who will then hunt him down for revenge. Eventually that hobby comes back to have consequences. Who knew???
First Head (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) – Guard of East Gate who has a ridiculous name and he’s evil. EVIL!!!

Shaolin Traitorous
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 15, 2012 at 10:23 pm

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Thrilling Sword (Review)

Thrilling Sword

aka Shen jian dong shan he

1981
Directed by Cheung San-Yee
Written by Shing-Ming Huang


This film rules!

It is a Taiwanese take on Snow White, which needed giant monsters, guys turned into bears, demon worship, and crystal swords. Take that, Disney! The film is filled with fantastic elements, just when you think the film has exhausted its supply of weird wonderness, it shows that Thrilling Sword has barely scratched the surface. Parts of the film remind me of He-Man, to the point where I suddenly became interested in He-Man again after years of not being interested and now know all sorts of new stuff about He-Man.

Thrilling Sword is one of many awesome fantasy films that came out of the Taiwanese film industry. At the time, they were competing with the Shaw Brothers and their elaborate and expensive productions. No Taiwanese company could compete in making their films look just as good, but that didn’t stop them from trying or from going over the top with the fantasy aspects. And that makes the films that came out of Taiwan from the 1970s and 80s some of the weirdest and most fun films. It is a shame that so many of the films are hard to find or even lost. Many of the surviving films are only found on fullscreen VHS tapes that are running on thirty years old (luckily, most have been archived digitally, so even if the film never is released again it won’t disappear.) This particular rip is taken from a TV broadcast, which is supposed to be more widescreen than the fullscreen VHS releases of Thrilling Sword, but then I saw a VCD case while looking up cast info on the film, so there is at least VCD copies around, which means there might be a DVD somewhere, but who knows how good that copy is. But this is one film I would put extra time into hunting down an upgrade for.

Thrilling Sword has also been released under the titles Heaven Sword and Thrilling Bloody Sword. So now you know. Director Cheung San Yee also directed a few classics such as Lady Constables and Snaky Knight Fights Against Mantis. He also wrote Island Warriors and came up with the story for Challenge of the Lady Ninja.

Yaur-gi (Fong Fong-Fong) – It’s Snow White! The daughter of King Gau-shien who is sent down the river when she is born as a giant lump of flesh, returning 18 years later after being raised by seven dwarf generals. See more of Fong Fong-Fong in Island Warriors.
Prince Yur-juhn (Lau Seung-Him) – Yur-Juhn is a prince of the Yur Chin Kingdom/Yur Min Nation. The name changes as the film goes on, so don’t blame me. Maybe his country should choose a name and stick with it! Prince Yur-juhn falls in love with Yaur-gi and does lots of heroic stuff for the king before he is turned into a bear and has to go get crystal armor. Just your average Thursday night. Lau Seung-Him was Monkey in Monkey War and New Pilgrims to the West.
Gi-err (Elsa Yeung Wai-San) – Gi-err is from Wu Shien Kingdom is said to be a powerful exorcist. The King has her go and kill lots of demons. She also worships demons and is plotting to overthrow the king thanks to all the demons she is letting loose in the country. The King trusts her completely. Elsa Yeung has been seen on TarsTarkas.NET in Island Warriors and Challenge of the Lady Ninja.
Shiah-ker (Chang Yi) – Gi-err’s partner who also has magic powers and also worships a demon master, and he’s totally evil and even looks horribly evil and his name even sounds horribly evil. The King trusts him completely. I think the King would trust Hitler if he knew how to pull a rabbit out of his hat.
The Little Fairy of the Forest (Ha Ling-Ling) – She used to be a rabbit that Yaur-gi was nice to and then turned into a fairy to be a friend and ally. All fairy tales need fairies, which is a rule or something. I think you can go to jail. So be sure to follow that rule, okay?
Magic Master (???) – Magic Master was trapped in a box by Gi-err and Shaih-ker long ago, probably because he has a butt on his head. A butt on his head. And a nose ring. AND A BUTT ON HIS HEAD! Magic Master also has a sweet skull staff, but there is not butt on the skull. Magic Master is let loose by Prince Yur-juhn and heads off to fight the ones who trapped him.

The Dwarves!

Leader Dwarf (???) – Is the leader, and is also an archer. All of the dwarves are former generals who have been shrunk in size. All of the dwarves raise Yaur-gi when they find her in the river as an infant. Like most of the dwarves, I am not sure who played him. None of the dwarves are given names, so I named them based on their traits.
Vain (???) – He’s so vain, he probably thinks this Roll Call entry is about him.
Drunky (???) – Are these the Seven Dwarfs or the Seven Duffs? I guess Drunky parties hard to hide his crippling lack of self-esteem, his fast-living lifestyle heading towards a colision course with reality one day soon.
Sleepy (???) – He’s sleepy, thus his name. He’s also the only dwarf whose seems to correlate to one of the classic dwarves besides the Leader Dwarf.
Farty (Hui Bat-Liu) – Guess how Farty got his name! Yep, toilet humor isn’t just the realm of modern day PG-13 comedies. Hui Bat-Liu is in the greatest movie of all time, Fantasy Mission Force, as well as Island Warriors
Mohawk (???) – I know if I was a dwarf, I would have a mohawk. Because why not? Mohawk is not the brightest of bulbs, but does help sneak Princess Yaur-gi into the castle to meet Prince Yur-juhn again.
Screechy (???) – Screechy has a screechy voice, thus his name. Yep. Good times.
Raising the roof!

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 14, 2009 at 1:43 am

Categories: Bad, Movie Reviews   Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,