Posts tagged "Polly Shang Kuan"

The Bravest Revenge (Review)

The Bravest Revenge

aka 武林龍虎鬥 aka Wu lin long hu dou
The Bravest Revenge
1970
Written by Tin Goh
Directed by Kim Lung

The Bravest Revenge
Can you believe there is a Polly Shang Kuan film where her parent is killed and she has to seek revenge? I know, right? That only happens in like 99% of the films she did, and it happens here! Revenge will be gotten, and of the bravest sort, at least that’s what the title claims! We all know who Polly Shang Kuan is, so no need to do a deep dive into her, but if you want to know more we covered her in an Infernal Brains podcast and she has an active tag on TarsTarkas.NET with plenty of wonderful films! Tien Peng is his usual heroic self as Sword King Tsai Ying-che, and Yee Yuen hams it up as the glorious villain like he usually does in films such as The Flying Swordgirl

Director Kim Lung (aka Chien Lung) helmed Taiwanese flicks in the 60s and 70s, many featuring revenge themes and many featured female protagonists. Among his films are these cool-sounding ones from 1966 – The Lady Spy, The Flying Killer, and Queen of Female Spies Jin Gang. He also directed 1967’s Dragon Inn, not to be confused with the classic King Hu 1967 Dragon Gate Inn. Most of his filmography is either unavailable or known only to those who collect Taiwanese kung fu movies, and Bravest Revenge might be his best known film now.
The Bravest Revenge
Bravest Revenge is actually pretty good for a standard murder revenge kung fu movie, because it has huge fight sequences. There are multiple scenes of characters carving their way through dozens of people like butter in giant choreographed fights, they are fantastic! The last 30 minutes is an almost non-stop battle through themed stages of a giant fortress as the heroes slice through goons and are only occasionally slowed by the various mini-bosses. If this came out today this would be accused of imitating a video game, but it is from 1970 and all we had for video games then was things like Spacewar!, so maybe it is more accurate to say all video games stole from Bravest Revenge!
The Bravest Revenge
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 8, 2019 at 6:09 am

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Fight for Survival (Review)

Fight for Survival

aka 十大掌門闖少林 aka The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique aka Shi da zhang men chuang Shao Lin aka Lady Wu Tang
Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique
1977
Written and directed by Hou Cheng

Hold on to your hats with shock, as here is a Polly Shang Kuan film where things are weird! I know, right? Who would have thought! As usual, it’s a good weird, part of the kung fu comedy atmosphere of the late 1970s. Fight for Survival/Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique (the much cooler name I first learned of the film as!) is packed with a bunch of big named cameos, characters who developed odd body modifications thanks to whatever kung fu specialty they have, gender bending, cornball comedy, and terrible dubbing. If you enjoy characters with extending arms and legs, who employ weird headbutts and walk on their hands, or who are randomly painted up as animals and waiting in rooms at the Shaolin Temple, then you are in for a treat.
Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique
The version I have is fullscreen and dubbed, which is a shame, as this film has a lot of neat choreography and costumes that requires a widescreen high-definition transfer to get the best effects. I guess I can expect that the same day the widescreen Monkey War shows up on remastered Blu-ray, aka NEVER! What a shame the wildest and craziest movies are also the most ignored when it comes to high quality.

In this film, Polly’s character Shih Pu Chuan sets out to recover 10 books stolen from the Shaolin Temple, each volume teaching one kung fu technique, and each technique has been mastered by the respective theif of that volume. But, if you only learn one of the kung fu skills, your body soon begins to modify itself based on that kung fu skill. Thus, the guy who learns to extend his arms has permanent long arms. The guy who stretched his legs looks like he’s walking around on stilts. The woman who stole the Positive Kung Fu book turns into a man, and the guy who stole the Negative Kung Fu book turns into a woman. The only way to not get physically screwed up is to learn all the skills so there is a balance. Even Shih Pu Chuan isn’t immune, her female character begins to turn into a man, and her sifu can’t remember how to do Negative Kung Fu. That leads him into discovering the Temple let the books get stolen and her subsequent quest. At one point it is declared that the villains can’t turn back to normal because they are evil, which might be saying that without balance, you are evil. Just remember, folks, every thing in moderation.
Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique
Of course, that also leads to yet another film where Polly Shang Kuan plays a gender bending character. This time she’s officially playing someone who is both sexes, though her long term goal is to stay a female. The only real disadvantage of turning male is gaining a faint mustache and having lots of ladies falling in love with you. As the main lady is the woman who used to be the man who stole the Negative Kung Fu book, things become tragic irony.

The main tale of the training and quest only eats up about an hour of the running time, we then have extended scenes where the many cameos attack Shaolin Temple because their followers (some of the followers were involved in the theft and some weren’t) are arrested in public. Now Shih has to defend her home from all these new people, but thankfully she now has lots of skills with which to do so.
Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique
The crazy specialties of the thieves gives us some awesome goofy kung fu, along with a whole host of guest stars who pop up when the thieves impersonate them in the beginning, and then return in the end when the real versions of the masters attack the temple. The cast is one of those ridiculously huge casts that makes me want to do a Roll Call 30 people long, and is filled with actors who aren’t identified very well. Luckily, I came to my senses, and it’s only 4 people long! We’re aren’t obsessively stupid at TarsTarkas.NET for nothing!

Like most of the Taiwanese kung fu comedies, the humor is a mix of slapstick and reaction shots. These aren’t films that are taken seriously by hardcore martial arts fans. Add to that the ridiculous dubbing and often awful fullscreen vhs presentation, and you can see why these flicks don’t get any respect. Which is a shame, because the ri-donk-ulousness is awesome! I’ll take a film that knows how to have fun over a dramafest that takes itself far too seriously any day!
Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique

Shih Pu Chuan (Polly Shang Kuan) – Wants to become a student at Shaolin Temple despite the “no girls” rule, is tricked into performing the first step, then accepted as a student by an eccentric monk. Eventually initiated into the Temple and restores its honor by recovering lost sacred texts. And she beats people up! Almost becomes a man.
Uncle Lin Chiu (Chan Wai-Lau) – The 109th Abbot, who trains Shih Pu Chuan despite the fact that she’s a girl! He’s an old former abbot who lives under a waterfall and is generally bitter to everyone. Fakes his death to help Shih Pu Chuan recover the stolen Ta Mo Classics.
Ching Fang (???) – One of two apprentice monks who attempt to take advantage of Shih Pu Chuan and end up punished, while she becomes a kung fu heroine, and enlists them as servants. I do not know the name of the guy who plays him. Both this unknown actor and Che Chi-Sang appear with Polly Shang Kuan as her two goofy followers in both Zodiac Fighters and Little Hero. I can only theorize that this means all three of these films are part of the same series. The fact that Fight for Survival is the first of the three released and features the two meeting only supports my wild unsubstantiated claim.
Ming Yuen (Che Chi-Sang) – The other, goofier, fatter monk. Is Ching Fang’s partner in crime. Becomes a loyal servant to Chih Pu Chuan.

Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 22, 2014 at 8:54 am

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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

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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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The Zodiac Fighters

The Zodiac Fighters

aka 十二生南 aka Dragon Zombies Return aka Shi er sheng nan

1978
Directed by Hau Chang

Zodiac Fighters
50 Shades of Grey wishes it was this daring!

Polly Shang Kuan Ling-Feng began her career In 1966 with the United Film Corporation, and was quickly and began studying martial arts. When director King Hu needed a new starlet for 1966’s Dragon Gate Inn (one of the films that helped usher in the modern wuxia films) with Cheng Pei-Pei still under contract at Shaw, Polly was his choice. Polly played a female swordmaster disguised as a man, a role she would be accustom to playing. Often it is hard to figure out what gender Polly is supposed to be in many of her films! 18 Bronzemen, probably her most famous role in the west besides Dragon Gate Inn, also sees her disguised as a man. In 1973’s Back Alley Princess, she was a woman who spent the entire film playing a man, and won the Golden Horse award for Best Actress. 1978’s Little Hero saw her playing a man, and 1977’s Fight for Survival saw her playing a woman who started to become a man thanks to some kung fu, causing her to need to learn a different kung fun style to revert back.

Zodiac Fighters
I have to stay in this cave for a year? But there’s no bathroom, there’s not even a corner!

In some of her earlier roles such as A Grand Passion, The Bravest Revenge, and A Girl Fighter, Polly was regularly cast as a female out to avenge her murdered father. If you stacked the bodies of all of Polly’s murdered fathers in her older films, you could climb to the moon and probably kill her moon father, causing her to seek moon revenge, which wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary by her later films. By the late 1970s, Polly was making some of the most awesome films to come out of Taiwan. Most of these were weird variations of martial arts films packed with comedic tones and funny situations. You don’t watch these films to see expertly performed Eagle Style, you watch it to see wacky costumes, ridiculous fights, and insane situations.

Unlike many of her contemporaries, Polly did not have Peking Opera training, but according to the one biography online that has been copy/pasta’ed everywhere, Polly eventually got black belts in taekwando, karate, and judo. I will point out that none of those are Chinese martial arts. Polly left film in the 1980s and moved to the US. Rumor is she runs a restaurant in LA, but no one has said which restaurant! Polly could be serving you catfish in black bean sauce right now! Or even denying you the ability to sit at your table until the rest of your party arrives… She has appeared occasionally in enough interviews that you can see pictures of her now if you so desire to Google it.

Zodiac Fighters
It’s time for Popeye Style Kung Fu!

So this all brings us to Zodiac Fighters, a film where we have people dressed up as the various Chinese Zodiac animals running around doing kung fu styles in the manner of the animal they are dressed up as. We have a few extra bad guys with different animal suits who show up near the end, and a sequence involving rubber sharks that you have to see to believe. Zodiac Fighters is crazy and freaking awesome, a great martial comedy. Unfortunately, it is also hard as heck to get a hold of. I had to bribe a guy dressed like a moose. Or maybe he was a moose. In any event, I now have a copy, and some moose has a bunch of caramel corn.

I’d like to tell you I did all this research and identified all the random actors, but that would be a lie. I just did what the few of us who watch these films do and went to the source, this Cast Photos Page that is used by every reference source out there, even the HKMDB! So now you know the terrible secret of all us obscure movie bloggers.

Zodiac Fighters is so beloved among cult world cinema fans that it was even featured as one of the Polly Shang Kuan films we talked about in an Infernal Brains Podcast! There is even an even harder to find sequel, called either Zodiac Fighters 2 or War of the Zodiacs depending who whoever wrote the cover of the bootleg with a Sharpie. It does not feature Polly Shang Kuan, but does feature most of the animal actors, little people in dog costumes, and the giant octopuses seen in Little Hero. War of the Zodiacs should probably be called War of the Props Left Over From Other Films.

Zodiac Fighters
The Secret Society of People Dressed as Animals Who Aren’t Furries is ready for battle!

I promise I won’t start quoting lyrics from Talk to the Animals or start wondering what would happen if we could walk with the animals, or possibly even grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals. Because that would just be easy and predictable, and we aspire to a higher standard of lame jokes at TarsTarkas.NET!

Zodiac Fighters
I’m the biggest Shark Week fan in the world!

East Sea Dragon/Polly (Polly Shang Kuan Ling-Feng) – A professional mourner who becomes mixed up in intrigue and thus spends a year learning Dragon Kung Fu in a magic cave, thus then becoming East Sea Dragon. She must then track down the other 11 zodiac sign fighters from the cave and defeat the evil Tiger Shark, because, he’s evil!
Heartbreak Girl (Yee Hung) – Manipulative lass who uses wide-eyed do-gooders to fight for her family’s honor. Despite breaking so many hearts it earned her a new name, she still uses people like East Sea Dragon to do her bidding.
Tiger Shark (Lo Lieh) – Evil jerk with a seafood evil theme, he’s like if a Long John Silvers restaurant came to life and was bad to the bone. The fishbone. Has shark weapons, goons dressed as crabs, the whole nine yards.
Pan Sing (Ngok Yeung) – Good scholar/fortune teller who East Sea Dragon runs into along the way in her quest to take down Tiger Shark. He joins on along with Polly’s old mourning buddies because they got nothing else going on. He will use his brain to figure out things that the audience figured out much earlier in the film. Ngok Yeung shows up in Dwarf Sorcerer and The Legend of Mother Goddess.
The Five Elements (various) – Besides the sea-themed goons, Tiger Shark also employs these five guys based on the five elements – Fire, Wood, Water, Air, and Gold. They are very colorful and have very complex fight moves, but are easily fooled (you might say they are lead by….FOOL’S GOLD!)

The Other 11 Zodiackers:

Rooster (Weng Hsiao-Hu) – The first of the crew they located, Rooster is off crowing in a field and helps East Sea Dragon locate the rest of the signs.
Rat (???) – This Rat guy has the power of digging tunnels and biting people with his rat teeth!
Ox (???) – Ox has the power of the Ox, which is not impressive enough that I noticed what it was. Maybe it was the power of being bought for the game Oregon Express!
Rabbit (???) – Probably the most memorable costume, we got a chick fighting in a fluffy bunny rabbit outfit. And she has a carrot-shaped flute that she plays during musical numbers. Rabbit also has the power of riding toy sharks, which comes in handy during the final battle, believe it or not!
Snake (Wu Feng-Hsien) – Snake is an entertainer at heart and also a fan of walking like an Egyptian, from the looks of her dance moves.
Horse (Gam Sai-Yuk) – Horse has all the power of the Horse, and can even talk like famed horse Mr. Ed.
Ram (???) – Ram enjoys fighting other members of the zodiac crew, because they all love to fight each other all the time. Some real anger management issues going on in this crew.
Monkey (Wang Tai-Lang) – Another entertainer, he uses his monkey skills to earn money as a street performer before being drafted into the ranks of the Zodiackers! Wang Tai-Lang specialized in playing characters named Monkey. Yeah.
Dog (Lee Keung) – When your special powers are biting people on the ankles and peeing on them, maybe you need some new special powers. Just saying. His weakness is rolled-up newspaper!
Pig (Cheng Fu-Hung) – We can’t have a pig zodiac without him looking vaguely like Zhu Bajie from Journey to the West. Cheng Fu-Hung is also in Island Warriors, Fight for Survival, and Fantasy Mission Force.
Tiger (Sek Fung) – Tiger has the most human zodiac costume of them all, and seems like a leader even though he’s subserviant to East Sea Dragon.
Zodiac Fighters
Something’s happening here. What it is, ain’t exactly clear…

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 12, 2012 at 8:15 pm

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Infernal Brains Podcast – Episode 3 – Polly Shang Kuan

Yes, we finally named the joint podcast, it only took three episodes! Maybe by episode 6 I’ll have the iTunes feed figured out…

Join Tars from TarsTarkas.NET and Todd from Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill! as we discuss Polly Shang Kuan and some of the weird and wonderful films she was a part of in her career.

You can download the mp3 here (right-click, save-as)

For those of you who like to look at still photos while people ramble on about silly films, here is the video version:

Films discussed:
Fight for Survival
Zodiac Fighters
Little Hero

Previously on Infernal Brains:
Taiwanese Giant Monster Films Part 1
Taiwanese Giant Monster Films Part 2

Polly Shang Kuan

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm

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