aka 大太監 aka Traitorous
Written by Cheung San-Yee
Directed by Sung Ting-Mei
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…
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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!
I’m the biggest Shark Week fan in the world!
The Other 11 Zodiackers:
Something’s happening here. What it is, ain’t exactly clear…
The Legend of Mother Goddess
aka 天后 aka Tian Hou Chuan aka 天后傅 aka 媽祖收妖
Written and directed by Hou Cheng
The Legend of Mother Goddess is a biopic of the religious figure Mazu (aka Matsu/妈祖), known as the Goddess of the Sea. To make things more interesting, the producers threw in a bunch of giant monsters and fantasy elements, thus giving the film legs in the Western cult movie circuit. Worship of Mazu began over 1000 years ago and there are temples all over the world. Find one today! Legend of Mother Goddess even tells the tale of how Mazu got her two guardian guys.
The first tape I got had Korean subs written over the Chinese/English subs, and thanks to a second generation vhs transfer, the English subs were hard to read. Thus…the names might not be right. Who to blame? Obviously, the person to blame is President Taft. That fat bastard! Luckily I later got a better copy with good subtitles, so although it looks way better, I can’t use my cool “We don’t need no stinking subs” tag. Woe is me…
If you wish to learn more about Taiwanese Kaiju, there is a two part Infernal Brains podcast on the subject, here and here.
As usual, we got so many listening choices that even someone who randomly transforms into white haired crazy woman can find a way: downloadable mp3, embedded flash with slideshow, embedded audio player, and iTunes feed link. So many choices, you’ll run away in terror to save your baby!
Watch in slideshow form:
Fuck yeah, Pearl Chang!
My Blade, My Life – Todd Review
Miraculous Flower / Phoenix The Ninja – Tars Review – Todd Review
Matching Escort / Fury of the Silver Fox – Tars Review – Todd Review
Wolf Devil Woman – Todd Review
Dark Lady of Kung Fu – Tars Review – Todd Review
General Invincible – Todd Review
Prior Infernal Brains:
Taiwanese Giant Monster Films Part 1
Taiwanese Giant Monster Films Part 2
Polly Shang Kuan
Turkish Pop Cinema Part 1
Turkish Pop Cinema Part 2
Infernal Brains Podcast – 07 – Insee Daeng
Infernal Brains Podcast – 08 – Worst Podcast Ever
The Mummies of Guanajuato – Infernal Brains Podcast Episode 09
Jane Bond – Infernal Brains Podcast Episode 10
Daigoro vs Goliath – Infernal Brains Podcast Episode 11
Down the Rabbit Hole with Pearl Cheung Ling – Infernal Brains Podcast Episode 12