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
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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When Hell Broke Loose (Review)

When Hell Broke Loose

Directed by ???

When Hell Broke Loose is a crazy mess of a film involving all sorts of demons and goofy things and at some point a guy fights a giant puppet tiger and even flies out of the tiger’s butt. The story is steeped in religious philosophy and involves forgiveness, but as one of the main characters does some pretty despicable things, it is hard to have any sort of empathy for the character.

Besides the puppet tiger, the main attraction of When Hell Broke Loose is the visits to Chinese Hell. As you may already know, the concept of Hell in China is complicated, with a mix of Buddhism, Taoism, and a lot of local beliefs. Exactly what parts make up hell depends on which mixture you are using. Hell is called Diyu (地狱) and is basically a place where you go to get punished/tortured for your various sins until you achieve atonement and get reincarnated to the next life. The most common depictions of Diyu have 10 courts ruled by the 10 Yama kings, but there are also depictions of 4 or 18 levels. When Hell Broke Loose seems to follow the 18 level route, but as 18 is a simplification of the 134 levels in the Buddhist text Wen Diyu Jing (問地獄經), you can see how this is complicated. Here is an interesting article about a place called Haw Par Villa, sort of a museum/amusement park with statues of the various demons and tortures of the 10 levels of hell. Some of the creatures and tortures depicted show up in this film.

When Hell Broke Loose has a lot of random scenes of people being tortured in Chinese Hell. Not so many it can be sold as a torture porn film, but at least 10-15 minutes of scenes added just to spice up the Monk wandering around Diyu. A few scenes fit in with the movie’s story of redemption and atonement for past sins, but the bulk were just added as gonzo exploitation fare. That gets really nuts when the secret ending of When Hell Broke Loose is revealed! What is the secret ending? You’ll have to read it below!

There is precious little information about When Hell Broke Loose, I can’t find it on any database, nor the director, and the only actors IDed anywhere are Yu Tien Lung and Wen Chiang Lung.

The film opens with like 9000 words onscreen as the camera zooms into the faces of golden Buddhas, but as the words are in Chinese I can only read like 10 of them. So: Something, something, something, something, something, something, 18 gates, something something person, something, many somethings. And now you know the prologue to When Hell Broke Loose! Tell your friends! Call your enemies! Email the guy stuck in traffic next to you on the freeway!

Lai Yu-Sun (???) – A gang leader who is an evil rapist murdering jerk for most of the movie, and he’s the hero. Yep. He learns forgiveness or something after a few minutes of meditating and fighting a tiger. If the Unabomber fights a tiger, he’ll become magically powered and blessed by the gods. Think about that as you slave away at work not bombing people.
Monk Mu Lien (???) – The Monk who helps everyone learn about forgiveness because he’s a cool monk. And he goes for strolls in Hell.
Young Master (???) – Names are for losers, hence Young Master never gets a name. He does get his fiancee Yen King-Hwa kidnapped and murdered on his wedding day by Lai Yu-Sun.
Yen King-Hwa (???) – The object of affection for Lai Yu-Sun who goes into a murderous rage after two minutes of meeting her and being denied her hand in marriage. He kills her in a fit of rage when she responds to her attempted rape by him with a stabbing response. Once again a woman does nothing wrong and is horribly humiliated and murdered.
Superintendent Lai-Po (???) – Lai Yu-Sun’s chief Lieutenant, who has many dreams about his master being tortured in hell. Thus, he tries to save his evil master.
Tiger Puppet – The most realistic tiger puppet ever made.

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