Believe it or not, this Filipino freak-out was intended as a
children’s film. That’s despite brain eating, a beheading, a fight to
the death and an exploding forehead. Not exactly family friendly
fantasy, but for fans of surreal wackiness MAGIC OF THE UNIVERSE comes
As the title suggests, this 1988 film was intended as a
Filipino version of
MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. The results,
however, are vastly unlike that film, or just about anything else you’ve
The good news regarding this film’s availability in the
US is that it can be had, and quite cheaply, on DVD from BCI Eclipse.
The bad news is that their version is fuzzy and suffers from fake
“letterboxing” (in which the top and bottom portions of the screen are
cut off to make it look like the film is widescreen).
In a small Filipino village a magician named Jamir
makes his daughter disappear in what was intended as a trick.
Unfortunately the girl vanishes for real, and so Jamir, together with
his family, visits a local magician--who locates the girl’s soul in part
by imbibing monkey brains straight from the skull.
Yes, it’s that kind of movie!
The lost girl’s mother enters into the alternate realm
where her daughter resides, a freaky environ lorded over by gruesome pig
men and Mikula, a witch woman with an ugly pulsating forehead. The
latter informs the girl and her ma that Jamir angered her and, unable to
get at him, snatched his family in retaliation.
Jamir and his son embark on a search through a nearby
forest. They encounter a laser beam shooting vampire and a tribe of
cannibal children. Jamir pacifies the latter by performing magic tricks,
and so doesn’t notice his son being kidnapped. The boy is taken to
Mikula’s lair, who forces the kid into a fight to the death with one of
her monster henchmen. The resourceful kid wins, and in the melee Jamir’s
wife and daughter escape into the forest. They meet up with a sad man
whose wife was turned to stone by Mikula.
Mikula goes after them, and while she’s gone a
good-hearted, frizzy-haired witch named Kleriga turns up in Mikula’s
palace to save Jamir’s son. But Mikula returns and gets the upper hand,
beheading Kleriga and stealing her power.
Around this time Jamir chances upon the Regalia, a
magic wand that confers “all the power of the universe” upon him. He
uses it to vanquish Mikula by making her pulsing forehead explode.
The late Tara Esteban probably couldn’t make a “good”
movie if his life depended on it, but he does know how to craft vivid
scenes of kaleidoscopic horror. There are many cool creatures on display
that look like psychedelic inversions on monsters seen in movies like
RETURN OF THE JEDI and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE; my favorite was a fuzzy
dog-thing with a TV set in its stomach named Globo.
Esteban also attempts to humanize his monsters in
various quirky ways, i.e. keeping his camera trained on a swamp
creature going into a self-pitying rage after the heroes have escaped
its clutches. I’m not sure the attempt works (the special effects aren’t
exactly Hollywood-worthy), but Esteban deserves points for effort.
Unfortunately Esteban insists on lensing much of the
action in various shades of darkness, which often makes it difficult to
make out what’s going on (especially in the muddy BCI DVD version). Yet
the film works reasonably well as a blast of horrific grotesquerie, and
even contains a nifty music score that alternates spooky synthesizer
cues with rockin’ guitar chords.
MAGIC OF THE UNIVERSE
Director: Tara Esteban
Screenplay: Grace Hill Serrano
Cinematography: Joe Tutanes
Editing: Pat Ramos
Cast: Michael De Mesa, Gina Alajar, Armida Siguion-Reyna, Tanya Gomez,
Dick Israel, Odette Khan, Liza Lorena, Ruben Rustia, Sunchine, Tom Tom