I wrote in an earlier review that "true Asian cinema buffs know the wildest fare comes not from Hong Kong but from Japan." That’s not to dismiss Hong Kong horror flicks; the "wildest fare" may indeed come from Japan, but there are nevertheless some HK films that give PINOCCHIO 964 and THE BLIND BEAST a serious run for their money. The 1983 Shaw Brothers production THE BOXER’S OMEN is one of them.
THE BOXER’S OMEN is a product of Hong Kong’s legendary
producer-siblings Run Run and Run Me Shaw. Best known for
Kung Fu fare like FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH and THE SHAOLIN MASTER
KILLER, the Shaws (now sadly retired) also gave us wonderful (if
little known) exploitation fare like ENTER THE SEVEN VIRGINS,
BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS and BRUCE LEE AND I, as well as some
eye-opening horror flicks: the phenomenally influential BLACK
MAGIC trilogy, SEEDING OF A GHOST, and of course THE BOXER’S
OMEN (a.k.a. MO).
Anyone familiar with the particulars, established by
the BLACK MAGIC flicks, of Hong Kong horror cinema (see THE RAPE
AFTER, CENTIPEDE HORROR, BRUTAL SORCERY, RED SPELL SPELLS RED
and countless others) will recognize the obscure Buddhist
incantations, eel barfing, rampaging monsters and bodies
dissolving into masses of insects that populate THE BOXER’S
OMEN. But the fact is you’ll have a difficult time finding
such a mind-roasting mélange of rapid-fire insanity anywhere in
or outside Hong Kong. The only real comparisons are
the outrageous films of Alejandro Jodorowski (like
EL TOPO and
THE HOLY MOUNTAIN)--yes, it’s that weird!
A boxer gets involved with a Buddhist sorcerer while
looking to avenge the murder of his brother; in the process our
hero learns he’s the reincarnation of a sorcerer whose evil
rival remains in action, looking to settle his own ages-old
score. That’s a VERY broad summation of a story so
sprawling, convoluted and plain crazy it nearly defies
description. Rather than going into particulars, I’ll simply
describe some of the film’s more striking elements.
A seemingly normal guy gets waylaid at an airport by a
Buddhist master who takes the guy’s soul, in the form of a bat,
and melts it down to a collection of bones. The master’s
evil rival promptly reforms the bat’s skeleton, which is stomped
to pieces as it tries to hobble out of its resting-place.
The evil master retaliates by gathering a number of spiders
together, has them drink snake venom through tiny straws, and
unleashes them to bite his enemy to death.
Then there’s the evil spirit resurrected by stuffing a
corpse’s mouth with regurgitated food and sewing the body into
the skin of an alligator. And the sacred text that
literally flows from the hero’s body in a magical battle of
wills. Other weapons include disembodied hands, snapping
animal skulls and eyeballs atop hairy stalks that shoot deadly
beams of light. And so on.
The best that can be said about the direction by Chin
Hung Kuei, a Shaw Brothers regular who also made the
aforementioned BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS and ENTER THE SEVEN
VIRGINS, is that the action is kept fast and lurid. As
usual for a Shaw production, exploitation is the name of the
game, and Chin never misses a chance to insert a brutal boxing
match or gratuitous sex scene. Audacity is another of the
film’s virtues, with innumerable low-budget special effects shot
mercilessly from every conceivable angle. Coherency and
restraint are two casualties of Chin’s anything-for-a-thrill
filmmaking; it’s best to simply sit back and let the film’s
relentless barrage of hallucinatory imagery assault you--and
not think too much about it!
THE BOXER’S OMEN (a.k.a. MO)
Shaw Brothers Productions
Director: Chin Hung Kuei
Producers: Mona Fong, Ka Hee Wong
Screenplay: An Situ
Cinematography: Huiqi Cao, Xingye Li, Yunkun Lin
Cast: Phillip Cao, Xiaoyen Lin, Lung Wei Wang, Jiawen Wei, Bolo Yeung