Posts Tagged ‘martial arts’

"The Crippled Masters" Movie Poster

And this, folks, is exactly why I started this semi-regular “international weirdness” series here. Once in awhile you come across a movie so bizarre, so completely without redeeming social or even narrative value, so exploitative, and so utterly out-and-out wrong that all you can do is stand back and gawk in amazement, as if you were at a freak show  — and given that exploitation cinema does, in fact, have its roots in roadshow cinema, which in turn has its roots is the carny/freak show circuit,  the circle sort of completes itself with movies like the 1979 Taiwanese martial arts/cripsploitation classic Tian Can De Que, or, as it’s known in English,  The Crippled Masters .

It’s debatable how much you even need to actually know about this film before you watch it, since the plot makes no sense, the credits are completely unclear as to which actor plays which part, and the whole thing is sort of indescribable anyway. The more I tell you, the more it’ll just spoil the experience of a film best taken in with absolutely no preconceptions whatsoever.

Which is, I guess, sort of me taking the easy way out as a reviewer, especially since my point here is to get you to see The Crippled Masters immediately (assuming you haven’t already done so, that is). And I do have some sort of semi-professional responsibility to tell you what the damn thing is about, don’t I?

Well, I guess I do. But I really think anything other than the briefest and most cursory rundown is going to just ruin things. Suffice to say we’re talking about a flick where two guys (supposedly brothers) are crippled by some bad-ass warlord-type dude in some vaguely-defined (to put it kindly) “ancient time” and, after learning to overcome their handicaps and mastering some secret old-school kung fu techniques come back to exact their revenge.

The thing that sets The Crippled Masters apart, though, is that the two lead actors actually are crippled — and their deformities are quite clearly not the work of an ancient warlord but of some serious congenital defects. But damn if they really don’t have some fighting moves every bit as authentic as their deformities.

And now I’m going to shut up and let a few still from the film do all the talking, apart from briefly mentioning that The Crippled Masters is avaiable as a bare-bones, bargain-basement DVD from Diamond (pictured below) that you can find on Amazon marketplace or eBay for a buck or two and, if this sort of thing is, in fact, your sort of thing, you’re going to thank me for turning you onto this flick.  Simply put, you will not believe your eyes.  And with that,  I’m just going to shut up and get out of the way.

Rareflix Vol. 4, Featuring "Boogie Vision, "Transformed" and "Lightning Bolt"

Rareflix Vol. 4, Featuring "Boogie Vision, "Transformed" and "Lightning Bolt"

—transformed into Christian action heroes, that is! Yes, folks, blaxploitation veteran Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and second-tier martial arts star Leo Fong staged a comeback in 2005, but you probably missed it if you weren’t looking too closely. Williamson, star of classics like “Bucktown,” and Fong, star of less-than-classics like “Revenge Of The Bushido Blade” got themselves some old-time religion and re-emerged in the 2005 Jesus-vs.-the-drug-lords modern cinematic parable “Transformed.”

The mean streets of Westgate (which look to be Los Angeles suburbs) are the setting for this tale of—ahem!—intrigue , corruption and redemption, the debut (and to date only, as near as I can tell) directorial effort of Efren C. Pinon, who, if he plays his cards right (if his religion allows him to play cards at all, that is) could very well become the Ron Ormond of the 21st century—and who wouldn’t aspire to that lofty goal?

Westgate is a city besieged by the scourge of illegal narcotics, and while exactly which drugs are tearing the community apart isn’t spelled out (in a Christian flick apparently just saying the word “drugs” will do), the goal of the evil dope-pushing syndicate is apparently to get every kid in town hooked on their product (again, whatever that nameless product may be).

Enter Pastor Debra (Shirlee Knudson), a plucky young lady of the cloth who’s determined to win back her church’s neighborhood, and then the city, from the pushers, lead by the ruthless Cholo (Ken Moreno), a guy who’s apparently dealing drugs to provide a better life for his young son—by getting all the boy’s friends hooked. That little dichotomy doesn’t seem to bother Cholo much, though, and why should it? He’s got friends in high places, including none other than the mayor himself, who are all in for a piece of Cholo’s action and look the other way while he turns the children of the city into hopeless dope fiends.

Pastor Debra is no pushover, however—she’s evidently one of those hip, modern preachers who isn’t above engaging in some hardboiled martial arts action if that’s what it takes to keep the kids in her community safe. Watching her and her friends beat up the pushers in a local bar and then high-fiving each other and saying “praise Jesus!” really is a sight to behold, and I’d venture to guess you won’t find anything like it in any other movie ever made—which probably isn’t such a bad thing, in and of itself, but you have to give Pinon and the other folks behind “Transformed” some credit for not being afraid to be unintentionally absurd.

Our tough-as-nails pastor has some friends in high places, too—the mysterious aged ninja-type known only as The Fist (Fong), who always seems to show up when trouble is at hand, and the equally-aged-but-no-less tough mercenary warrior known as The Hammer (Williamson), a top-dollar freelance operative brought in by a secret unnamed group of good guys to provide help in Westgate’s hour of need.

It won’t be an easy fight—the whole city power structure is lined up against our good pastor, the local DEA office is on the take, and secret computer files reveal that the drug network reaches all the way to the top, with President George W. Rush (yes, really) and Vice President Dick Chaney (yes, really again) named among the nefarious network’s head honchos.

The hand of God has a way of intervening in these things, though (apparently often through tragedy), and when Cholo’s son O.D.’s on product supplied to the school kids by old man’s network, he lets Jesus into his heart while he prays by his comatose kid’s hospital bed (hence the “Transformed” title) and now Pastor Debra and her mystery men have a powerful ally on the inside and are ready to take down the dealers and their ninja army (well, okay, it’s just a few ninjas, and they look pretty old and slow themselves, but it’s the thought that counts).

I don’t know how else to say it, folks, “Transformed” is one of those things you’ve just got to see to believe. Scripture-quoting badass preacher lady and her arthritic protectors taking on a drug network that reaches all the way to the White House yet is apparently inept enough to be brought down by essentially a handful of concerned neighbors, albeit concerned neighbors who know how to fight. The seasoned action exploitation fan will find a lot to like here, people who  like just plain  weird movies will find a more-than-generous amount of  jaw-dropping moments, and everyone else will wonder, probably quite rightly I might add, just how this thing got made, and more importantly — why?

“Transformed” never got a theatrical release and I couldn’t even find any movie poster or stills for the thing to include in this review. It is, however, available on DVD, as you can tell from the photo at the top of this post, as part of the “Rareflix Volume 4” box set from Media Blasters. For those who haven’t been picking them up, I have to say that the Rareflix sets are not only a bargain, they’re also a blast. Volume 4 features James Bryan’s “Groove Tube”/”Kentucky Fried Movie”-style comedy “Boogie Vision” and Antonio Margheriti’s spaghetti Bond rip-off “Lightning Bolt” in addition to “Transformed.” The extras on the set are pretty light (the hysterical commentaries featuring various semi-inebriated Media Blasters behind-the-scenes personnel that featured on the first two volumes are sadly missing), but “Transformed” does include a commentary from Leo Fong and each disc is packed with previews for other cool Media Blasters titles, so it’s still a damn solid value for your entertainment dollar.