The Boxer's Omen (1983)
Director: Kuei Chih-Hung
Starring: Phillip Ko Fei, Elvis Tsui Kam-Kong, Johnny Wang Lung-Wei, Cheung Chok-Chow
After his brother is crippled in a Thai Boxing match with champion boxer Bu Bo (Bolo Yeung), Chan Hung (Phillip Ko Fei) starts getting visions of a monk who appears to him in his dreams and also helps get him out of a tight spot. Travelling to Thailand to track down Bo on a promise to his brother to get revenge, he is drawn to the temple that was the source of his visions and becomes involved in a battle of Bhuddism vs Black Magic due to a link to his past life.
There are the usual training scenes, but the battle scenes are something else. I am being deliberately vague as it is best that you see the movie yourself. I could tell you what happens but you wouldn’t believe it or think I was exaggerating.
The director made a number of black magic and action films for Shaw Brothers, but this was the one where he got to go all out and it was one of his last films as a director. He also came up with the story, which does have elements that were based in reality such as the Abbott being “preserved” after death and being covered in gold leaf by his followers and the various locations used.
While there are people in this film, the real stars of the movie are the critters and the special effects. I know they are meant to be scary, but they come across as so over the top and theatrical that they become something more than the film. The first exposure to this movie for a lot of people came when group the Animal Collective mentioned the URL to the Youtube clip of the first battle scene in a magazine interview (since taken down) and it was the first part of the movie I saw also.
The black magic practitioners are meant to be the bad guys, but they don’t seem to be so bad as you never see what they are trying to do. The monks have a rod up their arse sometimes, Phillip Ko gets his end wet once with his missus after the first battle and suddenly he has “lost all his power”. C’mon! Can’t you give him special dispensation?
I did like the critters as they looked like they would be fun to hang out with if they were not trying to kill you. The bats are very floppy and plastic looking, the spiders are cute and drink through straws, the snapping crocodile skulls are a bit dumb, but like to play fetch with chicken guts, there is a big crocodile who is menacing, but gets stuck in small gaps. At one point the hero gets held down and menaced by fuzzy caterpillars who look like they are tickling him. He also gets a killer nipple cripple in one scene.
None too sure about the killing animals on screen though, they don’t actually show the chicken’s head being cut off but you see a head drop. I am well aware it is part of the shock value of some of these movies to show live animal deaths just to get a reaction out of the audience. Most of the animals here are fake so its is not as big a thing.
I do not even know how they managed to get the actors to do some of the things in this movie, as in chew raw chicken guts, cut the arse off a chicken, chew it and throw it up, pass it on to the next person to chew on or lie naked under a swarm of maggots. If you just vomited in your mouth, then this is probably not the film for you.
There are a series of these sorts of movies form Hong Kong in the 1980s and they do seem interesting and something different from the normal kung fu, comedies or dramas that I have seen in the past. I will try to see more of these movies in the future as I enjoyed this one.
I would almost recommend this movie for kids if it wasn’t for the nudity and some of the gorier scenes, it almost reminds me of the Japanese movie House in that it never seems to change its tone even with the scenes that are meant to be serious. It does have the same magical quality to it that makes it special and one that I would recommend to people who are burnt out on the usual fare and what something very different.