Schlocktober 2019: War of the Wizards | The Big Picture

Schlocktober 2019: War of the Wizards | The Big Picture


Alright, so here’s one of those entries
that’s at once so difficult to explain in and of itself and also relatively obscure
enough (in this hemisphere, anyway) that my Schlocktober “job” is pretty much done
just by skipping to the fun parts and hitting “play” …which means I can take a minute
upfront to talk some shop. So…I try to watch as many different kinds of
movies from as many different cultures from all over the world from as many different
eras as possible. I cast a wide net. Very wide net. I’ve seen movies from all over North and
South India, Pakistan, Iranian films, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, Cuba pre and post Revolutionary,
Soviet Russia, modern Russia, both Koreas including the stuff Kim Jong orders up…
movies from all over Eastern Europe, South America, Unlicensed Ugandan Terminator movie? Seen it. Unlicensed Mortal Kombat movie from Ghana? Seen
it “Obey my instruction.” – pretty good, too… But you’ve probably noticed that Schlocktober
tends to land on American films, english-language films and foreign films of the sort that got frequently play in Western genre cinema for the most part: Japanese, Chinese, Italian, and here and there I’ve
shown a few from Mexico and Indonesia movies. So, why not show a fuller variety of what I’ve
collected? A few reasons; but the main one is that because
the show is humorous I don’t want to be telling jokes without proper context and I’m not
totally comfortable that I know enough about every culture I see films from and I don’t
want to be doing jokes from a place of ignorance or insensitivity where I can avoid it. What I mean is, it’s one thing to do “Ha ha! Thats funny because it’s weird!” and jokes
like that when I recognize something is genuinely odd, it’s another to be doing “Ha ha! That’s funny because it’s weird!” when
actually it’s a common or even important aspect of someone’s culture I simply didn’t
recognize and then I’m, y’know, both coming off like a dumbass and (more importantly)
insulting people or whole cultures. And I don’t wanna do that, this a happy
subseries. So basically, Schlocktober get’s more “worldly”
as I do. “Do you know the importance of good books and how they can benefit you?” Now case in point! This week’s movie, while released in the
west in 1983 dubbed into English (sort of?) as “War of the Wizard,” is actually a
1978 film from Taiwan called “Phoenix.” For historical context for my (primarily,
I think still?) English-speaking western viewers, Taiwan is
an island state in Southeast Asia And, since 1949 Chinese Civil War has been the seat of
power for the self-declared Kuomintang Republic of China government-in-exile that was ousted
by the current mainland government the People’s Republic of China (which claims the island as part of itself) does not recognize
Taiwan’s government as… “existing” basically and often avoids conducting various relationships
with nations that do. On the entertainment side, that’s meant
that Taiwan has seen it’s national cinema evolve in unusual ways. But in the 80s, Taiwan was very into, however briefly,
cranking out movies like Phoenix aka “War of the Wizards,” i.e. big-budget (for the
time and place) fantasy action romance magical monster-movie fairytale spectacles grounded
in national folklore and Chinese mythology that kind of have to be seen to be believed… But, then not understood because tt’s kind of hard to find dubbed or even
subtitled version of these or much writing on them for context. But! This one, somehow, for some reason, got released
in English, in the 80s a few years after it was made – lucky us – and I mean that: This is a fun one. [laughing] “Don’t worry you will find out.” Okay! So, with the preface that I’m not an expert
on Taiwanese literature or traditional folklore specifically so if this story does have a
singular source by all means correct me; the “plot” of this appears to be a loose combination
of Chinese fairytale The Magic Pot, the better known folk legend The White Snake along with
other fixtures of Taoist and Buddhist mythos and elements you might recognize from Journey
into the West. It’s about a slacker bookworm fisherman
named Tai in an unspecified ancient Taiwanese river village who happens upon a magical golden
bowl that can conjure treasure out of nothing. “This is pure magic.” Which he immediately uses to become a big
shot rich guy and impress his idiot friends as Ancient China’s version of that guy from
Entourage. “I could buy this restaurant…this whole place. With a snap of my finger.” “Right, buy it. Buy the house.” “Can you buy this place? You’re a very rich fellow.” …Sadly, since being in a Chinese fantasy
movie means you haven’t seen any, Tai is surprised when word of a clueless moron having
an infinite money machine immediately summons a succession of nicknamed kung-fu super-criminals. “Okay, Pal. I’ve heard you have a rare–” …wait a second. “So you are…” “Deadly chopsticks money is my game. You just think about this. You know I could nail you hide to the wall with these deadly chopsticks.” “But, I would probably die.” “Yes, but if you want to live–” …this is legitimately funny “These chopsticks are too thick.” …and appropriately
well time, and self aware “Alright, all these weapons are quite deadly. But, I Killer Palm Force can kill without a trace.” …is this movie actually good “I can see that you think Palm Force is deadly.” No, no it’s not. But this part is funny! “Two heroes, wait please.” “Can’t you tell the difference between hero and heroine?” Okay so Tai get’s saved by two smoking hot
Ninjas-but-not-Ninjas (because this isn’t Japan) sisters who also showed up out of nowhere
and immediately agree to be his live-in bodyguards which is not suspicious at all because, again,
Tai is an idiot. …because it also takes him like a day to fall for this: “A rich man should be married. What do you think of my sister Violet?” “We depend on each other. She can’t be left alone. Do you understand?” though he
does call one hell of a bluff… “You don’t have to worry. Why the three of us–” “You are saying? You would prefer to marry both of us?” “Wait, please.” “Violet, if it doesn’t bother you it doesn’t bother me. I feel very good about his proposal.” Game recognize game, Tai. But on the wedding day, two Taoist priests
attempt to stop the wedding using anti-evil counterspells – claiming the sisters are not
what they seem… “Help me.” but then Tai is like “Well, on the one hand actual working, light-side magic is
zapping them away from the Holy Temple right in front of my eyes, that seems like a bad sign… But on the hand? Wedding night sex with ninja sisters!” [singing] “I have to risk it all…” “They’re safe.” “Logical.” But, okay so long story short: The sisters are
bad guys, henchwomen of a yet-unseen arch-villainess (whom we’re now hearing about for the first
time) who’s dispatched them to get the magic bowl and the Taoist priests (who, based on
their costuming and abilities, may or may not have been intended to be specific demigods
or representational figures of the Taoist Yin and Yang concepts themselves) are trying
to stop them – the effects used to reveal this are… not great in the only available
VHS transfers but I think the girls are meant to be Fox Spirits; as their Mistress appears
and identifies as “Flower Fox.” “What luck to find Flower Fox. This time you won’t get away from us.” That’s Betty Pei Dee by the way, also known as “Betty
Ting,” she was a big deal actress all over China in the 70s – tragically, her whole career
and persona were very much overshadowed by having been Bruce Lee’s mistress and whose apartment
Lee had in fact died in; leading to her being the focus of grotesque conspiracy theories
and media hounding for many years. Very Sad. Anyway the girls have decided that Tai is
nice because he didn’t let the Tao guys hurt them and they no longer want to be evil
(sure?) so Flower Fox takes them back to her villain
lair to be guarded by guest Western actor Richard Kiel (which I… guess explains the
English release even though he never speaks and appears to just be playing Jaws again
but if he forgot whether he was going to the costume party as Aladdin or Shrek?) …and Tai gets rescued by “The Phoenix” (which, yes, people actually from or aware
of East Asian folklore that’s obviously supposed to be “Fenghuang” The Great Bird
of Chinese Mythology a composite of pheasant, duck, peacock, crane, parrot and swallow – I
didn’t do the translation) which deposits him on top of “The Fairy Mountain” where
he meets an Old Man who agrees to teach him how to defeat Flower Fox because reasons. Given the name “Fairy Mountain” from the
translation, I’m given to think this meant to be the “Kunlun Mountains” bordering
the gardens of Xuanpu “Fairy Lands” or “Heavens” which possibly makes this old
man The Supreme Deity, so… yeah. Anyway, Flower Fox is gonna kill everyone. “Take a look inside you vessel.” “You drown me or Tow you do us a favor.” …Why am I rooting for you again? You were only sympathetic when you were a
simp and pathetic – now I guess you’re a Jedi and you’re just a dick? Anyway, Tai gets a magic sword and it’s
time to fight bad guys and save the world. Yeah, great, but once he loses even
half of a heart piece it won’t do that anymore. Just kidding, it’s actually solar powered! …which means Richard Kiel gains the advantage in the very next scene by the brilliant strategy
of fighting indoors. Okay that was kinda cool… and likewise,
this whole final duplicate fight versus Flower Fox? “Doesn’t matter to me. I will be the world’s ruler.” I means it’s completely stupid looking…
but that must’ve taken forever to figure out without digital FX tools, respect. And, so the day is saved! And Tai learns… a lesson? “Sacred Ones, please wait. Violet wait. Stop, stop don’t go. Sacred Ones please wait.” “We’re one are way to heaven. Come along.” [laughing] “I’m coming with you.” “You gained tremendous knowledge and great skillful powers. Be satisfied!” As I said, there’s very little information out
there about what this or other 80s Taiwanese sword and sorcery movies were, or the purpose behind them other than to make money, or their production history, or even what audiences thought of them at the time. At least in English of published on the English language internet – it
was a brief and not well-documented rush of production, that much is know. But it did happen, and this proves it.

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  1. We're releasing this one a few days due to some monetization issues on the Big Picture video that was supposed to go out today. You can watch Thursday's YT episode a few days early at the link, if you'd like: https://www.escapistmagazine.com/v2/2019/10/08/is-joker-actually-about-anything-the-big-picture/

  2. That scene where those deadly warriors kept killing each other was too funny and clever for a movie this ridiculous…

  3. Schloctober has lowkey been my favorite MovieBob series for a long time. Such bizarre movies I'd likely never get exposed to.

  4. It's rather terrifying and unfortunate how little information is out there about this film and its contemporaries. The Chinese government is doing a scarily through job suppressing information they don't like.

  5. For some reason Chinese stories love making the main character a jerk,
    don't know if it's the same for Taiwanese stories. Source: The bits of Journey to
    the West I know and a bunch of fan translated Chinese web novels.

  6. I wonder if the folks who made Kull the Conqueror watched this. Yes I know, Kull is a R.E. Howard character. There just seems to be some superficial similarities.

  7. Hey, Bob. If you want to dive deeper into the "modern" Russian cinema, the beautiful representatives of which are now extremely rare, you can contact me.)

  8. So the protagonist in the end gets his two potential wives stolen by two old monks who whisk them off to heaven and cast the protag back to earth in his hometown naked with the gift of more knowledge and power. This dude got shafted hard

  9. Over in the Brightest Timeline Ang Lee hates high frame rate and instead does a remake of this movie with amazing special effects and awesome kung fu. Why do I have to live in the Darkest Timeline?

  10. I would totally watch a movie about increasingly outlandish supervillains murdering each other just to shake down one guy.

  11. I adore Schlocktober, because it has given me so many movies that I love to share with others. So far, I've found both Neon Maniacs and Ship of Monsters, and adore them. Thanks, Bob, for the great recommendations – this sounds like it's gonna go right into my movie collection.

  12. Anyone else hope that Thor: Love and Thunder will look kinda like this with a bigger budget and obviously Norse influenced magic stuff?

  13. My brother in law walked in while i was watching this Big Picture episode, and was so enamored with the madness on screen, he looked it up to watch it asap! Lol XD

  14. Treasure spewing pots, pretty ninja women, magic god swords, and flashy costumes? Where can I find this Tai and how can I switch lives with him?

  15. Wait, after all that he doesn't even get the ninja chicks and they get kidnapped by the monks that tried to kill them earlier in the film to have god know what done to them…… that's dark.

  16. Bob… literally every single member of my parents' generation who didn't marry into the family was born and raised in China, I caught an astounding amount of Chinese television growing up, and there is an entire neighborhood right in the middle of downtown Honolulu dedicated to Chinese food, community, art, and writing, that I have spend much, much time in… and you have displayed greater knowledge of Chinese culture in one flipping video than I've garnered in my entire life.

    Then again, I'm the guy who learned about Romance of the Three Kingdoms from a PS2 game, so… life is a funny thing. Not unlike this movie.

  17. The Presiden't Analist (1967) also does a great version of the trail of assassins gimmick, and is also a wonderfully bizarre movie if you're into that sort of thing.

  18. Taiwan is home to some of the best filmmakers in the world today, at least it was, until one of them died, another retired, and another one takes forever to make a movie.

    On an unrelated note, Ang Lee is also from Taiwan.

  19. Seeing Betty always make me sad (related to Bruce Lee's death). She's pretty so it's understandable why bruce lee was attracted to her.

  20. (Bad guys taking each other out) I'm sorry but is there a line outside? Also "dude their evil" "yeah but their hot"

  21. 9:00 It would be hilarious if he ended up with one of the sisters and the only speaking line he has is.

    “Well, to us.”

  22. Bob, you’ve shown me a lot of movies in the days of October. As a huge fan of martial arts movies, Kung Fu, Chinese culture, and fantasy, this just shot up to the top of my watch list.

  23. Hmmm. Divine magic that can only harm evil spirits works on them. It probably just means the gods are jealous about me getting two magical ninja waifus so I'm going to ignore it.

  24. Does anyone have a link to the assassins scene? Or any scenes from this I keep running into the Ralph Baskhi movie.

    Heck I'll take a link to the whole thing if you got that.

  25. The dish seems to be based on an old story called The Magic Pot. Basically, whatever you put in the pot is doubled. For example, if you pour 1 cup of rice in 2 cups of rice will come out. In the version I read the owner finds out that the secret to the pot is a dragon's pearl inside of it and they end up returning it to the dragon. Because morals are important in Chinese folk tales.

  26. You know it would be really cool if you talked about how you find this stuff—is there a website/websites, is most of it physical, or do you get it from a variety of sources?

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