ARROW VIDEO SHAW SCOPE VOLUME 2 BOX SET: My Young Auntie (1981)

Directed by Lau Kar Leung, My Young Auntie introduces us to Cheng Tai-nun (Kara Hui), who has married her master, an elderly landownerm so that the old man could keep his estate from ending up in the greedy hands of his brother Yung-Sheng (Wang Lung Wei) and instead go to his favorite nephew Yu Cheng-chuan (Lau Kar Leung) and his son Yu Tao (Hsiao Ho).

Everyone Cheng Tai-nun meets expects her — an auntie, as the title says — to be an old woman and she’s continually upset by the rudeness of modern China, rudeness that she returns in kind by beating grown men into whimpering pulps. Because this auntie is also a martial arts champion, or course.

The centerpiece of this film is a costume party in which Cheng Tai-nun fights an entire room full of evildoers while dressed in the finest of clothes, using swords, kicks and near-dance like moves to easily best numerous men. It’s like a musical sequence with violence and such a thrill.

Kara Hui is really wonderful in this. She had trained as a dancer, which will be obvious when you watch it, as she’s incredibly graceful even when she’s brutalizing dudes. It’s also kind of awesome to see a Shaw Brothers movie where the entire story revolves around the modern world and how the China of the past must come up to speed with it, including redefining the role of what had been seen as the weaker sex. That said, it’s not a boring message movie. Instead, it’s totally fun.

OTHER WORLDS FILM FESTIVAL: Snatchers (2020)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph Perry writes for the film websites Gruesome Magazine, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel and Diabolique Magazine; for the film magazines Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope and Drive-In Asylum; and for the pop culture websites When It Was Cool and Uphill Both Ways. He is also one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast and can occasionally be heard as a cohost on Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast.

When you’re not laughing out loud at director John Kingman’s science-fiction comedy Snatchers (2020, not to be confused with a film of the same name from 2019), you’ll at the very least be smiling. With spot-on — but generally good-natured — skewering of hipsters and gentrification, Kingman, working from a sharp screenplay by Guy Patton, delivers a fun send-up of the alien body snatcher trope.

Todecky (Blaine Kneece) is an FDA inspector who dreams of becoming an FBI agent. He pines for the Brooklyn he once knew, which is becoming increasingly gentrified, as well as the home to twenty- and thirty-somethings who do such things as run a food cart that cater exclusively to other food cart employees. There is also the time-honored pretentious struggling artist who lives off of his significant other. Brie (Brielle Cotello) once went out on an ill-fated Taxi Driver-themed date with Todecky. Now an aspiring documentary filmmaker working as a janitorial staff member, Brie must team up with Todecky as they try to get to the heart of a mystery involving purple corn with alien mutation that turns people into whatever the purple alien corn equivalent of pod people might be. 

On their wild journey, Todecky and Brie will meet such characters — in the broadest sense of the word — as flamboyant gang leader The White Duke, the lesbian couple who owns the aforementioned specialty food truck, a Mennonite farmer who saw how the alien invasion began, a man and woman who work together but are too shy to admit their mutual affection for each other, and plenty of pod — er, corn — people. 

Snatchers keeps the jokes coming at a rapid pace, and Kneece and Cotello lead an ensemble cast in which the members all nail the quirks of their eccentric characters. It’s a blast, and comes highly recommended. The setting may be Brooklyn, but the targets of the jokes could be from pretty much any city. Also, you’ll have a hard time finding more pickle-related puns in a film than this one.

Snatchers screens as part of  Other Worlds Film Festival, which runs in Austin, Texas from December 1–4, 2022. 

ARROW VIDEO SHAW SCOPE VOLUME 2 BOX SET: Ten Tigers of Kwangtung (1980)

The Ten Tigers of Kwangtung were a collection of Chinese martial artists from Guangdong Province during the Qing dynasty in China. Said to be the greatest fighters in Guangdong during the Qing era, these heroes trace their style to the Southern Shaolin school. Their first film apperance is in Ten Tigers of Shaolin and they even show up in the Jackie Chan movie Around the World in 80 Days, with Sammo Hung acting as Wong Fei-hung.

Directed by Chang Cheh and featuring an all-star cast that includes the Venom Mob, Ti Lung and Fu Sheng. It begins with two mysterious strangers in town who are hunting martial arts masters and killing them with the goal of killing the Tigers and their new disciples.

This may be a confusing movie for some, as the narrative quickly flashes back and forth from yesterday to today. That may be because of its chaotic history, as the movie started filming in 1978 and was restarted again in 1980 utilizing a new crew of actors since some of the cast had left Shaw Brothers.

All that being said, this movie is fun because it has such as cast of stars all in one film and ends with one of the wildest closings in any Shaw Brothers movie, which is really saying something. There are a lot of characters to keep track of and this could have really been ten movies to get through this much material.

ARROW VIDEO SHAW SCOPE VOLUME 2 BOX SET: Magnificent Ruffians (1979)

What good is being the master of a martial arts technique if you have no one left to fight? That’s the question that Yuan Ying Fei (Lu Feng), a master of the Golden Sword technique, must be asking himself. All anyone wants to do is carry a gun now and he can barely convince other martial artists to come to town for his hospitality any longer. That said, he murders them pretty quickly when they do visit, but the guy obivously has issues. He also wants the property of Guan Ah Yu (Lo Meng), who lives at home with his mother, but when he sends henchmen over to knock the guy around, the man many see as a mother’s boy destroys all of them.

Meanwhile, Feng Jia Ji (Sun Chien), He Fei (Chiang Sheng), Yang Zhui Feng (Phillip Chung-Fung) and Zeng Qiao (Wang Li) are other fighters who have fallenon such hard times that in order to eat, they allow the cooks and waiters at restaurants to beat them up.

Yuan Ying Fei gets the idea to hire all four of them to work at his estate and convince them that his rival is a villain. That way, he can marry Guan Ah Yu’s sister without her knowing that he’s the man who killed him. When these five first meet, they all come to realize that they’re kindred spirits — magnificent ruffians — who only care about practicing kung fu.

That’s when the villain sets up Yang Zhui Feng by replacing his weapon with one that explodes on contact. In practice, it kills Guan Ah Yu and he goes on the run, convinced that his friends will think he’s a traitor. Yang Zhui Feng then appears and only He Fei escapes with his life. Of course, the two surviving ruffians will come back together, there will be a final battle against the Golden Sword style and only one man will survive.

The Venom Mob and director Chang Cheh made so many films together, including two more that are in the same era as this, as hand to hand combat gives way to bullets. It’s a good film but probably not the best one of their output to watch first.

ARROW VIDEO SHAW SCOPE VOLUME 2 BOX SET: Mercenaries from Hong Kong (1982)

If the Shaw Brothers made The Dirty Dozen, well…they did. Mercenaries from Hong Kong starts with Luo Li (Ti Lung) killing two criminals who are attacking a young lady, earning the hate of the biggest crime boss in town. He has to leave Hong Kong before he’s killed but then He Ying (Yu On-On) offers to erase the price on his head. All he has to do is go to Cambodia and find Naiwen (Phillip Ko), the man who killed her father.

To do that, he needs an army. What he gets is a crew that includes explosives king Brand (Nat Chan), knife expert Ruan (Michael Chan Wai Man), gunsmith Lei (Lo Lieh), hand to hand expert Hung Fan (Wang Lung Wei) and a thief by the name of Curry (Wong Yu), all working together to get $1 million each if they successfully complete their mission.

Directed by Wong Jing (God of Gamblers, City Hunter), the last twenty minutes of this movie are absolutely berserk with double crosses, battles in public, a knife throwing backpack, a car blowing up real good, a tragic ending and a grenade death that blew my mind, well…this movie is everything I wanted it to be and so much I had no idea that I needed even more.

ARROW VIDEO SHAW SCOPE VOLUME 2 BOX SET: Martial Arts of Shaolin (1986)

The only collaboration between film director Lau Kar-leung and actor Jet Li, Martial Arts of Shaolin has Li playing Lin Zhi-ming, a young man training to become one of the best fighters in the Northern Shaolin school. Orphaned as a child, he was raised by the Shaolin Temple but has a tendency to break the rules, such as teaching his skills to the local children. One day, he learns that two of them will be performing a dance at the celebration for magistrate He Suo — the very same tyrant who killed Zhi-ming’s family. He asks them to let him perform instead. At the same time, Si-ma Yan (Huang Qiuyan) — the niece of the master of Southern Shaolin — decides that this is the time that she too should finally avenge her family and murder He Suo.

The secret ankle band that Zhi-ming has is shared by Si-ma Yan, meaning that they are fated to be together. However, he is honor bound to the Shaolin and even after being caught by his master, he agrees to serve a punishment as he went against his school. This means that he can never be with her, but again, duty to the Shaolin is above all else.

This is actually the third film in a series that includes Shaolin Temple and Kids from Shaolin. You don’t need to see those movies to understand this, as it can stand all by itself. Actually, it’s pretty close to the original film’s plot.

DISMEMBERCEMBER: Elves (1989)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of my favorite holiday movies and one I dream that Vinegar Syndrome releases. This was first on the site on December 20, 2017.

Sometimes, I watch movies in the middle of the night, after working long shifts of meetings, copywriting and brainstorming. Whatever brains that still exist in the mush and at this late hour are often exposed to sheer lunacy via films that I find on YouTube. When I awaken, my first thought is often, “Was that movie real or a nightmare?”

Elves is one of those films.

Kirsten and her friends innocently take part in an anti-Christmas pagan ritual in the woods, but then she cuts her hand and awakens a demonic elf who ends up being part of a Nazi plot to create the master race that Hitler always dreamed of. Yep, instead of the pure Aryan Nietzsche paradigm, the Führer dreamed of a world where human and elf hybrids would populate the globe.

Through one of those moments of perfect horror movie luck, Kirsten is the last pure Aryan virgin on earth. Nope, this isn’t a post-apocalyptic film. That’s just the way things are these days. Her grandfather was once a part of all of this, but he’s since reformed. Oh, he’s also her father, because inbreeding was a big part of keeping the bloodline pure.

But hey, Kirsten has no idea that any of this is going on. She’s just trying to get through the hell of holiday retail, working in a department store. That’s where she meets Mike McGain (Dan Haggerty, TV’s Grizzly Adams), an alcoholic homeless ex-cop who takes over for the store’s Santa Claus when the original is killed by an evil elf. Yes, I just wrote that sentence, perhaps the most batshit crazy one I’ve ever assembled in all my years of writing.

Mike starts living in the store, eating food that he steals from the snack bar where Kirsten works. One night, he saves her when the Nazis come to the store and kill all of her friends.

Will Kirsten survive? What does her mom think about all of this? Have you ever wanted to see a movie where an elf electrocutes a woman in a bathtub? What the fuck is an elfstone anyway? These and several other questions will and won’t be answered.

This is a film rich with purely inane and insane dialogue, including a lecherous cocaine using Santa that states, “Santa said oral!” and our heroine bemoaning that her only friend is a cat. There’s also a great scene where Mike goes to see a professor during a holiday dinner and the man describes how elves and Nazis are having this big ritual and incestual sex bloodlines in front of his children.

Geek note: Mike goes to the library and asks what the Dewey Decimal System Number is for the occult. The answer? 666. Nope. The real number would be 130, the code for books on parapsychology and the supernatural.

Is this film any good? Fuck no, it’s horrible. And I loved it. It’s my holiday gift to you and I’m so happy to share such a patently warped film with all of you.

Also, was this film inspired by The Little People, the potboiler that inspired Paperbacks from Hell?

It’s also never come out on DVD, an amazing thing in an age where nearly everything has been released. Luckily, the VHSPS crew have things covered!

ARROW VIDEO SHAW SCOPE VOLUME 2 BOX SET: Mad Monkey Kung Fu (1979)

Monkey style master Chen (Chia-Liang Liu AKA this film’s director Lau Kar-leung) has been tricked by gangster and brothel-owner Tuan (Lo Lieh), who uses his wife to act as if Chen has become so drunk that he’s assaulted her. The punishment for this heinous crime? Death. Death or Chen’s sister (Kara Wei) giving herself to Tuan and working in his house of ill repute for the rest of her life. As if that isnn’t bad enough, Tuan ruins Chen’s hands forever. He has destroyed his family, his spirit and his ability to perform kung fu.

Years later, Chen is sober and better known as a candy seller along with his monkey Ah Mao. A young thief named Monkey (Hsiao Ho) is watching him when some criminals attack him as he performs for some children. Monkey steals the money back and brings a meal to the old man to repay him for what he has gone through. Those same crooks return and kill Ah Mao, swinging the poor monkey by the tail and smashing his little body into a tree. Chen refuses to allow Monkey to get revenge, even physically stopping him from doing so and losing all of his money again.

Monkey soon begins to train with Chen and, much like many a Shaw Brothers story, he believes that he is strong enough way too quickly. Sure, he easily defeats the criminals, but when he faces Tuan, he barely escapes with his life. The only reason he lives is because Chen’s sister sacrifices her life so that he can run away.

At this point, the training begins again with both men needing revenge and learning that together, they are the equal of anyone.

This movie is great, packed with so many training scenes of how you learn monkey kung fu, as well as a deep sense of sadness, as Chen deals with so many slights and yet remains a moral man. The monkey death is absolutely terrible to watch and makes you want revenge perhaps more than any film in Shaw Brothers history.

ARROW VIDEO SHAW SCOPE VOLUME 2 BOX SET: Five Superfighters (1978)

A kung-fu expert named Ma (Kwan Fung) is meeting local masters and teaching them that his abilities are the strongest and by that, I mean that he keeps kicking the ass of hapless fighters. Three of those fighters and their master are destroyed by him and they lose their faith in their skills and seek out a new master to teach them how to get revenge.

From learning crane style to a kicking lesson from a bean curd seller and discovering the skills of pole fighting from a fisherman, the three students expand their skills while their teacher alternates between drinking and becoming a sword fighter.

This might not be the finest of the Shaw Brothers movies, but even an ordinary film from this story is extraordinary by comparison to a normal film.

ARROW VIDEO SHAW SCOPE VOLUME 2 BOX SET: The Kid With the Golden Arm (1979)

Any time you see the words Chang Chen and Venom Mob together, well, you can ignore all the words I will write after this and just run and watch the movie. I’ve never been let down and this one is really something else.

Yang Hu Yun (Sun Chien) has been assigned to safely take a cargo of gold to a poor area of the country dealing with famine, which is all the Chi Sha gang — Iron Robe (Wang Lung Wei), Brass Head (Yang Hsiung), Silver Spear (Lu Feng) and Golden Arm (Lo Meng) — need to hear. They’re taking that gold and there’s nothing that Yang and his crew — Li Chin Ming (Wei Pai), Ming’s girlfriend Leng Feng (Helen Poon), Long Axe Yang Jiu (Shu Pei Sun), Short Axe Fang Shih (Chiang Sheng) and Hai Tao (Kuo Chui) can do about it.

This movie is filled with twists, turns, poison darts, axe martial artists fighting over who can kill more enemies, Golden Arm unarmed combat so powerful he can bend weapons and shatter swords with his body, a rivlrey beween Hai Tao and Li Chin Ming, a mystery fighter called Iron Feet, flirting between Hai Tao and Leng Feng, roasting someone alive to get the poison out of their system, the gang carving their name into someone’s back, blood spraying all over the place, a spear impalement, a bad guy reconsidering his ways and a shock ending. Seriously, this is a movie filled with death, heel turns and yes, so much fighting.

It’s just as awesome as it sounds. I’ve seen some say the story is pretty thin but when there’s this much going on, I doubt you’ll notice.