Arguably the definitive Shaw Brothers’ horror flick, this superior sequel played 42nd street theatres under the title: Revenge of the Zombies. It’s a grindhouse classic. You want blood-caked satanic rituals? Maggot-ridden corpses? Sexy voodoo girls? Pus-spurting neck boils? More spell-slinging sorcery than a Harry Potter marathon? You got ’em, my friend. All that plus the legendary Lo Lieh as super-slimy black magic pimp-daddy Mr. Kang Kong.
Things kick off with a double dose of sex and death. At a remote village outside Kuala Lumpur, a group of local lasses go skinny-dipping in the nearby river, until a rampaging rubber crocodile kills one unfortunate girl. Whereupon a crazy-haired good guy wizard (Yeung Chi Hing) disembowels the river reptile and returns the girl’s remains for a decent burial. Welcome to Malaysia! Handsome surgeon Chang Peng (Ti Lung) and his medically skilled wife Qi Ling (sexploitation regular ]Tanny Tien Ni, who gets more to do besides take her clothes off this time round) alight off the plane to stay with their friends Margaret (kung fu queen Lily Li) and Chen Cheng (Liu Yung), who mentions strange things are happening around town. Sure enough Chang’s patients include a woman plagued with pulsating ulcers and an old man with bugs crawling around his innards. What the hell is going on?
Our answer arrives with our first glimpse of Kang Kong at the funky nightclub where he eyeballs sexy dancer Miss Hong (Terry Liu, formerly “Princess Dragon-Mom” in Super Infra-Man (1975)), shaking her stuff in a gold-spangled string-bikini. Back at his swinging satanic bachelor pad, Kong strips her naked… then yanks a six inch spike from the back of her head! Miss Hong shrivels into a hideous zombie. Kong is a man with evil on his mind, a basement full of inflatable undead hotties, a cupboard full of clay voodoo dolls, a cult load of hooded acolytes, and more spells than Samantha from Bewitched. He’s really eighty years old, relying on a diet of breast milk to keep young and healthy, and woe betide anyone who gets in his way. Sceptical city slickers Chang and Qi stay non-believers even after Chen shows them an old black magic book that has a hilarious picture of Kong gawping at boobs.
His sights set on Margaret, Kong sends her a bouquet of poison roses and hangs a dead cat from her garden tree. Such unorthodox courtship rituals backfire for most of us, but Kong’s spell lures Margaret back to his fog-shrouded haunted house, where he lovingly shaves her private parts and feeds her an oil boiled from her own pubic hair. Never let it be said, Kong doesn’t know how to wine and dine a lady. Sure enough, Kong suckles Margaret’s breast milk, then (no doubt figuring the opportunity is there, so why not?) shags her every which way for good measure. Close-ups on heaving breasts, thighs and bottoms provided by Shaw Brothers’ roster of sex starlets employed to provide nudity so top actresses like Lily Li won’t sully their good name. The morning after, poor Margaret awakens with a swollen belly. Emergency surgery removes a mutant foetus leaving her comatose from shock. Which is when Chen, Qi and Chang team-up to set a trap for Kong. But the wily wizard suspects something is up and sneaks a drop of Chen’s blood…
Everything works better part two. It’s gorier, sleazier, boasts an eerier atmosphere aided by stylishly satanic sets and slick supernatural set-pieces, and gives the starry cast a little more to get their teeth into. Ti Lung is rather more dashing this time round and it’s a welcome surprise to see Tanny Tien Ni and Lily Li tackle such atypical roles. But the show is stolen by leery Lo Lieh as the truly reprehensible villain, his sliminess accentuated by his garishly tasteless mid-Seventies wardrobe. Thereafter, Lo Lieh became Hong Kong’s premier creepy horror movie guy, sadly eclipsing his days as a dashing hero in Magnificent Trio (1968) and Five Fingers of Death (1972). After a run of sweaty psychopaths in such cult horrors as Human Skin Lanterns (1982), Lieh surprised audiences all over again with wacky comedic antics in films like Buddha’s Palm (1982), Little Dragon Maiden (1983) and Family Light Affair (1984). An all-rounder who excelled at martial arts, comedy and straight drama, his last role was in Glass Tears (2001), an art-house drama well received at the Cannes Film Festival, prior to his death in 2003.
Lieh brings a sly sense of humour to a sub-plot wherein disco stud Zhang (Frankie Wei) asks Kang to put the love whammy on none other than Miss Hong. Clearly amused, Kang bilks the berk for $10,000 and fixes him up with the walking corpse. A pair of pervy hotel clerks spy on their lovemaking, but swiftly throw up after a Buddhist charm worn around Zhang’s neck turns Miss Hong back into a hideous hag in mid-shag! “You want a refund? No way!” laughs Kang. When Zhang tries to blackmail him, Kang reveals he is already under his spell. Zhang’s skin, hair and nails fall off before he putrefies spectacularly in front of a city skyscraper. A nice visualisation of this film’s - and indeed most of Hong Kong horror’s - dominant theme.
The clash between old world values and new, with city slickers adrift in a world governed by freakish superstitions (unfathomable to them, let alone flabbergasted western viewers) that governs proceedings while the overriding tone is one of gleeful excess. Bugs and slime erupt from every human orifice. Drooling zombies plunge their heads between screaming women’s thighs. Kang drives spikes through his face and palms or slices his tongue to spit a jet-stream of magic blood. The good guy wizard rips out his own eyeballs and feeds them to Chang, turning him into a super-duper kung fu dynamo. Shaw Brothers spent the next few years trying to top this with even more over-the-top concoctions aimed at strong-stomached horror fans, sometimes succeeding with the near-psychedelic The Boxer’s Omen (1983) or the nauseating Seeding of a Ghost (1983), and occasionally getting downright nasty as in Ho Meng-hua’s The Rape After (1976).
Here, Ho Meng-hua strikes the right balance and pulls out all the stops for the unhinged last thirty minutes: a kung fu fight atop a cable car (gripping despite dodgy rear projection), a funktastic soundtrack encompassing fuzz guitar, bossa nova, electronica, and inhuman screeching a la Suspiria (1977), and a genuinely hair-raising finale inside Kang’s nightmarish lair of corpse-laden dungeons, bubbling cauldrons and black magic booby-traps. Ti Lung demonstrates that when fighting zombies there is nothing so handy as a pair of pliers. Except perhaps a magic amulet that blasts the bastards back to hell.