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  Chinese Evil Technique That ol' black magic called lust
Year: 1985
Director: Yu Hon-Cheung
Stars: Shih Szu, Cliff Ching Ching, Ko Keung, Suen Lam, Yau Kwok-Tung, Su Chu, Chang Yi-Tao, Chiang Tao
Genre: Martial Arts, Weirdo, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Having already learned how to turn invisible and split in two a beautiful martial arts maiden (Shih Szu) further hones her abilities under the tutelage of an Old Taoist Wizard (Cliff Ching Ching). Who, judging from his behaviour, seems more interested in taking her from the transcendental to the horizontal if you know what I mean? Nudge-nudge, wink-wink. Karma being what it is elsewhere the Old Wizard’s philandering wife seduces a handsome male disciple (Ko Keung). Together they steal the Dragon Incantation Manuscript, a tome laden with mystical kung fu secrets. Caught in the act the wizard’s wife is inadvertently slain by her husband’s energy beam. He then sends his top female student along with a male sidekick grappling with unresolved romantic feelings to the mortal realm where the treacherous disciple uses his newfound magical powers to take over a brothel. He also pranks an old man with a compulsive gambling habit in order to then hypnotize his daughter into bed. As far as evil plans go, this is pretty low stakes. Evidently world domination is less important to this super-villain than getting laid. Anyway, mystical mayhem ensues.

Roles in acclaimed films like Heroes of Sung (1973) and the international co-productions Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974) and Supermen Against the Orient (1974) made Shih Szu a superstar at Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers studio throughout the Seventies. After making her last film for the studio (A Deadly Secret (1980)) she returned to her native Taiwan and wound down her career with a handful of special effects laden fantasies. Chinese Evil Technique was the sequel to Shih Szu’s earlier hit Chinese Magic (1983). Both films seem to have been heavily inspired by Yuen Woo-Ping's trailblazing fantasy comedy Miracle Fighters (1982), but are comparatively far less lively and witty. The directionless story meanders all over the place though the magical set-pieces remain eye-catching and inventive.

Typically for an early Eighties martial arts fantasy the production design, fight choreography and special effects are chaotic, colourful and downright surreal, often combining trippy cel animated sequences, flying paper charms and claymation creatures. Along with a fascinating mix of acrobatics, camera trickery and traditional Chinese stage magic. Pang Tai-Wai’s cinematography is evocative enough to lament that most available prints are cropped, degraded and sourced from a dodgy VHS. However while Yu Hon-Cheung, who also has the similarly trippy The Dwarf Sorcerer (1974) and Burning of the Red Lotus Monastery (1982) under his belt, does a decent job staging the fantastical sequences he wastes far too much screen time on superfluous subplots and side characters. At one point the film becomes a harrowing drama about a young woman rendered suicidal after her rape. This is not what most would expect from a film billed as comedic martial arts fantasy.

Indeed Chinese Evil Technique has in common with its predecessor an eccentric preoccupation with sexual politics, even though the film itself is not at all explicit. It is worth mentioning that the previous instalment climaxed, for lack of a better word, with Shih Szu and her leading man mastering ultimate mystical power by means of spectacular shag. Here however the plot goes out of its way to shame characters who indulge in any form of sexual activity, whether voluntarily or against their will. You have the heroine repeatedly chastened by her ostensible love interest, who wrongly believes she is willing to sleep with her master to increase her magical power; a lengthy and pointless scene where the Old Wizard pranks a group of prostitutes (they deserve to be humiliated because they have sex for money, get it?); and a climax that insists a rape victim can only 'redeem herself' by means of self-sacrifice. Even though her loving fiancé (Yau Kwok-Tung), among the few laudable characters in the film, argues otherwise. On the other hand the denouement involving the hitherto unheralded evil-eliminating magic properties of menstrual blood adds a weirdly feminist subtext.


Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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