SCORPION THUNDERBOLT (1988)
(Written and Directed by Godfrey Ho)
(Starring Richard Harrison, Juliet Chan and Shou-Ping Tsui)
Plot: A human-sized snake monster stalks the streets at night, apparently being manipulated by a witch, but a martial artist and a detective get drawn into this…plot…and I’m seriously making this movie sound more coherent than it really is.
Review: Recently I netflix’d a DVD called “Eye on Horror“, which contains a handful of B-movies with delightfully ridiculous premises that I had to explore. The first experience came in the form of “A Dog called…Vengeance“, which just sounds…orgasmic. Even before the movie began though, I learned the definition of distress when I saw that Imdb claims it’s really called “El Perro” (the dog), while the opening credits refer to it as “Vengeance“. Those are some yawn inducing titles, but I guess they’re fitting because this is a yawn inducing movie. Outside of the fan-title, the admittedly atmospheric music and the shoddy DVD quality (did they transfer this off a VHS tape?), nothing about “A Dog Called Vengeance” stood out. Jason Miller looks as bored as I was and the film runs out of steam around the half way point, where the feud with the dog is more-or-less replaced with a…political intrigue thriller? Interesting…except it’s not. I couldn’t even understand the majority of the plot because the audio was so bad, although admittedly I started doing other things while the movie played in the background after a certain point. It’s not a horror flick, nor was it suspenseful. It’s just really slow and for some bizarre reason, Brian Yuzna either remade or ripped-off “A Dog Called Vengeance” for “Rottweiler“, which was better but suffered the same flaws. I watch “A Dog Called Vengeance” and “Rottweiler” because I want to see ‘man vs animal’, not a failed existential piece about love, loss and a convoluted storyline. So “A Dog Called Vengeance” sucked and I’d rate it 1/4 stars, but what about the real subject of this review, “Scorpion Thunderbolt“?
“Scorpion Thunderbolt” is so insane that you begin wondering if the movie is perfectly normal and you are the one who is insane. After all, anyone who would watch the flick in its entirety must have a broken mind…This is a very awful film, but unlike “A Dog Called Vengeance” it is oppressive in its badness and sometimes even ends up being fascinating for it. “Scorpion Thunderbolt” was cobbled together by Godfrey Ho, who was notorious for getting his hands on obscure- sometimes even unfinished or unreleased movies- and adding additional footage of white people in order to create an international appeal. As his works are super cheap, he doesn’t recall the original cast, so the new additions feel like they belong in a different movie… In this case, Ho took “Grudge Of The Sleepwalking Woman“, a Taiwanese horror feature, and spliced in an original martial arts movie starring Richard Harrison…making this, HORRAY, a MARTIALHORROR MOVIE! A very…bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad MartialHorror movie…ugh. As is the case with every Godfrey Ho film, you can expect bad dubbing, lighting, writing and ESPECIALLY an awful DVD transfer. While “A Dog Called Vengeance” looked just as crappy, at least the majority of the scenes took place during the daytime, so I could usually see what was going on. Unfortunately, “Scorpion Thunderbolt” mostly takes place at night and the shoddy transfer makes many moments incomprehensible. The audio sucks too. But unlike “A Dog Called Vengeance“, this flick has some positive attributes as well and isn’t QUITE as boring. It’s actually filled with many bizarre ideas that would usually make me smile, but the disjointedness of Ho’s project ended up becoming too frustrating. I am going to review both of what remains of the original feature and Ho’s added footage separately, because…well, you’ll see.
Grudge Of The Sleepwalking Woman: This is not a review of that film, because I’m sure it’s better than “Scorpion Thunderbolt“…Hopefully…At the absolute least, I’d presume it has an intact narrative. This is where the murky lighting becomes very problematic and many of the…attempts at being scary are ruined because it’s just too dark. Maybe that was done to cover up the laughably bad human-sized snake suit, but I would’ve at least like to have seen what was happening, even if the plot had to be changed to: “Person in a goofy snake suit goes on a murder spree“. Actually, the snake-suit still looks silly even in the darkness, so why bother? The movie is pretty shoddily made overall, with some horrendous editing- and I’m not referring to the newly added sequences- that create some baffling continuity errors (did day just suddenly turn into night?). The music sucks. The acting might be okay, because at least the cast is very expressive, but the dubbing is so mind numbingly wooden that their performances turn into…trees. I will give ” Grudge Of The Sleepwalking Woman” some credit for producing one shockingly good fight scene and the snake’s roar was kind of creepy. The best moment had to be when the snakes invade a car-ride, which had some decent suspense. But I spent most of my viewing experience wondering what somebody had just said or trying to figure out what was occurring on-screen thanks to the CRAPPY AUDIO AND LIGHTING! Argh, I’m beating this dead horse so much that you might think I am afraid it will become a zombie horse…which it will. One must remember to destroy the brain, because that is the only way to keep a zombie horse down…And speaking of destroying brains, let’s discuss the script for “Scorpion Thunderbolt“.
This story…is a mess. The premise is that there is a killer attacking women. Even though we know the snake did it, the cops think that it’s this crazy guy who kills cats. Why? It’s never explained. The way these scenes are cobbled together suggests that important information was left out, as one scene the cops are baffled, the next the protagonist is calling his soon-to-be-love interest so he can inform her that they found out the killer. Then they’re at an institution cornering the suspect. The main guy falls in love with the girl, whom I swear was shown having a boyfriend early on but it’s never addressed again…Or did I just fall asleep? I don’t remember. Our detective protagonist is tracked down by a criminal whom he had caught years ago- even getting a flashback to this event- and this leads to two confrontations before the filmmakers totally forget this subplot. Maybe it was resolved in the original movie, but not in “Scorpion Thunderbolt“. There are strange divergences where the cops randomly arrest someone, like this psycho who is abusing his unfaithful wife, but they don’t tie into any of the primary stories. I guess it was developing the romance? If so, that’s a bad way to do it because most of the screen-time feels like padding. Anyway, it turns out that the snake is a woman who changes whenever she hears the flute played by a blind night watchman (huh?). It’s never made clear what his goal is, but there’s also this witch who seems to be controlling everything. Is she controlling the blind dude or the snake woman? I’m not even sure whether she was in the original flick, or if she was one of Godfrey Ho’s creations because she doesn’t directly interact with anyone. Anyway, the plot is so erratic and unfocused that I could never keep up with it…and I haven’t even gotten to the new scenes.
Godfrey Ho footage: Richard Harrison plays a martial artist who suddenly finds himself being attacked by various assassins, who want his ring for some mysterious reason. Why? It’s never really explained…I think it’s just supposed to be a weakness for the witch, but…I have no f@cking clue what is going on at this point. I find it especially funny that the assassins always know where he’s going to go, but the witch seems genuinely surprised when he shows up at her front gates. Harrison goes to a fortune teller who is like: “Take this sword and this mirror which I happen to have on me for no real reason and go to the witch, kill all of her guards and use the sword to break the ring over the mirror…which should kill her for some reason“. It’s really, really stupid…although kind of amusing considering how quick Richard Harrison buys into this nonsense. Keep in mind that at this point, he has not seen any evidence of the supernatural. But at least I could always make out what was happening thanks to it taking place during the daytime. The fights aren’t terrible either. Richard Harrison looks bored, but even a bored Richard Harrison is pretty charismatic. The problem is that none of this movie meshes in with the primary story and there isn’t enough footage of it to maintain a balance. The witch connects both plots together, but I’m not entirely sure how…”Scorpion Thunderbolt” sucks, but it is occasionally amusing and occasionally even produces something decent. But I don’t feel the narratives blended well together. “Grudge Of The Sleepwalking Woman” seems too complex to butcher in the post production process. It has too many subplots and relationships to develop, with the superfluous plot threads containing the films few good moments (so can’t be omitted). So when it’s cut down and new footage- that has little to do with the story- it added, the feelings of disjointedness is enhanced. The tones don’t blend well together either, as “Grudge of the Sleepwalking Woman” takes itself too seriously despite the goofy looking snake suit while Godfrey Ho’s footage isn’t taking itself seriously at all. While Ho deserves criticism for his style of filmmaking, he’s not terrible when it comes to shooting scenes. As dumb as they could be, I did tend to enjoy the Richard Harrison sequences on their own, even if it wasn’t always for the right reasons. If anything, they provided a good laugh, while “Grudge of the Sleepwalking Woman” contains enough gore and atmosphere to make me believe that the original cut might be watchable…I think I would’ve enjoyed these films more separately, yet they lack chemistry together. Believe it or not, Ho’s additional footage does occasionally mesh well with the original content, but this was not one of those examples.
Unfortunately, “Eye on Horror” isn’t done with me yet. “Temple of Hell” is about a ninja who leads an army of the living dead, another orgasmic premise that promises its viewers delicious crap…Seriously, the only way they could f@ck up that premise is if Netflix lied about the title and the story, which is such an unusually specific possibility…I wonder why I would even consider that- THAT F@CKING HAPPENED! Fortunately, the movie was really “Ark of the Sun God“, which wasn’t bad at all. If the equation is “James Bond” + “Indiana Jones“, minus a respectable budget, the answer you will get is this movie. The limited production values and bad dubbing did limit my enjoyment, but I still thought it was entertaining. David Warbeck is a fun lead, the pacing is brisk and the spectacle on display is more impressive than it has any right to be. I’d rate it a 2.5/4 stars and proclaim it as the most watchable feature “Eye on Horror” has to offer. That only leaves us with “Cannibal Curse“, which I refused to watch because the transfer was so inept that they cropped out the English subtitles…and there’s no English dubbing…whoops! Admittedly, I barely could understand what anyone was saying in the other three flicks thanks to the crummy audio, so maybe listening to a different language wouldn’t be that much worse…but it gives me an excuse to bow out of this movie, so I thank “Eye on Horror” for its incompetence in that regard…Sheesh, this DVD sucked. Only “Ark of the Sun God” is worth watching, so try finding a better transfer in order to check that out ONLY if you like the idea of a low budgeted James Bond/Indiana Jones type adventure flick. “A Dog Called Vengeance” is boring, “Scorpion Thunderbolt” is stupid and “Cannibal Curse” requires you to understand Cantonese, but the lazy and sloppy transfer overshadows the films themselves…AND THAT SAYS A LOT! The name “Eye on Horror” doesn’t make any sense and only two of the films can be truly classified as horror…”Ark of the Sun God” is an adventure and “A Dog Called Vengeance” is a political thriller/drama, although I am merely presuming that “Cannibal Curse” is a horror. This DVD collection did nothing right!
Violence: All three films I watched were pretty violent, with “Scorpion Thunderbolt” having actual gore. It’s pretty messy, although it’s so awkwardly shot and lit that I couldn’t fully enjoy it. “A Dog Called Vengeance” is grisly to warrant an R rating, although it won’t satisfy blood hounds (ha, I made a pun!) and “Ark of the Sun God” is the most tame.
Nudity: “Ark of the Sun God” probably is PG-13 worthy as a whole, as even though there is violence and sexuality, I don’t remember anything explicit. “Scorpion Thunderbolt” does contain sex, nudity and attempted rape. “A Dog Called Vengeance” shows male and female nudity, with a decent amount of sex. I’m presuming “Cannibal Curse” has some sex based on the premise, but I don’t really know.
Overall: “Eye on Horror” is a shitty compilation DVD and I need to thank God Netflix only sent me one volume (there is another disk, which I won’t bother with). But as for the main subject for this review, “Scorpion Thunderbolt” is a Godfrey Ho movie and that should speak for itself. The rating represents “Scorpion Thunderbolt“, as I’d probably go EVEN LOWER when describing the DVD as a whole.