The Battle Wizard (1977)

The Battle Wizard [天龍八部] (1977)

Starring Danny Lee, Tanny Tien Ni, Lin Chen-Chi, Shut Chung-Tin, Chiang Tao, Keung Hon, Wai Wang, Si Wai, San Shu-Wa, Gam Lau, Teresa Ha Ping, Leung Seung-Wan, Norman Chu Siu-Keung, Yeung Chak-Lam, Ko Hung, Hung Ling-Ling, Hao Li-Jen

Directed by Pao Hsueh-Li

Expectations: Excited because that title is fantastic.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Some titles evoke worlds of wonder, others are dull and inspire confusion, but The Battle Wizard brings about very specific expectations of a magically adept sorcerer casting furious spells. Much to my delight, that is pretty much exactly what the film delivers (within the context of how magic is portrayed in the wuxia genre). Wuxia comes in varying degrees of fantasy, and The Battle Wizard is full-on, balls-to-the-walls fantasy. If that’s your thing, you will be hard-pressed to find a better example from this particular era. Chor Yuen’s The Web of Death comes to mind as a similarly well-realized vision of wuxia fantasy, but The Battle Wizard is much more wild and over the top. For me, this is a recipe for my new favorite wuxia, but your particular tastes and tolerance for late ’70s Hong Kong FX will dictate whether the film hits for you in the same way.

The Battle Wizard is based on the Jin Yong novel Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (天龍八部), originally serialized from 1963–1966. Both works share the same Chinese title, which has apparently given translators a rough time over the years, with one alternate translation reading Eight Books of the Heavenly Dragon. No matter what you call it, The Battle Wizard runs a very slim 73 minutes, so it may come as a surprise that the novel is actually Jin Yong’s second longest work, only just shy of the character count of The Deer and the Cauldron. This is somewhat misleading, though, as Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils is broken into three separate, but interwoven stories, and The Battle Wizard is only attempting to adapt the first of these. Also, like previous Jin Yong adaptations, The Battle Wizard feels closer to a comic book than to traditional wuxias or Chor Yuen’s Gu Long films.

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Deadly Weapon (1989)

deadlyweapon_1Deadly Weapon (1989)
AKA Killer Kid

Starring Rodney Eastman, Kim Walker, Gary Frank, Michael Horse, Gary Kroeger, Barney Martin, Sam Melville, Joe Regalbuto, William Sanderson, Ed Nelson

Directed by Michael Miner

Expectations: Not much, but it’s a remake of Laserblast so hopefully there are lots of explosions!

onestar


Most films hold their secrets back from the viewer, but Deadly Weapon reveals quite a big one right in the opening moments. Through on-screen text we learn that the entire film takes place in the mind of a 15-year-old boy. So any and all incredulity can be attributed to this, and boy does this movie go over the top! But while whatever we’re watching is supposedly only inside Zeke’s mind, I feel like there was also a more mundane version of the events playing out in “real life.” Nothing in the movie suggests or references this, I just chose to interpret the film’s exaggeration of everything as what they looked or felt like to Zeke in a heightened, hallucinatory state, similar to how a kid and an adult will remember the same event somewhat differently.

Zeke is an outcast kid who is bullied and beaten down by everyone in his life. He’s powerless against these people, but one day he finds an Army crate in the river outside of town. And what might be inside this crate? Well, some dumb ol’ office supplies are on top, but hidden underneath them is an experimental ray gun! Now Zeke’s got the power to fight back, and that’s exactly what he does! If that sounds at all familiar, it’s because Deadly Weapon is a remake of one of my favorite Charles Band films: Laserblast!

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Laserblast (1978)

Starring Kim Milford, Cheryl Smith, Gianni Russo, Ron Masak, Dennis Burkley, Barry Cutler, Mike Bobenko, Eddie Deezen, Keenan Wynn, Roddy McDowall

Directed by Michael Rae

Expectations: Low. The boring pace of End of the World leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-Movie scale:
fourstar


Laserblast reportedly had a budget of $280,000, and producer Charles Band knew just where to spend it. Virtually every penny was sunk straight into entertainment and a finale that delivers slow-motion explosion after slow-motion explosion, further proving that the worth of a movie can exist on explosions alone. Add in some killer stop-motion aliens and a giant laserblaster as cherries on top and we’ve got ourselves a movie!

Laserblast opens as a crazed freak with a giant laserblaster on his arm jumps around in the desert. An alien ship lands and two upright-walking turtles without shells get out and pull their own, smaller laser guns. A short fight ensues, but the aliens are too clever and end up singeing the dude into fine black ash. They board their ship and set out for the far-reaches of the galaxy, but they forgot one thing. The human’s giant laserblaster!

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