Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bloody Parrot (1981)

Well, let's explain this "bloody parrot" business first, shall we? You see, when the demon king has his birthday (presumably on Friday the 13th), his chief minion demons gift him their blood. The blood takes on the form of a (bloody) parrot and grants everyone it meets three wishes.

Back here on earth, the Prince of Dian somehow loses the treasure he was supposed to send as tribute to the emperor, and his servants have to start a hasty search. While traipsing through the woods at night, one patrol is suddenly bathed in blinding red light. It's that bloody parrot!

After laser parrot has randomly killed a few people, the bad-tempered bird grants the leader of the Prince's men, Guo Fan (Kwan Fung) his three wishes. Guo Fan obviously wishes the treasure back, but hasn't read The Monkey's Paw and does therefore look quite surprised when he not only gets the treasure back, but also finds that his son has been killed. The next logical step is to wish his son back, of course. His wife, gifted with a greater amount of intelligence than her husband, can't hinder him from making this ill-advised second wish, and has to kill hubby before their son can climb out of his urn when he refuses to use his third wish to undo the potential zombie apocalypse. Logically, she then commits suicide. At the same moment as Guo Fan dies, the treasure suddenly disappears again. In the following weeks, hordes of martial artists descend upon the area, all in search of the parrot and/or the treasure, yet also very eager to just kill each other for no good reason.

Also on the lookout for the bloody bird is Tie Hen the Merciless (Lau Wing), who seems to be some sort of cop. Being a cop (and merciless) doesn't safe him from parrot attacks, though, and very soon he is also quite dead, dying in the arms of the swordsman Ye Ting Feng (Jason Pai Piao) who might or might not be an old acquaintance and promises him to take his dead body back to the border. Which Ye Ting Feng probably plans on doing right after he has dragged Tie Hen (in his coffin, don't fret) through half of China in search of parrot and treasure. The film has finally settled on a protagonist! So, granted certain death exemptions by the divine right of the protag, the swordsman starts his investigation following a nonsensical clue into the Parrot Brothel - fortunately not a place where men pay to sleep with parrots. From there, his new prostitute love Xue Nu (Jenny Leung) and he start a series of bizarre adventures, full of people who want to kill Ye Ting Feng and abduct Xue Nu, bizarre poisons, demonic possession, cannibalism, worm boy, a "doll face killer needle lady" (her embroidery needle is deadly), vampires, naked fu, underground mirror labyrinths, the works, until it all finally ends in a perfectly natural explanation for all the nonsense that has been going on. Of course, this "explanation" makes even less sense than most of what happened before, but oh well.

Hua Shan might not have directed many films for the Shaw Brothers, or any film that made much sense, but I find it difficult to call the man who directed this thing here as well as the immortal Super Inframan anything else but a demented genius of hysterical enthusiasm.

Bloody Parrot is part of the effort of the late period Shaw Brothers studio to win back its audience from the younger, sexier Cantonese speaking studios by making wild genre mixtures of dubious sanity. In this case, it's a wuxia in Chor Yuen's style, just much less carefully filmed, but with more gore, worms, vomit, breasts and other exploitative elements,mostly playing out like a horror film with lots of fighting.

The script by good old (N)i Kuang (if you don't know, that's the man who wrote about eighty percent of the Shaw Brothers' output) does not make a lick of sense, but Hua Shan's direction is so giddy, and the pace in which one damn thing after another happens (and then another, and another - it truly doesn't ever stop) so relentless that it's impossible not to just jump with it from a naked kung fu fight with a demon-possessed Xue Nu to the next half a dozen bizarros who want to kill Ye Ting Feng while he's gone out to buy some paint (don't ask) to an improbable (but bava-coloured) underground cave. Resistance to a film that even uses a mirror labyrinth as a reason to undress its female lead is futile in any case.

The rest of the film is mostly an amphetamine driven version of Shaw standards, with acting performances as solid as possible in a film where the viewer mostly never learns who these damn guys are, or what motives they have, and fighting that could probably have been choreographed a little more creatively, but hardly more enthusiastic. The well-known sets used in this completely stage-bound affair have seen better days, though.

And while other films in the Shaw catalogue like Buddha's Palm might be even more bonkers, a film that has dialogue lines like "The skin from the seven of you is just enough to make me a skirt" should be weird enough to make anyone happy.



Todd said...

I can't believe I don't own this. A walk to Chinatown on my lunch hour is obviously in order.

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

You really need this one, Todd.

Todd said...

Got it! Yay! Never have it said you're not a blogger of influence.

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Next step: world domination.