Friday, September 10, 2010

Black Magic

Brian of Cool Ass Cinema saves me from the world of black magic with his review of a film called... Um...

BLACK MAGIC 1975 Gong Tau

Directed by Ho Meng Hua

Ku Feng, Ti Lung, Tanny Tien Ni, Lily Li, Lo Lieh

95 minutes

Ho Meng Hua's crude, but genre defining horror show cast a deadly spell over Hong Kong and other Asian territories with this tale about black magic rites and evil spellcasters. Essentially, the plot is a basic soap opera narrative about various individuals who obsess over those they cannot have and will do anything to satisfy their sexual desires.

Wrapped around all this is a cruel wizard who enables these sad individuals to make their dreams come true. When they can't pay his exorbitant fees, he makes them pay in other ways, often in a horrible death that generally involves bloody boils, body melts, or worms found burrowing under the skin. When a construction worker and his girlfriend become unknowingly entangled in this web of sorcery, a friend seeks the aid of a magician who practices white magic to free them from harm. The ending is a duel between the two wizards at a construction site with a lot of flashy, yet primitive special effects.

Shot in Thailand and Malaysia, the story takes place in Burma and is rife with superstitious folklore. This exploration into the forbidden and the unknown translated to box office receipts and a slew of similar movies began erupting from Hong Kong and Taiwan. There was even a pseudo remake in 2007 from Herman Yau (EBOLA SYNDROME) bearing the same title, GONG TAU. The genesis of the film was built around the legends from the bordering province of Yunnan where the women in those mountain villages would cast love spells on their men to keep them from ever leaving or else a horrible fate awaited them.

Ho Meng Hua returned to the subject on several occasions including the unavailable NIGHT OF THE DEVIL'S BRIDE (1976), THE OILY MANIAC (1976) and BLACK MAGIC 2 (1976). The latter film is a remake of the first with Lo Lieh taking over for Ku Feng's sadistic and slimy magician. Also, the accent towards black magic rites is increased from the first film. While it's never scary, BLACK MAGIC is a curious, occasionally repulsive relic from the late 70's that was wildly influential and has accrued a cult following over the years.


  1. I skimmed through this and thought "this seems like a movie that V5 would know a lot about". Then I scroll back up and it turns out he's the person who reviewed it. Derr. This one sounds pretty cool. OILY MANIAC is one that I'm curious about, for obvious reasons.

  2. @Aaron - Oily Maniac is pretty sweet. It's a sweaty and trashy flick and (from my initial impression) it seems to take itself very seriously which makes it even more insane.

  3. Most people seem to prefer BLACK MAGIC 2 over the first one. It pretty much doubles up on everything from the first movie although the ending isn't quite as explosive. It does have more nudity, an army of beautiful women with six inch spikes in their heads who do the evil wizards bidding. When the spikes are removed they age rapidly. There's also a spell that involves drinking human breast milk mixed with women's pubic hair. There's also a fight atop a tram car with some of the worst rear projection you've ever seen. That one was called REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES here.

    OILY MANIAC is based on an actual Malay legend. The tale has been filmed several times before and since. The '76 Shaw version is very sleazy. It's sort of an exploitation superhero movie. Danny Lee (again) is a crippled man who exacts revenge on those who double crossed his dad stealing his business from him by becoming the oily maniac. He's sort of an acrobatic SWAMP THING who can turn himself into an oil spill that chases cars down the highway and can spew forth from spigots and other places to crush the heads of villains everywhere.

  4. OILY MANIAC is just one of the greatest titles ever. It's kind of like me when I've had too much to drink and haven't showered in a couple of days.