Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles posterDirector: Steve Barron

Starring: Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, voices of Corey Feldman, Josh Pais, Brian Tochi, Robbie Rist

“Death comes for us all, Oroku Saki, but something much worse comes for you. For when you die, it will be without honour.” (Splinter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

First, a disclaimer. I’m an enormous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. From the Eastman & Laird comics to the ’80s Fred Wolf cartoons to the Playmates toys to the Konami video games, I couldn’t get enough of the lean green teen fighting machines when I was a sprog. And yes, that included this film (and its two sequels).

However, now that I am 31 it is only fair that I try to review the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie with some degree of sensibility and not let my rampant Turtles fanboyism nunchuk its way to the fore. Continue reading “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) review”

For Y’ur Height Only (1981)

Director: Eddie Nicart

Starring: Weng Weng, Yehlen Catral, Beth Sandoval

“You’re such a tiny little guy. Very petite, like a potato.” (Irma, For Y’ur Height Only)

Dr Kohler, a scientist responsible for the creation of the deadly N-bomb, has been kidnapped by a group of Filipino henchmen working for the mysterious Mr Giant. A top secret agency sends their finest agent on a mission to find out more, rescue Dr Kohler and put an end to Giant’s crime syndicate. What’s that? It sounds like your standard spy movie? That’s because I neglected to tell you the secret agent in question is a midget.

Look up, Weng Weng! Not that you have much choice, mind

Yes, the hero in For Y’ur Height Only (no, I don’t understand the apostrophe) is Agent 00, played by 2’9” Weng Weng (who still holds the Guinness World Record as the shortest actor in a leading role). Is this cruel? Is it exploiting poor little Weng Weng? Well, if it is, you wouldn’t know it, because the tiny fella seems to be having a whale of a time.

Being such a tiny chap, Agent 00 can infiltrate areas no other agent can, squeezing himself into tight gaps and hiding under tables before springing out and attacking his enemies. And boy, can he attack. Much of the film’s numerous fights scenes consists of Weng Weng kicking various arses, not to mention testicles and heads. They’re as well choreographed as you’d expect a fight with a midget could be, though you’ll find Agent 00’s apparent strength a little hard to swallow at times.

The wee man's deadly with a toothpick, you've got to give him that

The one challenge with an action movie starring a midget is that you’re going to struggle to find a stunt double, so luckily Weng Weng is more than capable of performing his own stunts. It does look like he gets a helping hand at times however – some scenes see him sliding backwards across the floor at speed while firing a gun, a trick no doubt performed by having an off-camera crew member physically launch him across the floor. There’s also one hilarious scene where he leaps on a criminal from the top of a stairwell, clearly achieved by having someone literally chuck him at them.

Of course, if the film wasn’t actually entertaining then For Y’ur Eyes Only’s gimmick would probably get boring eventually. Thankfully this isn’t the case and the film remains amusing throughout. Agent 00 is armed with a huge selection of gadgets and gizmos (presented to him in an absurdly long scene aping the Q scenes in a Bond movie) and uses these devices throughout the film to keep things interesting.

It's a midget on a jetpack. No further comment is necessary

It’s the items Agent 00 receives along the way that lead to the most memorable scenes however, most notably one where he jumps off a block of flats while holding an umbrella (clearly turning into a dummy during the wide shot, smacking its legs off the side of the building as it gracelessly tumbles down) and another where he is given a jetpack. Yes, this film has a midget with a jetpack. Naturally, when I watched this with a primarily Glaswegian audience, one chap was heard to excitedly exclaim “awww fuck offff” during this scene.

The only real negative point of For Y’ur Height Only is the soundtrack. It only has a couple of themes and one of them is an incredibly irritating rendition of the James Bond theme interspersed with screeching trumpets. This is repeated ad nauseum throughout the film and begins to grate by the end.

That’s the only annoying aspect of a hugely entertaining film, however. For Y’ur Height Only may essentially boil down to people laughing at a midget trying to be James Bond, but given that Weng Weng’s clearly having as much fun as the audience then enjoying it without feeling guilty is no tall order (ahem).

For Y’ur Height Only is only available on DVD in the US. If you can play Region 1 DVDs you can import it in a double-bill with a dodgy kung-fu film by clicking here. If you live in the US you can buy the DVD by clicking here.

Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave (1976)

Director: Doo-yong Lee

Starring: Jun Chong, Deborah Dutch

WONG: “Your threats don’t frighten me one little bit.”
SUZUKI: “You should be.” 

Many martial arts films cash in on Bruce Lee’s name despite having little to do with the great man. Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is obviously one such film, though you’ve got to applaud a movie that goes so far as making the outlandish claim that not only does Lee star in it, he actually does so after his untimely death.

Of course, this is complete bollocks. In reality the only thing this film has to do with Bruce Lee is a hastily cobbled-together intro showing a hilariously fake-looking gravestone with “BRUCE LEE” printed on it, which then explodes and is followed by some hideous fan art of Bruce Lee punching a dragon. Then the actual film, the one that has nothing to do with the legendary martial artist and was seemingly chosen at random to have this intro slapped onto it, properly begins.

Good to see the Hong Kong stonemasons have a love for the Impact font

The film tells the tale of Wong Han (played by Jun Chong – though the film credits him as “Bruce KL Lea”, no doubt to cover the filmmakers with a good “what? Oh you thought we meat THAT Bruce Lee” excuse). Wong is a Hong Kong man who comes to LA to meet his kung fu teacher friend who he hasn’t seen for three years. When he gets to his friend’s dojo, Wong finds that his chum’s been murdered by five men – “a Japanese, a white man, a black man, a Mexican and a cowboy”. Yes, a cowboy.

Wong vows revenge, and sets out on a Kill Bill-style mission to take down the five evil-doers. Don’t ask me how he goes about tracking them down, because this film is all over the place.

Some pictures are just too bizarre to caption. He's carrying his friend's bones in a sling. Nothing can top that

As he wanders around LA (while carrying his pal’s bones in a sling around his neck, naturally), Wong encounters a woman called Susan who’s being attacked. He saves her and gets talking to her, and as luck would have it she knows how to find all the men who killed his friend. What are the odds?

It’s difficult to put across how bad Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is. The dubbing’s among the worst I’ve ever seen in a film, the fight scenes are laughably basic and poorly lit, and seriously – what the hell is the deal with the bones.

The final ten minutes, in which Wong encounters the “cowboy” shortly before finding out a horrible secret, try to provide a clever twist but in reality it just opens up far more questions. Such as “why did these actors never make the big time?”

"You're under arrest for impersonating a martial arts legend. How do you plead?" "With a horribly dubbed voice"

Despite the above you should still see this film, preferably with a group of like-minded cheese-lovers. You’ll chuckle at the scene where Wong is grilled by a police chief (“you’re gonna get the chair!” “and what kind of chair is that?”), guffaw at the pivotal car-buying scene, shake your head in amazement as Wong and Susan spend a needlessly long time looking for criminals at a racecourse only to leave and go “oh, there they are”, and watch dumbfounded as Wong, who has to meet Susan by a certain time, is distracted by the shittest-looking carnival (stock footage, of course) for literally two hours.

It may not be the Bruce Lee film it masquerades as, but Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave turns out to be so much more. It’s a love story, it’s a thrilling mystery, it’s an action-packed extravaganza and, most of all, it’s a load of old shite. Get it watched.

Oh, and be sure to check out the trailer below, which blatantly states over and over again that this is definitely Bruce Lee and the film’s all about him fighting the “black angel of death” to come back to life. Which is like saying I’m Freddie Mercury.

Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is only available on Region 1 (US) DVD. If you live in the UK and can play these discs, you can order it very cheaply by clicking here. If you live in the US and have a few bucks spare you can get it by clicking here.