Saturday, November 30, 2013

i SPY ASIASPY: Summons to Death

Summons to Death
Director: Wei Lo
Year 1967

Summons to Death is a wonderfully 60's spytastic extravaganza brought to us by the legendary Shaw Brothers. Bound in swinger style and brimming with vibrant audacity, this interesting Asiaspy flick plunges its audience straight into outlandish adventures filled with equally wild characters. Super charged with a stellar cast and set against some of the most picturesque locales, Summons to Death is an outstanding adventure flick with a wicked espionage attitude.

The film follows super swinger secret agent Teng Lei, AKA The Owl, and circus acrobat Mei Li as they are stuck together on a dangerous hunt to recover a lost pirate treasure. Armed with one half of a treasure map and their wits, the two set off on a wild goose chase filled with ruthless pirates, vicious gangsters, and deadly women. Can Teng and Mei work together, or will the lure of the treasure be too much for their unlikely truce.

Tang Ching takes on the role of Teng Lei, the suave secret agent who's got a way with the ladies. Introduced in truly grand style, Teng lounges around his psychedelic bachelor pad showcasing some of the most unusual furnishings this side of a Derek Flint flick. Ching takes the role with stride as he effortlessly embodies the cool and skillful agent, injecting a most essential tongue and cheek attitude to the film. Being no stranger to the genre, seeing that he starred in Interpol 009 and Angel Strikes Again, Ching has a grand time with the proceedings, lapping up every single ridiculous moment.

Pairing up with Ching is Tina Chin Fei as Mei Li, the baby-faced sister of the fearsome gangster Brother Gin. Another Asiaspy alum, Fei has had a number of memorable roles in the genre, including Temptress of a Thousand Faces and Interpol 009, where she also co-starred along side Tang Ching. In Summons to Death, Fei plays a painfully sweet character who knows how to hold her own. She's also a great contrast against the other female member of the cast, Fanny Fan. Sultry, deceptive, and all around venomous, Fan plays Ying Nian, a unscrupulous nightclub singer with a sadistic side. Another vet of the genre, Fan appeared in Angel with the Iron Fists and she also had a small role in The Golden Buddha, but with Summons to Death she is really given ample opportunities to shine. Soaking up the scenery and looking absolutely stunning in various stages of dress, she truly leaves her mark on the film, and makes it the better for it.

As for the overall feel of the film, it's just plain wacky fun. From agent Lei's psychedelic bachelor pad, to the pirates swanking ship, to a swinging nightclub, to Ying Nian's pink filled groovy bedroom, this film has got the goods on unusual and vibrant locations. Set across a wide array of locales, the production goes to great lengths in showcasing to its audience a plethora of picturesque visuals which truly capture the globetrotting nature of the spy genre. Pristine beaches, neon-caked streets, smoke-filled casinos, and idyllic islands are in abundance and director Wei Lo films it all in vivid style. Hyper realized and outstandingly robust, Summons to Death is a visual treat that keeps on giving.

Ridiculously camp, the film stays true to its era and tongue and cheek genre tendencies, as it forges into some outlandish territory. Agent Teng Lei gets into all sorts of wild situations, including a hypnotic seduction ordered out by the sultry Ying Nian who uses a poison filled kiss to control the mind of our hero. Of course that isn't the only memorable moment of the flick, as Teng Lei also has some morbid fun with a corpse at the morgue and even makes out with a statue in order to lock up his swanky bachelor pad. Weird doesn't even cover some of the moments of this film, but all of these oddities add up to one entertaining Asiaspy entry.

Summons to Death is insanely succinct in brining on the strangeness while thoroughly dishing out the goods on what makes this genre so damn fun to watch. An unbeatable secret agent, a string of gorgeous femme fatales, a gaggle of baddies, and an abundance of breathtaking locations and sets are delivered at a constant pace, and the energy of the production is top notch. Vibrantly displayed and lovingly represented, Summons to Death is without a doubt a beautiful rendition of the genre.

Tang Ching, Tina Chin Fei and Fanny Fan, all do a great job with the material given to them, and each one makes their own unique part stand out. Tang Ching especially takes on the challenge of Agent Teng Lei with a confident stride, never breaking out of his cool collective demeanor, not even for a second. Enjoyable to the last, Summons to Death is an off the rails adventure film with an espionage twist. As unrestrained as they come, this Asiaspy effort is one that truly embraces the wackiness of the genre. Amplifying the elements that make these types of films so much damn fun, Summons to Death successfully hits its mark as a 60's spy entry in which fun is held most important above all things. If you love the Asiaspy genre, then give this one a go. Summons to Death is one.....

Lose the top and then we'll talk.

What the hell is going on in this wacky place?!?!

You just keep making out with that wall pervert!

Have you seen these weirdos?

So I guess high fives are out of the question?

Dinner Time Staring Contest...... GO!

Go fish... bitch!

Deserted Beach Staring Contest..... GO!

Hello there!

My arm would feel a lot better if you took your clothes off.

Maybe someone should call an ambulance.


Now we're talking!

Raise your hands, raise your hands or I'll shoot.

ALL THE COLORS: Only God Forgives

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

BOND 5: You Only Live Twice

You Only Live Twice
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Year 1967

You Only Live Twice is another fantastic entry in the ever expanding James Bond series, which once again features the further adventures of Sean Connery in the iconic role of 007. Abundantly tongue and cheek and extremely entertaining, the film features a plethora of traditional Bond gadgets and exploits as the familiar trappings descend upon the unfamiliar setting of Japan. Entirely centralized on its Asian surroundings and aesthetics, You Only Live Twice delights in its exotic locales, interesting characters, and stylized espionage antics. As Bond films go, this fifth entry of the series is a hell of a lot of fun.

The film begins with a space hijacking when a U.S. space shuttle is overtaken by a mysterious spacecraft during a routine mission. With the ship and crew gone without a trace, MI6 assigns super secret agent James Bond to the case. After faking his own death, Bond follows the traces of the unknown spaceship to the Sea of Japan, where he goes undercover as a Japanese man in order to infiltrate an illusive organization that seems to be behind this nefarious plot. Paired up with a beautiful woman named Kissy and lost in an unfamiliar land, the two dive headlong into an intriguing mystery where life and death hang in the balance.

Sean Connery once again takes on the role of James Bond, marking his fifth go at the iconic character. By this point there is no question that Connery is Bond, as he simply embodies the character to perfection. His mannerisms and sarcastic quips are embedded into the fabric of this fictionalized character and Connery just seems to effortlessly bring the agent to life. In this particular instance, Connery is handed the tricky role of disguising as an Asian man, and even though the sheer concept and execution of this is ridiculous in all senses of the word, he still manages to make it entertaining in that silly and over the top sort of way. Possibly a tad too strange for the Bond series, the unusual character switch is ultimately hypnotic as you're not quite sure where else the film will dare to go. In all its absurdity, Connery is still able to make the role of James Bond shine like never before, maintaining that same sense of awe and allure over the ever enduring secret agent.

Mie Hama plays the role of Kissy, Bond's Asian aid and love interest. Hama is astoundingly cute and extremely watchable as the aptly named character, exuding a rather impressive presence in one of her first English speaking break out performances. Having plaid a similar role in two other spy-centric films Key of Keys and Ironfinger, Hama is a natural as Kissy and she just simply gels with the genre. With her beautiful looks and hypnotic screen presence, she makes for a perfect addition to the ever impressive line up of Bond girls. Another one of my favorite spy actresses is Karin Dor, and she makes a brief but memorable appearance as Helga Brandt, a kinky villainess who proves to be a thorn in the side of Bond in more ways then one. Strikingly beautiful, Karin is a vision, and she gives another layer of enjoyment to this already enjoyable Bond entry. As for the main villain of the piece, Donald Pleasence takes on the task as Blofeld, the leader of the illusive organization known as SPECTRE. An iconic character actor in his own right, Pleasence simply nails the role bringing that demented and wholly realized persona that only he can bring to the table. Cold and collective, Pleasence brings another element into the mix which solidifies You Only Live Twice as pure unadulterated and enjoyable entertainment.

As usual for a Bond entry, You Only Live Twice has a fantastic array of beautiful locations and picturesque vistas which perfectly capture the exotic atmosphere which has made the Bond franchise the phenom that it is today. Basking in all the visual wonders that Japan can muster, the film relies heavily on the potent vistas that this extremely breathtaking country has to offer, spending a great deal of effort focusing on the culture shock and diverse differences between Eastern and Western cultures. From sumo wrestling matches, to neon cityscapes, to expansive rolling hills, to pristine coastal shores, the film soaks up all the visuals it can handle as we are swept away in this most awesome of adventures.

The exploits of James Bond are as intriguing as the visual delights of the production. Armed with an assortment of gadgets and uncanny abilities, Bond bursts onto the scene in a series of memorable movie moments that will just tickle that espionage itch. One of the high points of the film is the compact helicopter named Little Nellie. One of Bond's outstanding little nifty gadgets, this interesting aerial vehicle is one for the record books and the film gives a great movie moment as it shows Bond scouring the country side, high above the scattered islands along Japan's coast, as he searches for the hidden SPECTRE lair. It's a truly beautifully shot sequence and one that is exceptionally satisfying. Another wonderful aspect of the film is the various locations and sets that the production throws our way. One in particular is the volcanic lair of SPECTRE and Blofeld. The volcano base is extremely outstanding in its sheer grandeur and presence and makes for the perfect location for the final battle which simply closes the film in the most explosive of ways. All in all this Bond entry is one that surely satisfies while proudly maintaining the quality that Bond films are known for.

You Only Live Twice is a ridiculously fun entry in the series, marking the first time that the Bond films embarked in Eastern territory and cultures. Saturated in the customs and visuals of the land, this fifth entry beautifully presents an eye opening experience that surely reflects the grandeur of the series as a whole while never straying from the traditional aspects of the genre.

Filled with wonderfully animated characters and equally energetic set pieces, the film surges with outstanding moments which perfectly match up against the iconic wonder that is Bond. Connery gives his usual outstanding performance, while newcomer Mie Hama does a wonderful job as the beautiful Kissy, an excellent addition to the cast of Bond girls. Donald Pleasence makes for a respectable Blofeld as he gives that off kilter personality to the super villain which only he can generate. Amassed in an array of visual delights and expertly crafted sequences, You Only Live Twice is an extremely enjoyable ride. One that captures the magic of Bond and takes it to another level. This entry.....

Looks like someone had a little accident.

Sean Connery.... Man about town.

Well hello there.

Keep your eyes on the road assholes!

Who wants the first can of whoop ass?

Something kinky is going down.

How would you like to tune in to Tokyo James?

Dear diary.... James Bond is awesome.


Bang, Bang Sean! Bang, Bang!

You mind paying attention and flying the plane you crazy bitch.

Is this your card?

I think he gets the point.

What the hell happened to your pants?!?!?!

Get off that ceiling you weirdo!

Mr. Wiskers doesn't like you.

It's raining men! Hallelujah it's raining men!

So you aren't going to put out? Get out of my raft!