(aka, Health Warning, Mr. Digital)
Look, this one is odd verging on inexplicable.
It’s a Hong Kong chopsockey, dystopian science fiction film. With Nazis. And mind control.
And lots and lots of fighting.
Which you probably guessed.
Nor do we have any good copies of this film (which, again, is so common with these Eighties Hong Kong films that you probably guessed that one as well) and it does seem as if the film was originally longer and might even have contained a bit more explanation than what survives today.
But I’m not sure I’d bet on that one.
There’s a big block of Chinese text at the beginning, which was left untranslated even though I was watching a dub. It may offer a bit of background detail about this strange future, but on the other hand it might just be a list of credits.
You never know.
One thing that I do know is missing from the version I saw was a scene in which a real live kangaroo is actually killed. Mind you, very few Western copies of the film have it.
For obvious reasons.
Although what isn’t obvious is why the heck would they have a kangaroo in an Eighties HK chopsockey film, anyway?
Now I’ll admit that I didn’t find this one as confusing as many viewers have. I suppose that I’ve seen so many dystopian films that my mind tends to fill in the gaps.
Or it might be that I’ve seen enough (far too many, really) Seventies and Eighties HK chopsockey films.
After all, they did tend towards certain stock plots and stock situations.
At any rate, we’re in some sort of broken down future, where society seems to be crumbling and Hong Kong now looks a lot like Max Headroom, complete with dim lighting and lots of smoke.
But no TVs sitting around on the streets. Although sometimes stuff is just on fire here and there without anyone really noticing it.
Mind you, they’re two years early, so it’s more like what Blade Runner would be like if you bought it from that guy in the back alley who tells you it “fell off the back of a truck”.
It’s a society which is falling apart, terrorized by the powerful Nazi “X Gang” (yeah, yeah, we know that’s a Swastika, not an X. Don’t ask me what it is in the Cantonese version). They run a big Nightclub, which features such top entertainment act as drowning people live on stage, and they deal in drugs, pleasure and weird medications.
But there is one bright spot, a Dojo run by The Master (Eddy Ko) who expects his students to work hard and devote themselves to their training. His top student, Killer (Lung-Wei Wang), has been breaking the rules by fighting in the underground “Black Tournaments” to increase his skills by facing real opponents. One night he rescues a little girl he finds wandering in the street, and comes to the attention of her mother, who is one of the girls working in the nightclub.
She drugs Killer and tries to draw him into the world of the X gang. This results in the death of one of his fellow students, and an attempt to poison Killer.
And, before The Master can cure Killer, the X Gang destroys the Dojo, sending Killer and The Master on a mission into their stronghold to get revenge, save the little girl and stop the gang’s plan to turn everyone into their mind control slaves.
Or something pretty close to that.
Now I can’t comment on the claim by some reviewers that the X Gang is supposed to be Japanese. As far as I can tell from IMDB (which is decidedly unhelpful!) they seem to be played by Chinese Actors, although that might be mentioned in one version or another of the film. We do know they’re Nazis because the banner version of the Nazi flag is all over the gang’s secret lair.
What is clearer however, is that the X Gang represents modern science and medicine (as well as hedonism and drugs), while The Master’s Dojo represents traditional Chinese medicine as well as traditional values like hard work and discipline. A haze of smoke and drugs fills The gang’s night club while the Dojo uses a lot of incense. Instead of the classic HK Kung Fu moves of Killer and the Master, their opponents inside the stronghold do a lot of arrogant posing, showing off their physiques before they fight, and rely on strength rather than skill.
Considering the absolutely minimal nature of this film, the look and feel of their future world is quite impressive and surprisingly effective. There’s a lot done with hanging curtains and plastic sheets, but what the heck, it works. However, we also get a reasonably impressive set of control rooms and an operating theater in the X Gang’s lair, a quite large and complex set for the nightclub, and their decidedly wacky futuristic super car. There’s a sort of Frankenstein’s monster hot rod quality about it, as the windshield is reinforced with wire mesh and the front end is missing the hood and has been beefed up with external bracing. It has an oil cooler perched on top of the grill and what’s supposed to be a massive Six-barrel carb (which looks a bit fake), while the back end has a massive wing and lots of extra tail lights. It supposedly has a “Lotus 4.2” engine in the back for regular driving, a turbo-charged twelve cylinder up front for extra power, and runs on Ether.
Which is also convenient for gassing your passengers.
On the whole it all looks quite good, thanks in part to a lot of moody cinematography.
Now some viewers get all excited because we get a lot of scenes of the students at the Dojo showering, getting rubdowns or soaking out their injuries, along with a lot of partial nudity. However, it pretty much looks like the way things are in any big athletic program, so I’m reluctant to read much more into it than that.
Plus both of the leading ladies strip naked in one scene.
I’m not sure what to make of Flash Future Kung Fu: it seems like a stock rival Dojos Kung Fu movie at heart, but the science fiction elements are more developed than you’d expect. They obviously put a lot of work into the secret labs, control rooms and operating theater, which are a bit shabby (in a collapsing future sort of way) but acceptable. While some have complained that there are no special effects for the cyborgs in this film, I’m not sure they’re ever called that. Nor are the X Gang’s fighters cyborgs in the normal sense of the word. We’re told that they are under the Leader’s control because their brains have been surgically altered, and there may be suggestions that their superior neo-medicine makes them stronger. In one scene, several of them wear masks with light up eyes, which go out when their computer control fails.
But that’s still not quite what we’d call a cyborg.
This is definitely a psychotronic film, one which will leave most people cold, but will be enjoyed by those of us who love the weird and strange. It definitely has its bad moments as well as its weird moments, but I don’t regret watching it.
Although most of you will be better off avoiding this one.
Unless you really are in the mood for a Blade Runner-ish chopsockey film…