FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL DIARY, 7/24/2016 (HOLY FLAME OF THE MARTIAL WORLD & IN SEARCH OF THE ULTRA-SEX)

Sunday should be a quiet, peaceful day of rest and spiritual contemplation. I spent mine watching obscure movies full of violence, black magic, and deviant sex.

This afternoon’s movie was 1983’s Holy Flame of the Martial World, projected in glorious 35mm “Shaw Scope.” Holy Flame is a Shaw Brothers film from the same era as the Certified Weird The Boxer’s Omen, made at a time when interest in traditional kung fu was waning and the studio was desperate to soup up its offerings with lots of fantasy and Star Wars-inspired special effects. Holy Flame sets logic to one side to tell the tale of two orphans seeking revenge on their parent’s murderers, which can only be accomplished by attaining yin and yang swords. The chief bad gal runs a martial cult of virginity-powered lady fighters; her uneasy ally has a team of traditional male monks. The chief good guy is a master of “ghostly laughter” which causes the earth to shake and is fatal to those who lack the ability to fold their earlobes into a protective flap. There are also the leaders of the “seven clans” who keep popping in to ask the two baddies for the various plot MacGuffins everyone believes will help them rule “the martial world,” plus a mysterious “Snake Boy” (played by a woman) whose origin and role is never adequately defined. The action is nonstop and ridiculous; the swordfighting is impressive, though there is too much wirework for my taste (fighters flying through the air, stopping and reversing in mid leap, that sort of thing). If all that’s not enough, stick around for the glitchy teleportation, pink and blue Saturday morning cartoon ghosts flying around, an English-speaking mummy, and the snakebite laser finger, just to name a few highlights. The insane action never stops.

Still from Holy Flame of the Martial World (1983)Holy Flame, of course, is not a new movie, but I feel privileged to see it on the big screen in a theater full of appreciative fans. It’s lightweight entertainment and no threat to make the List of the Weirdest Movies Ever Made, but it makes for an exhilaratingly exotic popcorn movie for a Sunday afternoon matinee.

I was surprised In Search of the Ultra-Sex was not scheduled for midnight, but rather at a respectable 9:30 PM. Like Holy Flame, this screening was more popular with regular ticket holders than with the press. Also, no one in line was wearing a raincoats, and the percentage of women in attendance was about the same as for any other movie. This demographic info is only odd because Ultra-Sex is a pastiche movie made up (mostly) of clips from adult films from the 1970s to early 1990s (with the hardcore portions edited out, although it comes as close as possible without crossing the line). Maybe we’re in for a new age of porno chic; more likely, though, the explanation is that what was once forbidden sleaze has now turned into risible kitsch, the fate of every popular art form.

Still from In Search of the Ultra-sex (2015)Ultra-Sex stitches together scenes from dozens of adult movies, using comic overdubbing (from two guys, voicing both male and female roles) to create a science fiction story about… well, as might be expected, what it’s “about” is pretty incoherent. It has something to do with the search for the Ultra-Sex, which is a something-or-other that makes Earthlings hump like rabbits whose feed pellets were accidentally replaced with Viagra, either because of its presence or because of its absence, I could never tell which. The action occurs both on Earth and in space.  The clips—which include robot-controlled dildos, lactating Power Rangers (!), and Mr. Spock gettin’ it on, among other sexy absurdities—can be hilarious, and I would have been happy to see a curated collection of such snippets. (The evening’s biggest grossout moment came courtesy of a nose-fellatio gag from a “Cyrano de Bergerac” porn parody). Footage from the non-porno badfilm Samurai Cop makes up one of the many subplots, and the story also contains bits from the infamous Edward Penishands. There is one amazing stop-motion sequence involving fornicating Barbie dolls and a giant blow-up monster who is subdued by toy tanks firing dildos; Google suggests a French short called “Le Toy Shop” is the best candidate for this one. As fun as much of this is, I found the What’s Up, Tiger Lily?-styled narration lame and juvenile (characters named “General Willy” and spaceships dubbed “Foreskin Five” are typical jokes). It’s an unneeded excuse to enjoy clips that would probably have been funnier without the commentary.

Ultra-Sex‘s prospects for legitimate distribution are, I fear, nil. I can’t believe all of the source material was cleared, and although the producers could certainly argue these clips can be appropriated through fair use and parody, I doubt any major distributor would be willing to take on the potential liability involved.

On to tomorrow, my final day of the Festival, when I’ll close with ‘s psychedelic experimental satire Atmo HorroX and a brief recap of the Festival’s weird offerings.

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