Wednesday, September 17, 2008

First Time with the Bad Ones

Within badfilm circles the names of Uwe Boll and Godfrey Ho aren’t exactly worshipped - Boll is considered too bad bad and Ho simply too esoteric - but they do generate talk. My first encounters with each:

Boll has made something of a career adapting videogames to films and I felt no reason to see any of them but In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007) had such an odd cast - Burt Reynolds, Jason Statham, Leelee Sobieski, Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman, Claire Forlani and others. Too bad it’s simply dull-bad, running a bit over two hours and looking like a B-movie that just had lots of money poured into it which is more or less true. The invading monsters could just as well have been 50s rubber-suited guys, most of it looks like it was shot on about five sets and Burt Reynolds plays a quite improbable king. Statham glowers and at times seems like he learned English phonetically but he’s expected to carry the movie. Only Liotta does anything other than stumble through and even that’s because I can’t tell if he was about to break down in giggles or storm off the stage and fire his agent.

But was it an accurate adaptation of the game? A question I can’t answer, having only played the demo but at least it seemed to have the initial farm setup and a bridge encounter from the original.

Godfrey Ho is another type of filmmaker altogether. He’s often called Hong Kong’s Ed Wood but then some people can’t help but compare any inept filmmaker to Wood. During the 1980s and some before and after, Ho released dozens and dozens of more or less martial arts films usually with “ninja” in the title and usually constructed by splicing together chunks of different movies (including some unfinished ones he apparently bought). It’s impossible to count how many because so there are numerous retitlings, re-edits and pseudonyms but the wonderful obsessives at Cinemageddon have counted 153 so far. That’s a good ballpark figure considering that they’re likely to have missed some and that the 153 most likely includes a few duplicates.

Diamond Ninja Force (1986?) seems to be representative based on descriptions I’ve read. Ho took a film about a family moving into a suburban house that’s haunted and edited new footage featuring American actor Richard Harrison into and around the original (which as far as I can tell nobody has identified). The result is now a story about gangsters who want some land and try to scare the woman who holds the deed into signing over the rights. It’s dumb but makes as much sense as many current Hollywood blockbusters. But where Ho earns his fans is that it all falls apart in the details. The different footage doesn’t match at all, especially one scene where Harrison and the original woman are intercut to appear as if they’re having a conversation. The gangster story disappears for long stretches, there isn’t the slightest attempt made to explain how they could have pulled off floating transparent women, the fight scenes are remarkably clumsy and some of the dialogue sounds like it went through several languages before reaching English. One oddity is that there appears to be an alternate version with a Sho Kosugi scene added at the start -- most people considered this something of a legend but I heard from somebody who actually saw that one (on an 80s VHS).

Diamond Ninja Force is really not as entertaining or just odd as anything from Wood (or Larry Buchanan or Andy Milligan or whoever). What I really wonder about is the kind of video distribution channels that would accept something like this or the numerous other cut-and-paste jobs Ho did. Was the video market that desperate for product? I’ve heard interesting things about Catman in Lethal Track which will be my next and quite likely last Ho film.