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Human Lanterns

Hong Kong 1982
produced by
Shaw Brothers
directed by Sun Chung
starring Tony Liu (= Liu Yung, Lau Wing), Chen Kuan Tai, Lo Lieh, Lo Meng, Tanny Tien Ni, Sun Chien, Ha Ping, Yuen Wah

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Masters Lung (Tony Liu) & Tan (Chen Kuan Tai) are both acknowledged swordsmasters & both blessed with wealth & fame ... which is why they are bickering all the time, to the point of insulting one another.

After Tan has been especially nasty once by presenting Lung with his favourite whore in front of his wife (Tanny Tien Ni), Lung figures the only way to retaliate is to beat him at the competition for the best lantern at the Lantern festival (oh how threatening) ... but for that he needs (naturally) the best lantern maker about ... whom he finds in Chao Chun-Fang (Lo Lieh), a former swordsmaster who has lost all his spirits after Lung forced him into a duel, beat him & scarred his face. Understandably, he bears a certain grudge for Lung, but Lung, blinded by the money he offers Chao Chun-Fang & his own reputation, refuses to see that ...

Soon, Lung's favourite prostitute is kidnapped by a man in a skull mask, then skinned alive & her skin is used for a lantern ... (for the attentive reader, yes it was Chao who kidnapped & killed her.)

Soon, Tan's sister shares the same fate, & an old drunk & Lung's wife are also kidnapped, skinned, killed & recylcled as lanterns, & Lung's wife is raped as well (after the kidnapping, but before the skinning).

Meanwhile, Lung & Tan are getting more & more at each other's throats as each one thinks the other one has abducted the women ... & eventually, Tan even hires a killer, Kuei Szu-yi (Lo Meng) to get rid of Lung, but when Kuei fails to do so, Tan kills his own assassin.

For Chao though this is a perfect occasion to heat up the enmities between Tan & Lung even more, & he tells Lung that Tan has actually hired the assassin ... with the expected results that the 2 men are soon fighting it out ... a fight that's only ended when Chao in skull mask  interferes & brutally stabs (but doesn't kill) Tan.

It's only then that Tan & Lung realize they have been cheated into fighting one another, & in the end, together with police officer Poon (Sun Chien), who has at times suspected them both of kidnapping & murder, go after Chao ... who proves to be more than their match, & in the end, he is only stopped when his house caves in over him, burying him, & all his beautiful lanterns made of human skin with him ...

Lung can only just escape, horribly scarred, but maybe that experience has made him a better man, as he decides to give away all his wealth & retreat into the mountains to meditate.

 

A blend of period martial arts film, typical Shaw Brothers style, & a Tales from the Crypt-style horror story - inasmuch as it tells a moralistic story about very macabrre divine justice (as the main character Lung is such a self-obsessed prick throughout that he deserves punishment).

& while the film might not quite live up to its notoriety (as few films do) of being an out-&-out gorefest, it's nevrtheless a fascinating & perversely creative twist on the (by the early 1980's) pretty tired martial arts-genre. Furthermore, quite in contrast to its somewhat sleazy subject, it's very beautifully filmed, giving the film at times an almost lyrical atmosphere.

Definitely worth a look.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Thanks for watching !!!

 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

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Melanie Denholme
directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD