I used to watch a random movie I had never heard of every Monday night. However for my own personal reasons I took a hiatus from it early this year. However, I've really missed doing this, it's introduced me to movies I would have never heard of otherwise. Like the thriller JACK BE NIMBLE starring Alexis Arquette. The Southern Baptist anti-communist scare film IF FOOTMEN TIRE YOU WHAT WILL HORSES DO?, which had more laughs than any comedy release from 2019. I also found a movie I had been searching for since seeing it on HBO as a kid, the brilliant THE UNSEEN.
I've also seen some shit that would turn you white. Like a Japanese Jason Voorhees having sex with an Asian fangirl, penis machine guns, a Mormon rock opera, Bud Spencer on a badly green screened flying carpet, and David Niven in blackface.
I used to review four movies at a time, I'm going to change it up and focus on one movie at a time. (At the last second this one became a double feature.) I'll also only be doing this bi-weekly.
DEVIL WOMAN (1970)
During a thunderstorm in a Filipino village, a woman gives birth to a baby girl with a head full of snakes for hair. The father of the child wants to perform a postnatal abortion with a machete, but luckily the mother stops him. Cut to years later the girl Manda aged 12, has the power to summon and control snakes, and keeps her snake mane hidden away under a turban. With the exception of one boy who befriends her, she's picked on by the rest of the children in her village. During a bullying incident, a boy tries to pull her turban off and is bitten by the snakes underneath, and soon dies. Later that night an angry mob shows up at Manda's farm. They kill Manda's Father and burn the house down with her Mother inside. Manda flees into the woods. She finds a cave to live in and begins plotting revenge on the villagers.
So far, very cool origin story for a horror villain.
As an adult Manda is taking out villagers one at a time with the help of her snakes. She decides to up her game and uses her snake powers to intimidate a local gang (or army, they have forty members) of church looting thugs and rapists into joining her cause.
Meanwhile we meet our hero, Hsu Wen (Tung Li, star of many Shaw Brothers films), he's a doctor who also has a bachelor's degree in kicking ass. He arrives in the Phillipines from China to help an old friend, the wealthiest man in Manda's village Mr. Crispin, with a leg injury. Wealthy guy has a daughter who Hsu begins a romance with, which causes her Cousin to go into a fit of jealous rage. The Cousin also happens to be a member of Manda's army. This leads to some kung-Fu fighting between Hsu and The Cousin.
Speaking of Manda's gang, she instructs them to go into the village and bring back the local village girls and bring them back to her snake cave for a rape orgy. All the while Manda is sitting on a throne in the middle of the cave watching the festivities occur. It's not graphic, there's no nudity, but it's still pretty disturbing. Up until this point Manda has been a sympathetic villain, but this is the point where she loses it. Once you host rape parties in your snake cave you have to forfeit your sympathy card.
Our two plots finally come together when The Cousin kidnaps The Daughter and takes her to Manda's snake cave. Hsu swears to Mr. Corbin he'll bring her back and battles his way through the rapist thug gang until he finally goes mano y Manda against the snake lady herself.
Of course I loved it. BUT. I do have a few gripes. First: and this is a big one. The kung-fu fights weren't that memorable or great. This is actually surprising after finding out this was Corey Yuen's first film to work on as stunt coordinator and fight choreographer. Corey is a legendary actor, director and made some amazing fight sequences. If they make a highlight reel of Corey Yuens career I doubt any scene from DEVIL WOMAN will show up. Second: it's gets to be a bit of a slog half-way through. There is a bit of padding here. In my description of the movie I left out the big scene where Mr. Corbin has a birthday party complete with The Stars And Stripes Forever playing in the background for some reason. I also left out the sub-plot of the one guy who was friends with Manda when they were children trying to reconnect with her. This could've actually worked and been an integral story plot, but it's not, it's just there for some reason, and never gels with the story. Third: I loved Manda's origin. I hated her lame ass ending. There was such a brilliant start to a villain, she deserved a better payoff.
Those were my nitpicks. My love for this movie far outweighs them. I didn't even talk about how Hsu has a pocketfull of woodden throwing sticks that he uses to fight off Manda's snakes with. Horror and kung-fu movies go together like peanut butter and chocolate. This is a gem.
After researching this movie I found out DEVIL WOMAN had a sequel. And hells yes I'm going to watch it. It's double feature time.
BRUKA, QUEEN OF EVIL (1974)
So on the insane-o-meter DEVIL WOMAN had around a 4.6 reading. BRUKA, QUEEN OF EVIL twists that knob to 11 and then pulls off the dial and swallows it. That becomes very apparent in the first five minutes when a defeated Manda returns to her cave and in slithers a giant anaconda with the head of an elderly lady, flanked on both sides by dwarves in loinclothes. So the elderly snake lady is the titular Bruka. She tells Manda she's her Grandmother. She wants to join her cause making the villagers pay, and gifts her with an army of dwarves and midgets, a half man half bat, a group of stone men, a group of tree men, and a guy with a dog head wearing a wig. The rape parties in the snake cave are about to get a helluva lot freakier.
Grandmom also gifts Manda with a black stone. When put in her mouth it turns her snake hair into flowing locks of normal hair.
Manda uses this new gift to go to the local nightclub/restaurant and picks up a local guy, brings him into the parking lot and kills him with her snakes. She also makes all the food on the plates in the restaurant turn into snakes. The diners have had it with these mother fucking snakes on their mother fucking plates and flee the restaraunt. This is our last big scene with Manda. After this she sadly has very little screen time.
Hong Ping is a nightclub bouncer also with a bachelor's degree in kicking ass. After a run in with a local gang where he has to kung-fu all over the place. he does too much damage to the nightclub he works at and gets fired. His Mother and Daughter are starving and need food. After looking around he decides to take up a job for a local rich man who is offering a reward to find his daughter that was kidnapped by a mysterious lady. His job interview consists of fighting off an army of bodyguards. This rich guy has over fifty guys guarding his estate. Not only did his daughter get kidnapped, but together they can't even beat up one guy. After the fight, Hong Ping ventures out into the woods to find the girl.
His first stop is at a nearby village where all the townsfolk have been killed by Manda's snakes. Their bodies are still lying on the ground. Hong teams up with the village Priest and his hunchback assistant to help bury all the bodies. Afterwards the Priest tells Hong about an old hermit living in the woods that can help him in his quest. Hong sets out to find the hermit just as Manda and her dwarf posse show up to kill the Priest and the hunchback.
This time around Manda is killing the villagers and gathering up their young virgin girls and sacrificing one every full moon to make her powers stronger. Unlike the last movie this one is pretty graphic. We get shots of breasts and gore.
On his way to the hermit, Hong rescues a couple of kidnapped village girls from their dwarf captors. A full grown person fighting an army of little people, which I could just watch for the movie's full runtime. We even get shots of epic dwarf tossing. Eventually Hong makes it to Manda's Rock Men, but he can't get past them because he just hurts his hands whe he tries giving them the kung-fu chop. So he takes the advice of the priest and seeks out The Hermit. At this point I thought he would recieve a powerful kung-fu method, but instead he's given a length of rope. When spun over his head it becomes a powerful stick. Spun over his head again it becomes rope. Why wouldn't you just keep it as powerful stick at all times? Why would you make it go back into rope form? Well, as the hermit explains, as a rope you can use it as a belt. Alright then.
Now leveled up with his rope belt stick weapon, Hong Ping fights his way through the Bat Guy, another army of dwarves, (never gets old), the rock men, the tree men, multiple snakes, the dog head guy, and for some reason the actor who played Lu Po, the leader of the gang in the last movie. I'm not sure if he's playing the same character, but at tis point it really doesn't matter.
Finally, our hero makes it to Manda's sacrifice cave and faces down Bruka in an epic battle. Oh yeah, Manda was there too.
This movie is complete batshit insanity, and I had a blast with it. I do have a couple of the same gripes I had with the prequel. Mainly Manda's story is completely thrown out the window and comes to a disappointing end. The fight scenes are mediocre here as well, but since they involve dwarves, rock men, and tree people, they're a little more interesting. Also where the prequel had a bit of a second act slog, this one has none of that at all. DEVIL WOMAN was a kung-fu horror mix. This is more of a kung-fu monster movie mix. Some of the creatures have a low budget charm to them, like Bruka, the giant snake with an an elderly woman's head, but some are just ridiculously bad and hilarious. Like the Bat Guy:
This is like someone doing a Man-Bat cosplay after spending ten dollars at a thrift shop.
I absolutley loved this movie. It's a total gem. Every week on Sundays my friends and I have dinner and movie night at my house. Next Sunday BRUKA, QUEEN OF EVIL is being shown. That's the biggest compliment I can give to a movie. I want to share it with my friends immediatly.
DEVIL WOMAN is available on Amazon Prime.
BRUKA, QUEEN OF EVIL is available on YouTube as part of the epic Wu-Tang Collection.
After watching DEVIL WOMAN I had this song stuck in my head: