Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982)
Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
William D. Carl
This Week’s Feature Presentation:
FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable—then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.
Every once in a great while, a film comes along that is so weird, so twisted, so indescribable that you can only sit back and marvel at it. . . hopefully while inebriated. I caught this week’s offering, FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982) or Mi Ni Te Gong Dui, at a double feature chop-sockey martial arts festival with a group of disbelieving friends. Now, as I re-watch it, all I can think is “What. The. Hell?” This is no typical martial arts film. This is no typical film at all. What it is could best be described as a whirlwind homage to every genre known to man. If every past and future Quentin Tarantino film were placed in a blender along with several Tex Avery cartoons and a Three Stooges short, you might just get something like FANTASY MISSION FORCE.
In some unknown time period (in various parts the movie looks like it could take place in the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s, or the 1980s), the Chinese and the Japanese are at war. A Jeep with the brave Lieutenant Don in it gets through several booby traps, machine gun wielding Japanese in blackface, some bombs, and arrives at the tent of two other Chinese generals, General Johnson and General Thompson (!). A group of Western generals, including Abraham Lincoln (again, what?), have been captured by the Japanese and are being taken from Luxemburg back to Tokyo to use in propaganda films for WW2. According to the generals, Snake Plissken’s been dead for years. Rocky isn’t suitable for action, and James Bond has gone missing. It’s up to Lieutenant Don to recruit a rag-tag ‘Dirty Dozen type’ of group of commandos to set the generals free before the Japanese convince the world they have won World War 2.
Then, the titles start over “la-la-la…wooo wooo…lalala….wooo wooo” Chinese pop music from the 1960s that I swear I heard in BEACH BLANKET BINGO (1963). A group of singing and dancing waiters, led by a Chinese man dressed like a Mexican Bandito (I ain’t makin’ this up folks), all drink tons of beer during an insane musical number (“What a way to treat a wife…la-la-la ha-ha-ha!”) A black man in a tuxedo and a red headband tells the bandito to call him Pappa then gives him a gun, which he uses to rob the restaurant. The Frito Bandito is actually a friend of (now) Captain Don, and he joins the force.
Next, we find a group of prisoners working on the chain gang, and after a brief martial arts fight, a gun battle, and a pick-axe fight, one prisoner named Greased Lightning escapes. He discovers an elegant candle-lit banquet table full of food in the woods. While he eats, he is recruited by Captain Don and the bandito.
Next, we have a wrestling match between “the killer from Japan” and, from New York City, “the China Doll Sammy,” played by none other than Jackie Chan (RUMBLE IN THE BRONX– 1995, RUSH HOUR – 1998). Rumor has it Chan owed the director a favor for saving him from a Triad, so he played a small part for star power in the flick, but his boxing match is a great scene and a fun highlight. His beautiful consort (and partner in crime) Emily wears all black with huge plastic boots up to her knees. During the entire scene, I kept thinking of the Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes cartoon where Bugs fight The Crusher. There’s even giant cigars that explode and sumo jokes, and it’s genuinely hilarious! As they run off with the money, Sammy and Lily are stopped by corrupt military police, bribe them, and escape.
Next, in a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) type of drinking contest, in which a beautiful woman and a man take turns drinking shots then shooting away a tied-up woman’s clothes, the woman wins with her terrific knife-throwing skills. Turns out it was a sting operation, and her partner, the man, and the half naked girl, all have to fight their way out of the bar. A Wayne Newton look-alike comes for her, and they slap the crap out of each other while confessing their love, despite the fact that he can’t remember her name…Lily. She is played by the terrific Brigitte Lin (POLICE STORY—1985, THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR—1993, and CHUNKING EXPESS—one of my all time favorite films—from 1994). After a tender love scene between Wayne and Lily, Captain Dan offers the guy a job, and Wayne Newton leaves Lily tied up and gagged as he takes up the Captain’s offer. She, of course, doesn’t take kindly to this, so she does what any woman would do. She grabs every weapon known to man, armors herself up, and uses a bazooka to take out their house and all his possessions!
Suddenly, we’re in a Benny Hill skit with Chinese men dressed as Scots doing maneuvers in fast motion in kilts to bagpipe music. (Still not making any of this up.)
Back to Lily—our heroine takes out almost the whole Scottish army base while doing fabulous gymnastics all the while. She captures Wayne Newton at gunpoint, but she is also recruited along with two inept Chinese “Scots” (the Laurel and Hardy of the East), the Mexican Bandito, Greased Lightning, and Wayne Newton. This is the group that’s going to rescue Abe Lincoln?
Off they go in jeeps to Luxemburg (from China?). Along the way, Jackie Chan and his girlfriend attack the group of misfits. They are defeated and leave again. High jinks and shenanigans ensue. The two Scotsman seem to be developing a love affair. The group spends a night in a haunted house, complete with floating ghost heads, the soundtrack of Walt Disney’s “Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House” on the soundtrack, hopping vampires, ghosts playing mah-jongg, a beautiful female seductress who turns into a living skeleton, a monstrous toilet, a Midnight Mass, and demons! Turns out, ghosts and monsters blow up real good when hit with a bazooka shell! A group of sex-starved Amazon Ninja women who use brightly colored bolts of cloth to capture everyone, takes the group hostage. They’re led by a tuxedo clad cad who is an artist who destroys everything imperfect around him. Luckily, just as a new musical number starts with all the Amazons in leopard skin mini-dresses, Jackie Chan shows up and leads a bloody revolution with our heroes blowing up everything in sight.
They finally arrive at the Nazi headquarters in Luxemburg (which is in a desert? The things you learn. . .), where huge swastikas fly, one on an orange banner and one on a lime green banner. They find all the Japanese dead, and the generals are missing. However, Jackie Chan and his girl Friday show up! Out of the night drive the Nazis in weird Mad Max cars, rigged out with all kinds of crazy weapons and swastikas spray painted on the sides. And the Nazis are all tricked out like they’re about to enter Thunderdome! And they’re all Chinese! Once again, I just can’t make this stuff up, folks. It’s all there on the screen to see. If you dare.
The group discovers a hidden stash of money in the Nazi headquarters. It’s going to be a fight to the finish. Whoever lives through the battle gets a share of the money. The following eight minute battle scene is an insane mélange of explosives, machine guns, sword fights, car chases, tanks, bulldozers, and more. Even though the music is the silly song from the beginning, it looks an awful lot like THE WILD BUNCH (1969). Most of our heroes don’t make it to the end, the death scenes accompanied by a slow, sad harmonica version of Camptown Races! Doo-dah! Doo-dah! Then, there’s a surprise twist ending!
FANTASY MISSION FORCE moves so fast, it’s quicker than the speed of thought, because if you think about any of it for more than a second, it makes no sense, but if you just let it flow over you, the gags are pretty funny, the girls are just pretty (even with weird 80s hair and Pocahontas headbands), the action is deftly handled, and the Nazi muscle cars are pretty bad-ass. It’s all a lark, just as if someone gave the director a whole lot of drugs and money and said “You only get to make one movie; so you’d better put everything you like into 80 minutes!” And so was born the world’s only martial arts, World War Two action, romance, adventure, prison escape drama, ghost story musical!
Speaking of the director, it happens to be Yen-ping Chu, who has directed more than forty films and is still at it. I haven’t seen any of the others he has done, but their titles (such as ANGEL HEARTS—1995, SEVEN FOXES—1985, and ISLAND OF FIRE—1990) make me suspect he moved on to more mainstream fare.
Adding to the fun is the dreadful dubbing of the movie. Whoever rewrote the script (originally by Hsin Wei), knew how silly the whole thing truly was, and they had great fun with reworking the dialogue.
Some favorite lines:
“Wow. You’re pretty when you kill.”
“The nice people are always the first to die. Do I look nice?”
“Is THIS what you call horniness?”
FANTASY MISSION FORCE is very poorly edited. It’s as if an axe was taken to the film and it was all scotch-taped back together. I’m not sure if it was this way to start, or if the foreign distributors have hacked away at it over the years, but the poor movie looks terrible. This in no way diminishes the fun to be had with such a crazy flick. This is the exact movie you want at hand when your buddies come over for a night of drinking and movies. You are guaranteed to have a good time.
I give FANTASY MISSION FORCE three and a half Frito Bandito musical numbers out of four. And that’s saying something!
© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl