80’s Trash of the Week: Masters of the Universe


1987 was a great year for the action movie. Arnie would solidify his action-star status with Predator; Paul Verhoeven would bring us to new levels of bleak satire and gore with Robocop; and Frank Langella would reach the nadir of his career as Skeletor in Masters of the Universe.
With a budget of $17 million that ballooned to $22 million, the He-Man movie had more money than Predator, Robocop, and Full Metal Jacket. Most of it seems to have been spent on an extended, boring chase sequence on hoverboards through alleys in the abandoned California town. The effects aren’t bad, it’s just horribly choreographed and directed. At one point when He-Man is supposed to be flipping over and coming back at a baddie flying after him, they just show Dolph Lundgren’s head upside down. Great job. Darth Milk and I aren’t good at the maths, but we figured out how you take a budget millions larger than 3 classics and get a crappy movie:

$17 million^greyskull = CRAP

For you non-mathnerds, that means that when you expound millions of dollars to the power of greyskull, which is an imaginary number signifying infinite cheesiness, you will get the steaming poo pile that is Masters of the Universe.

The movie should have been a great success; it was based on a wildly popular toy and cartoon series, which I remember watching and loving. It was simple: Prince Adam was the Clark Kent of Eternia. With his Pete Rose haircut and gentle nature, no one would suspect that when he drew his magical sword and uttered “By the power of Greyskull!” he would transform into He-Man, savior of the planet. He was the only man powerful enough to stand up to Skeletor, the skull-headed conqueror who wanted to enslave all living creatures. He had some buddies to round out your toybox, too. Man-at-Arms, who had a G.I. Joe helmet and a porn mustache; Teela, the spunky gal sidekick who could hold her own in a fight, and being a kid’s cartoon, we needed an animal and an annoying whiny character, so we had Cringer the Tiger and Orko, the flying douchebag. The cartoon is an 80’s classic, and He-Man would give a moral to the story at the end of each episode, to keep us buying toys instead of smoking crack and stabbing each other.

Frank Langella needed money

When Mattel approached the Cannon Group to make a movie about He-Man, their fate was sealed. Infamous for such productions as the Death Wish sequels and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, they made some of the most memorable cheesefests of the 80’s, and Masters of the Universe is no exception. The cartoon sprang from toys originally made for the 80’s classic Conan the Barbarian, which had a bounty of breasts, blood and beefcake, and was deemed unsuitable for children. (Little did they know we all watched it on HBO anyway). So what was Mattel to do with all those toy molds? Give them some spare laser guns from Star Wars ripoffs, come up with some goofy names, and blammo, kids get to play with musclebound swordsmen in furry red banana hammocks without being associated with one of the most brutal fantasy movies of all time.

Surely pitched as Conan meets Star Wars

The toys were a big hit and spawned the aforementioned cartoon, but by 1987 He-Man was sort of played out. I was a junior in high school sporting my fro-mullet and I can’t recall what the kiddies were watching by then, but Darth Milk was probably watching Mario Brothers and jumping on mushrooms in his backyard. Kids were playing Nintendo, and didn’t care for He-Man’s moral condescension and proselytizing anymore.

Even Orko boycotted this film

First-time director Gary Goddard was handed the reins, and Dolph Lundgren got the starring role after Sly Stallone snubbed his nose at it. He had made Cobra for Cannon the year before, probably the most ridiculous of his films. Dolph just came off of playing Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, and rivaled Arnold Schwarzenegger in both size and speech impediment, but never had the charisma. I liked Dolph in Showdown in Little Tokyo, and he does have a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering, but he’s pretty dry, and a forgettable He-Man.

“Around here, it’s against the law to wear banana hammocks.”

The rest of the cast isn’t much better. Frank Langella dons some white makeup and becomes Skeletor, relishing the role, but most of the time he just gets to sit on the throne and look ugly. Max Von Sydow was the best part of Flash Gordon, but he wasn’t covered in bumpy white latex. Billy Barty plays a little hairy dwarf troll named Gwildor, created for the movie as a replacement for Orko, the little floating wizard in a hajib and cape. While Orko is missed, mostly because I wanted to see how bad he’d look, Billy Barty is one of my favorite little people actors, and manages to craft a decent character out of the horrible dialogue he’s given. He and Langella end up being the movie’s only saving graces.

Luckily they land in a California town with a population of 5.

The movie also ends up being mostly set on Earth, for budgetary reasons. Now, I don’t know how filming in abandoned Whittier, California was cheaper than finding some spot of desert to call Eternia. They begin out in the rocky wastes, where He-Man and friends are fighting with Skeletor’s minions, who look like the Star Destroyer crew from Star Wars. They escape into Gwildor’s little hobbit hole, where he shows them The Key, which looks like a medieval anal torture device. It’s a musical key that opens portals to anywhere in the universe, and Skeletor has the other one already. So of course, they escape using the Key, and wind up behind a school in California.

Saurod is still bitter that he couldn’t get a date to his prom.

This subplot seems aimed at getting teens to go see a kid movie; Courteney Cox and her musician boyfriend are making out in his convertible when Gwildor steals their bucket of fried chicken with a grappling hook. Eventually they meet up when Skeletor sends his bad guys- Beast Man, Blade, Saurod, and Karg- through the portal to create some shenanigans. They beat up a coach and trash the gym, which was decorated for the prom! How horrible. A local cop, the dependable jerk character actor James Tolkan, gets involved and does the usual stupid stuff to further a plot- arrest the good guy, play with the Key so the bad guys can find them, and otherwise be a pain in the ass.

Surfin’ Etern-I-A

The script by David Odell, who wrote the classic The Dark Crystal and the turd Supergirl, is definitely once again in the turdpile of the spectrum. He doesn’t even have anyone say “By the power of Greyskull!” because He-Man never has to transform. If they had rented a tiger to be Battlecat, kept things in the desert- which can’t be that expensive, since so many shitty B movies have been shot out there- this could have been much better. Moving it to Earth and giving us useless teenager characters confuses everything, and makes the battle scenes have to be in places like a music store. When Skeletor finally arrives, he rolls down Main Street like a float in the Thanksgiving Day parade, and they couldn’t afford any extras, so California looks completely deserted except for a cop, two students, and the guy running the guitar shop.

“And what’s that? Skeletor has shot down the Snoopy balloon!”

I wanted to at least get some laughs, but it’s monumentally boring and barely worth watching to laugh at. At 106 minutes long, it drags on forever, inserting plots about Courteney Cox’s parents having died in a plane crash, which lets Skeletor’s hench-babe Evil-Lyn trick her into giving up the Key. And her boyfriend’s musical memory helps save them in the end. In the director’s commentary, Goddard says that the original ending made preview audiences weep openly; all I can say is, it was probably over wasting 2 hours of their lives watching Dolph Lundgren try to enunciate in English.

You may have “the power,” but I have a gold lamé cape.

The final battle between Skeletor and He-Man is decent, and he does get to yell “I… have… The POWER!!” as he draws his sword. You can see they spent a lot of money on effects, but mostly it’s repetitive, unexciting battles between people with laser guns in suburbia. When He-Man is finally captured, Blade tortures him with a laser whip, and they didn’t even bother syncing Lundgren’s flinches with the animated whip. Flash Gordon of seven years prior looks and feels better, and is a lot more fun.

Villain rule #48: Never build a bottomless pit in the throne room.

I will say that the costumes for the creatures, such as Saurod and Gwildor, are quite good. Cannon would go on to create more atrocious films like Captain America before their death knell was sounded in the early 90’s. I will thank them from the bottom of my teenage heart for 1985’s Lifeforce, with its abundance of boobies. The 80’s wouldn’t be the same without Golan-Globus and Cannon Group films, but sometimes that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Beers Required to Enjoy: 3
Could it be remade today? IMDb Pro lists it. God help us all.
Quotability Rating: Zero
Cheese Factor: High
High Points: Final battle; Billy Barty
Low Point: Courteney Cox goes back in time to save her parents (weep)
Gratuitous Boobies: Nary a boobie. Needed a She-Ra cameo.

In Bruges – dark comedy sleeper of the year

I saw In Bruges on a whim after it generated considerable buzz early this year. It’s already on DVD after a February release, unfortunate for a well-advertised indie; despite Colin Farrell in the lead, it didn’t have legs. Probably because it’s a brutally dark comedy; it was sold as being like Snatch and other recent screwy U.K. crime comedies, when it really isn’t. It’s a bit deeper, a lot darker; it has colorful characters too, but these are more rooted in reality. The other thing it had against it was no one could pronounce the title. It’s broozh, for the record. I think I called it Brooges, but then again, I mispronounce everything.

Normal beer vs. Gay beer

This is a damn shame, because it is one of the best movies this year, if you have a sick sense of humor. I can’t reveal too much of the story, because watching it unfold is part of the fun. It involves two hit men who have to cool off in the sleepy medieval tourist town of the title after a botched job. The other great part is the characters. I used to think Colin Farrell was useless, but this movie may even make up for King Arthur. Brendan Gleeson, one of my favorite fat Irish actors, plays Ken, who is making the best of the little “vacation,” seeing the sights, playing it cool. Farrell’s Ray is a city boy from Dublin, and finds the town’s glacial pace maddening; he stays in the pub most of the time, ordering “a gay beer for my gay friend and a normal beer for me because I am normal,” poking fun at the snifters of Belgian beer vs. the manly Irish pint of brown.


The movie is directed by Martin McDonagh, his first major film- and it’s an achievement. It deftly unravels it’s little tale, and we learn what happened with the botched job, why the boss sent them to Bruges of all places, and what exactly these guys have on their minds. Ken is more of a brooding old crook, he has no illusions about what they do- kill people. Ray is the young pup, fiery tempered, sardonic gabber.

Me eyebrows’ll snatch the Oscar fer sure!

The botched hit that drives the plot begins as nothing new- he is in the confessional, getting penitence for the crime he is about to commit- but the bullet goes through the priest and hits a young boy who was next in line. In the middle of your chuckle you’re greeted with horror; and the movie progresses from there, with the manic Ray trying to deal with what he has done. Their boss, Harry, whom we only hear over the phone, sends them far away to let the heat cool off; but he has other reasons, and is given depth of his own.

Feckin’ art shite!

Ray can’t stand the town, but finally perks up when he seems a film being shot, and rushes over like a giddy schoolboy. By way of that, he meets Natalie, a pretty girl working with the crew, and Jimmy, a little person acting in the movie. Ray is the kind of guy who makes a bad first impression and then corrects it in your mind, if he likes you; before long he’s doing coke with them and Jimmy’s prostitute in a hotel room, and where it goes from there is anyone’s guess, but McDonagh’s story has its own logic- it goes where it has to go, where it will inevitably go.

Not the Colin Farrell you may be used to.

McDonagh was a playwright first and the film reminded me of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, also about two criminals holed up; the story keeps surprising you, but without going on crazy tangents. It deftly distracts you from what you know must come next. I’m sure it will be compared to other crime films from across the pond like Guy Ritchie’s, but it reminded me a little of Layer Cake when there was tension, but the humorous vibe is all it’s own.

I’m not Peter Dinklage, motherfucker.

The humor arises from its characters, and the story they find themselves in; the perfect tone is leavened by McDonagh’s considerable writing talent and the skill of the actors. There’s a surprise appearance of one of my favorite actors, Ralph Fiennes, who’s made a career of playing villains; he makes a new one here as Harry the mob boss, as principled as he is ruthless. And funny in just the right way, reminiscent of Ray Barboni from Get Shorty with an appropriate dry manner. Jordan Prentice plays Jimmy, the little actor with a proclivity for whores and cocaine; I mistook him for Peter Dinklage at first, to my shame. He has a similar acerbity, but he’s good in his own right- hopefully there’s room for two smart-ass little people in Hollywood, because I can’t get enough of Dinklage and would like to see Prentice again, he’s that good. He was the bag of pot in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, and survived the ignominy of playing Howard the Duck, a movie I saw in the theater, to my enduring shame.

It’s on DVD and definitely worth a rental; dismiss your hatred of Colin Farrell, he’s thrown away the cap and shaved his stubble, and his eyebrows might win an Academy Award here. This is his best role yet. If you won’t take my word for it, Ebert’s review is more detailed and even more gushing.

The trailer.

80’s Trash of the Week: Earth Girls Are Easy

I’ll admit it. I’ll watch anything with Geena Davis in it. Let me qualify that. Any movie with Geena in it. In that “Commander in Chief” TV show she had a forehead like Andre the Giant’s, which terrified me. But since her first role in Tootsie I’ve had a crush on her (probably because I was 12 and she was in her bra & panties). I’ve always thought she had an adorably cute face with that big wry grin of hers. I even watched that superflop Cutthroat Island, which is actually pretty bad. But she’s hot in her pirate outfit.

Geena’s on the left

Before Beetlejuice, The Fly, and The Accidental Tourist made her a star, she was still taking projects like Julie Brown‘s Earth Girls Are Easy, as quintessential an 80’s movie as ever there was. It’s silly and over the top, garishly colorful, has campy special effects and a ludicrous plot, and tries to make some sort of comment on the dating scene, so yeah, late 80’s trasharama. Imagine Casual Sex? with Jim Carrey, Jeff Goldblum and Damon Wayans as aliens instead of Dice Clay, throw in a bunch of campy Valley references and songs by Julie Brown of “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” 15-minute fame, and you’ve got it.

Do you think we’ll ever regret these hair-dos?

It’s surprisingly watchable for being such a silly concept, because it never takes itself seriously. It teases you a few times, with a serious romantic subplot, but it’s all played for a gag with a decent payoff, so don’t let that bother you. Geena is Valerie, a hairdresser engaged to doctor Ted, which should be every gal’s dream of landing a rich chiseled Ken doll of a man, but like that Ken doll, he is too disinterested in sex for her liking. She tells her co-worker Candy (Julie Brown), who gives her an awful frosty blonde make-over that screams ’88, but when she tries to surprise him at home, he opens the door with a nurse in tow. She kicks him out and trashes the house in a “music video” scene, in her lingerie. While it’s sort of a chick movie, the producers were wise to insist that we get plenty of bikini action.

I ran out of Kleenex.

Valerie spends her weekend moping by the pool, while in the cold reaches of outer space, we see a Flash Gordon-like ship observing Earth. Inside are 3 guys covered in bright fur, like they skinned muppets and made catsuits out of them. They’ve been alone too long and after watching a holographic porno, turn their scopes toward our planet, where of course they see Geena sprawled by her pool, tantalizing them with a little side boob.

Late 80’s invention- the side boob.

They crash-land in her swimming pool and the fun begins. They’re goofy and good-natured, after all they’re Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans from the late-80’s super-skit comedy “In Living Color,” and Jeff Goldblum, who every went to for a studly nerd back then. She tries to hide them in the house but they want girls, so she ends up taking them to the hair salon for a make-over, which goes surprisingly well. Then we get an interlude for Julie Brown to sing “Cuz I’m a Blonde,” which is actually still pretty funny.

More proof that Cheez Whiz came from space.

From then on the movie involves trying to hide them from her hubby and her stoner pool man (Michael McKean), while taking them out to the L.A. party scene. They go to a club at Griffith Park Observatory, where Zeebo (Wayans) wows the ditzy Valley girls with their crazy dance moves, and Wiploc (Carrey) gets a following when he grabs an ice cube with his 8 inch tongue. Mac (Goldblum) is the most reserved of the aliens and has a thing for Geena, not surprising when the two actors married shortly after. They have a romantic scene and then skedaddle home where he shows her his magic “love touch,” which would be re-used in Cocoon.

“You guys were easier to wax than Robin Williams.”

In every movie where she bumps uglies with Jeff G, she has a nightmare afterward- in The Fly she had the infamous maggot baby, but here she just imagines all her neighbors as weird aliens, and other bizarre stuff like a midget with a beehive hairdo in her fridge. Now I know why Peter Dinklage’s character in Living in Oblivion was so pissed off about being in a dream sequence, it seems like half the roles for little people are in freaky dreams.

They give each other knowing nods at parties for enduring this.

The last part of the movie is a little confused and involves Ted trying to get back into Valeries good graces, and the alien boys getting into trouble with Woody the pool man. Zeebo and Wiploc wanna go to the beach because unlike Mac, they haven’t gotten any space booty. While Woody is gassing up, they manage to accidentally rob a store, trash Angelyne’s Corvette, drive through a car wash and then backwards down the freeway. Who’s Angelyne? I only recognized her because John Waters wrote about her in his book Crackpot!, but she’s a self-made celebrity in L.A.– by driving around in a pink Vette and buying billboards of herself modeling, she managed to get her 15 minutes.

Angelyne in all her skanky glory.

The boys crash into the giant sign of Randy’s Donuts, another L.A. landmark; I’m surprised they didn’t stop at Tail o’ the Pup for hot dog. Of course the cops haul them in and they end up under Dr. Ted’s care- could it happen any other way? How they unravel this conundrum, and whether Val ends up with her fun-loving alien or Dr. Dork I’ll leave for you to learn. The movie is good fun and an overdose of late 80’s nostalgia, with the B-52’s on the soundtrack. Before Carrey was making millions per picture he was in stuff like this, and Once Bitten. I liked him better as a goofball. And Geena fans, she’s never looked better.

Oh, it’s in the hole!

Beers Required to Enjoy: One
Could it be remade today? No way
Quotability Rating: Low
Cheese Factor: Off the charts
High Points: Smokin’ hot Geena, early Jim Carrey
Low Point:Things get serious with Ted
Gratuitous Boobies: Side only, but lots of cleavage.

Quest for Fire vs. Caveman

Is it possible to love both these movies? I know I do. Quest for Fire is an intellectual movie about early mankind, with no understandable dialogue and then unknown actors. Caveman has Ringo Starr throwing a dwarf into a giant pool of dinosaur ca-ca. They both came out in 1981, the same year that Mel Brooks made fun of cavemen in History of the World Part I. It was a good year to be a caveman, probably the best until Geico came along.
Quest for Fire is by Jean-Jacques Annaud, who also directed The Bear; he’s really good at films with little or no dialogue, and crafting a story without it. This story begins with a happy tribe of early man lazing around a fire after a feast, when they are attacked by a rival tribe of cannibalistic, and more primitive Neanderthals. They fight viciously, at one point driving a spear through the mouth of one of the marauders, but they lose and have to flee.
They take their fire with them but lose it, which can spell disaster, because they can’t make fire; they can only keep it and tend it. If you’ve ever tried to make a fire in the woods, you can sympathize with their plight.

Naoh, the leader, blows on an ember.

Three men are chosen to seek fire in the wilderness, whether to steal it from another tribe or find it naturally, and their adventure is the meat of the story. Ron Perlman is one of these nomads, and he’d appear later in Annaud’s adaptation of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, before he rose to stardom as that cat dude in Beauty and the Beast, and of course Hellboy. The movie is an intelligent version of 10,000 B.C.– there are sabretooth tigers, mammoths, tribes that are more advanced and tribes that are more brutish, rituals and discoveries, and Roland Emmerich isn’t there to make it stupid.

Sabre-tooth Ron Perlman

When they run into a pride of sabretooths, they climb a tree where they are stuck for days. The effects are really good for the time- they’re just lions with long teeth attached, but they sure look scary enough.
Later, when they are caught between a grazing mammoth herd and a tribe of Neanderthals, the leader crawls up and offers a mammoth a handful of grass, befriending it, so they are defended. That sounds really silly, but it works when you watch it. It’s a hell of a lot more likely than befriending a sabretooth.
They also come upon two mud-painted people tied to stakes by the Neanderthals- one of whom is missing an arm. I guess that’s the best way to keep meat fresh back in those days. They rescue them, and get a friend for life in Rae Dawn Chong, in an early role. The leader gets wounded in the crotch killing a Neanderthal, and she helpfully applies salve. She’s probably what those of us who were 12 when it came out remember best- she’s topless or nude for the entirety of the film, except for her tribal make-up. She’s also more advanced culturally than our caveman pals, speaking a language that neither they or we understand, but is definitely more familiar than the grunts they speak (Desmond Morris helped craft the languages).

Ancient refrigerator

There are more run-ins with cave bears, Neanderthals and other tribes who want to steal their fire; they also meet Rae Dawn’s tribe, who live on the mud flats around a swampland and seem to have a fertility cult going on. A big laugh for us at age twelve was when they cage our protagonist with one of their fertile Rubenesque maidens, and when he’s done he looks out and sees 4 more lined up. The film is full of funny little touches that usually make some sort of sense. Her tribe is all gangly and he is strong, so they want him for their string children. She escapes with him, since she has other plans for her man.
She introduces them to advances like spear-throwers (atlatls, actually), laughter, and the missionary position, in a very funny scene. Our leader finds himself growing attached to his new mate, instead of humping whatever ass popped up at the water hole. She decides to stay with him, as they bring fire back to his tribe. After nearly 2 hours of no talking, you find yourself riveted to the screen. There’s a fine mix of humor and action, and nothing breaks the spell- it’s a dirty, brutish life, and while a complete fantasy, it becomes utterly believable. In the tiny genre of movies set in prehistory, it’s got to be the most authentic and enjoyable. It’s certainly different, but I consider it a minor classic. I suppose I ought to compare it to Clan of the Cave Bear someday, but I try to only review good bad movies.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=plyoto-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B00003CXAF&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

How I adore 80’s tagline humor.

And then you have Caveman with Ringo Starr, in his first major role since Help!. He plays Atouk, a lowly caveman in his tribe, a lone thinker in a group run by Tonda, a big goon. He pines for Lana, played by Barbara Bach, and who wouldn’t? She’s spilling out of a fur bikini the whole film. They also have their own language, but all I can remember is that Atouk wants to zug-zug Lana, so you can figure out what it means. The humor is mostly of the idiotic pee-pee poo-poo variety, but it’s still hilarious in an extremely campy way.

I’d zug-zug her too.

Atouk gets banished by Tonda after trying to zug-zug Lana, along with his pal Lar (Dennis Quaid, who gets to demonstrate the difficulties of peeing during the Ice Age, at one point) and the rest of the outcasts. These include a blind old man with a cane, a dwarf, a gay couple, an Asian dude, and a flat-chested cavewoman unfit for breeding (Shelley Long). The Asian guy speaks English, to explain the caveman words to the audience, proving that the Geico cavemen are more advanced than the average moviegoer.

They have many humorous adventures along the way. They topple a giant pterodactyl’s egg into a volcanic geyser and make a giant poached egg. They think they lose the dwarf in a giant pool of dinosaur shit, and dig through it looking for him. When he comes from behind a boulder after taking a piss, they throw him into it, and give us the immortal quote “Doo-doo! Ca-ca. Shit.”

They run into an abominable snowman in an ice cave who chases them around. My favorite is when the blind man stumbles on a huge dinosaur, and thinks it’s a tree. He does the usual blind man pantomime of feeling around for what he bumped into, and the dinosaur likes it quite a bit… get it, he’s rubbing dino dong! Then he whacks it with his cane in the dino-nuts, causing it to attack our little band of cave-dorks.

Blind man vs. T.Rex balls.
They also have a giant iguana after them. Atouk shows his brains, by feeding the beast some goofy berries that make you high. Previously he proved his superiority by cracking his back and standing upright, inventing music, and using fire to burn the asses of his enemies. Including one who runs away farting, which is especially funny when you’re 12.

Lighting farts came soon after the use of fire.
I may sound condescending, but it’s actually pretty hilarious to watch. The cast is really good and get into the act, defiling their every shred of dignity for our entertainment. By the end, when Atouk defeats Tonda and gets Lana, you’re actually rooting for Shelley Long when she pushes the busty babe into bronto bull-caca. There’s something wrong with that. Even Ringo married Lana and he’s still giving her the zug-zug, as far as I know.

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With both these fine movies out there to entertain us, who needs Emmerich? It’s just a rehash of Stargate anyway, with pyramids and an ambiguously sexed tyrant. He hasn’t made a good movie since Independence Day, and that was just a remake of War of the Worlds. If you didn’t get enough disasterage in The Day After the Day Before Yesterday, he’s making a movie about the end of the Mayan calendar that includes volcanoes and such, because it ends in 2012. I wonder if he gets terrified when he finds out his Date Planner only goes to January 2009.

For the record, Rae Dawn Chong can apply salve to me anytime.

For Your Height Only! Filipino Dwarf Spy Thriller

Weng Weng was a big action star in the 80’s in the Philippines. Well, not physically of course. He was 2’9″ but he had a lot of charm, style and some kick-ass kung fu moves. He starred in a number of James Bond spoofs, but For Y’ur Height Only was the first. The movies are delightfully tongue in cheek and all over the internet at this point, in fact I’m pretty sure most of the movie is on youtube, if you want to check it out yourself. It is also available on DVD and on Netflix. Or you can just watch this great fan trailer with many of the best scenes:

I’ll come straight out and admit it- I’ve always been enthralled by Little People. It probably began with seeing Under the Rainbow and Billy Barty in Foul Play a thousand times on HBO as a kid. I even watched some of that reality show, “Little People, Big World” a few times. And I’m sort of a Peter Dinklage fanboy, but that’s besides the point- this movie is hilarious.

It is considered bad form to make demands in a Klan hood.

The evil Mr. Giant has kidnapped Dr. Kohler and is holding the world hostage with his N-bomb. Mr. Giant is a shadowy unknown figure in the underworld with a huge army of bad guys in tropical shirts and mustaches. Thankfully the government provides Agent 00 with cool gadgets to defeat this menace. These include:
A Ring that Can Detect Poison! “This ring can detect all poisons. It’s made out of gold. platinum was too expensive. Our budget is a problem”
A Tiny Jet Pack! This looks like two fire extinguishers and some hose, but it works surprisingly well.
A Remote Control Hat! Stolen directly from Oddjob and improved 100%.
A Tiny Break-Down Machinegun! Perfectly sized for Agent 00, this never runs out of ammo.

No nutsack is safe when Agent 00 is on the case!

He hunts down Mr. Giant’s men at a dojo and even has a battle with samurai swords. His diminutive size makes it easy for him to sneak up on you and punch you in the nuts, though he is also capable of swinging up Yoda-style and choking you out with his legs, or sliding across the floor to trip you over and step on your neck.

Henchmen mystified by a hat on a string

When there are too many henchmen for Weng Weng to handle, he relies on the many gadgets they gave him. My personal fave was the remote-control Oddjob hat, which can be used to cloud men’s minds. When things really get nasty it can also be used as a deadly weapon:

Agent 00 is just too much for them. The henchmen are assured that he’s in league with Satan. “He’s big pals with Lucifer!” They also compare him to an eel. “How the hell do you hold onto an eel?”
“Beaten by a lousy eel! We gonna hafta git outta town!” It’s about as campy as What’s Up Tiger Lily? and just as much fun.
Weng Weng isn’t just a kung fu superstar, he’s also a ladies’ man. As any Bond clone must be, he is a killer with the ladies and rescues the “inside girl” they have in Mr. Giant’s gang when she is exposed. And he is well rewarded.

When it’s time for the final showdown, Agent 00 uses the last of his gadgets. I think he actually uses them in the sequence he is given them, which is either terribly clever or an amusing insight into how quickly the script was written. He jetpacks in to Mr. Giant’s lair for the ultimate confrontation:
How can you not love a movie that makes a jet pack out of fire extinguishers? Besides, Weng Weng is so fetching in his white suit, and such a natural physical actor that the movie would be better without the campy dubbed dialogue. There are a lot of good sight gags, but the attempts at jokes added later by the dubbing team are pretty lame, like “Oh, I’ve got to run with these little feet!”
The best gag is that Mr. Giant is also a dwarf, albeit taller than Agent 00. They have their kung fu fight and of course our guy is victorious. Because height doesn’t matter, when you’re as smooth as Weng Weng!

There are a lot of “foreign oddity” movies, but the Weng Weng comedy/action spoofs are pretty entertaining in their own right, with that sort of quaint old-time charm of Hollywood silent films and stuff like Laurel & Hardy or the Three Stooges. There is a sequel called The Impossible Kid, which is pretty much the same movie with new gadgets and a lot more kung fu fights. He’s got a little motorcycle, and fights a female karate master in her dojo. That will get its own review someday. It’s actually better in some ways because the dubbing isn’t insulting to Weng Weng. I also found another film called Wild Wild Weng, which despite sounding like a porno is another fun action flick that I need to watch sometime soon. when I do, you know you’ll hear about it here.
Sadly, the big little star died in 1992. He’d been in movies since the 60’s and is still listed as the shortest person in a leading role. It looks like fellow blogger Andrew Leavold is working on a documentary called The Search for Weng Weng that is coming out this year, and his blog has more information on the action star than I could ever hope to find. I’ll be keeping an eye on his blog and hopefully will be able to see the movie.

RIP Weng Weng, you will live long in our memories.