Posted in Fantasia 2015, Fantasia International Film Festival, Film Festivals, Reviews, Trailers, Video

Buddha’s Palm Fantasia 2015 review

buddha-s-palmBuddha’s Palm / 如來神掌 (1982)
Director: Taylor Wong
Screenplay: Sze-To On, Manfred Wong Man-Chun, Sui Suet-Fong, Taylor Wong
Cast: Derek Yee, Alex Man Chi-Leung, Kara Hui, Candice Yu, Susan Shaw

Note: The next screening is on Tuesday July 21, 1:30pm.

For fans of classic wu xia, fantasy and B-movies, this is the film for you. The story is not that important but the story starts with a man who gets knocked off a cliff only to be rescued and delivered to a blind kung fu master who decides to take him on as a pupil. This in spite of the fact that the man is terrible at kung fu and initially has no interest in following a crazy blind guy. There’s a bunch of other stuff that happens but it gets confusing trying to keep track of the past history between the heroes and enemies. Basically there are a bunch of rival masters and they all fight each other using fantasy like magical powers or as magical as 80s special effects would allow.

The main appeal of this film is that it is one of the first if not the first to use mix fantasy with kung fu by adding practical special effects. It takes obvious inspiration from Star Wars, the most blatant being a light saber in the form of a Chinese sword. The martial artists also often attack each other with projectiles in the form of neon colored palms, swastikas and other shapes. There’s also a pet-like creature that flies around and I could only describe it as kind of similar to those lion costumes used in lion dance but with dark colors. One of the masters also has a leg that extends like the neck of a jack in the box. It’s cheesy and crude but the effects are actually fairly effective and enhance the experience. Even watching it now, I find it quite impressive what they accomplished back then.

The film manages to maintain a high energy level and provides lots of entertainment both intentional and unintentional. There are perhaps too many characters but some are quite amusing. One master in particular always announces his entrance by stating the same four characters and the same music plays too. There are also quite a lot of female characters who fight in the film who hold their own and are also very fun to watch. Due to the focus on special effects, there isn’t really that much martial arts fighting but there’s still lots of entertaining and ridiculous action set pieces, particularly those involving Chinese drums and other instruments. In some ways, watching this film was actually quite refreshing because you sure as heck aren’t going to see modern films do anything like it. Sure most of the film is total nonsense but watching this with a Fantasia audience was the best way to watch it.

Seen in the theatre at Fantasia 2015

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Author:

Longtime fan of East Asian films. Former "movie reporter" on the music radio show / podcast "Beats From The East" broadcasted on Concordia University's CJLO 1690AM radio station in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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