Ever heard of Joseph Lai? Maybe, maybe not. The guy is a hero of mine, just for his sheer audacity. I mean, this is a guy that made a rather lucrative career for himself and his infamous IFD company through buying up unpopular and unreleased films, re-cutting them and adding new material, then releasing them as new products. It's a genius way of working, despite the lousy quality of the finished films. Recycling material has long since been a staple of the movie business, and continues today even in big screen movies (many of which use music from other films). However, I'm yet to hear of any modern films that are pasted together like the films that Joseph Lai was involved with.
I'm a big fan of his ludicrous ninja movies from the 1980s, which were basically asian crime dramas re-cut with new footage of western actors in multicoloured ninja costumes, having physically impossible battles that were only tangentially related to the plot of the recycled film. Many of those films are very dear to my heart for the simple reason that they were so utterly stupid as to defy belief. they were great. Just utterly ridiculous and bags of fun, with added unintentional entertainment value in the awful dubs that were laid over them.
The lead western actor in many of those ninja movies was a mister Richard Harrison, who takes the 'new footage' lead in this film. However, Scorpion Thunderbolt isn't a ninja film, which makes it stand out from the Lai catalogue, instead being a horror movie. Well, it was actually a different film entirely, called NAME, but that was never released in its original form. Here, the film was cut together with new material starring Harrison, and was actually rather more well integrated into the original film.
The story? Jeez... where do I start? Somewhere in all the sex, ridiculous monster scenes, surreal 'interpretative dance' scenes (which are supposed to be terrifying) and bizarrely dubbed exposition, there's a plot in there somewhere. A monstrous snake-slug-humanoid thingy is on the rampage, who is really a young woman being controlled by some weird snake charmer who appears now and again, and there's a witch with stick-on fingers dancing around and controlling her when the girl has turned into the monster. The police are trying to track down who - or what (dun dun DUUUUURRR)- is responsible for the bizarre killings going on. In addition, our hero Richard Harrison discovers that a ring he owns contains the magical power that will stop the snake charmer and the monster in their tracks, but there are operatives of the evil witch (the mad dancing lady) trying to off him at every turn, but not before they have dis-robed and danced to 'Oxygene' in a cinema. I kid you not.
Scorpion Thunderbolt, quite frankly, is a batshit insane film that feels like some weird fever- dream. One minute it's comedic, the next brutally gory, the next there's Richard Harrison screwing a possessed hooker in the middle of a red-light district cinema. Erm, then there's the stuff with the cops, all of whom are chinese, and all of whom have been given the most inappropriate of dubbed accents (cockney? WTF? COCKNEY?!), which makes little to no sense, and is quite a chore to get through. This is a very weird viewing experience and I wish I'd been drunk while I watched it as it might have made more sense. It's deliciously weird, badly put together and just plain mad. In other words, it is the sort of awful delicacy that keeps me grinning and keeps me entertaining and enthusiastic about the depths that cinema can sink to. Bloody awful and bloody brilliant, for all the wrong reasons.