Monday, December 31, 2012
Devil's Three (1979)
Bobby A. Suarez was, for those of you who have no idea, the best action director in the
ever. Sure, we also had Cirio Santiago, who got some international fame with
the help of Roger Corman's distribution. But Bobby was by far the most personal
and eccentric of them both, with a healthy amount of violence and action and -
maybe even more unhealthy - some very broad comedy tossed in for good measure. Philippines
They Call Her Cleopatra Wong and The One Armed Executioner might be his most famous films, and both of them got a nice DVD release a few years back. The lead in the first one was Marrie Lee and in other one Franco Guerrero, both created iconic characters in these productions. Bobby was wise enough to pair them together in Devil's Three, where Cleo Wong is back and with her she has a very fat fortune teller, Rotunda (Florence Carvajal) and the sissiest of sissies, Tony Del Rio (Franco Guerrero). They're hired by Devlin (Johnny Wilson) to save his daughters from a gang of evil kidnappers. Armed with their special physical abilities (in Rotunda's case, being fat and sit on people!) the go after the baddies with brutal force!
Devil's Three is more of a comedy than a straight-forward action flick, even if it's packed with fights and chases and stunts. But the focus is on the personalities of our three heroes. Cleo is the "normal", but who kicks ass like no one else. Rotunda and Tony Del Rio is very broad comic reliefs, but they work good because they are allowed to be heroes even if they're sickly obese or the silliest gay stereotype ever. They're funny and smart and can fight baddies almost as good as Cleo, but are allowed to be themselves. It's like Tony Del Rio mentions in one of the scenes, finally he can be the one he is without pretending to be someone else in his village. Its a rare, strong statement from a gay character in what's basically a exploitation movie. I easily can see Devil's Three as a both a cheap action-comedy and something with a message: the freaks shall inherit the earth.
While not as spectacular as They Call Her... and The One-Armed... Devil's Three still delivers a lot of fine action, some that even looks a bit dangerous. The fights are hard and look realistic because it's rarely you see padding or mattresses protecting the stuntmen and slow-mo is used where it fits perfectly, to enhance a few shots here and there. I don't know of Marrie Lee has a formal education in martial arts or if she's just acting (like many of our most beloved
Hong Kong stars). Whatever she's trained in, she's doing
it well and I still say she's one of the best and coolest action stars ever.
I have a hard time seeing something bad with movies like this. They're meant to be entertainment and this one succeeds with it without problems. I'm sure more than a few will have problem buying the comedy parts, but if you try to look beyond what you think is funny and open your eyes for some local form of slapstick (and we all know how special the Asian comedy can be) you might find something fun even here. And if not, there's enough raw, gritty b-action for everyone to love.
And... Happy New Year boys and gals. Cya in 2013!