Grinding the Stream: Extra Secret YouTube Edition (1 of 2)
Welcome back for one final entry in the Grinding the Stream database. Or at least the final entry for this spring's social distancing spree. I'm not sure this isn't going to become a seasonal thing yet – either for the fun of it or because we have to quarantine again. Anyway, I ran out of official streaming stuff to talk about about, so I've come up with a list of great cult movies that are available to stream on YouTube. Obviously, most of these have been unofficially uploaded, so the quality is all over the place. There also might be unresolved legal issues that mean the videos are hit with copyright strikes and gone from YouTube before this even goes live. With that in mind, I will try to remember to delete entries as realistic, legal alternatives arise. I'm not holding my breath for most of these, though.
Chinese/Hong Kong Movies I Want You All to See
We're Going to Eat You (Tsui Hark, 1980)
This film helped set off the HK New Wave horror scene, though minus the fantasy action, and was Tsui’s second film as director (first as writer). It follows a 007 parody secret agent as he investigates a cannibal village. Enough of Media Blasters’ OOP DVDs have found their way onto Blu-ray from other companies that I have faith we’ll see a good release soon. Until then...
Chinese Ghost Story (Ching Siu-Tung, 1987)
The first of a trilogy (followed by an animated film and 2011 remake), Chinese Ghost Story is a gorgeously rendered blend of horror, action, comedy, and, most important to this series, romance. A massively influential film, produced Tsui Hark, it remains, bafflingly, almost unseeable in the United States. (sorry, no subtitles, but you don't need to know Cantonese to appreciate it)
Sweet Home (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 1989)
Future Pulse (Kairo, 2001) director Kurosawa’s first horror film is a sometimes funny, sometimes scary predecessor to found-footage horror that was produced alongside one of the original survival horror video games (also called Sweet Home).
Eternal Evil of Asia (Man Kei Chin, 1995)
Underrated horror-sexploitation-comedy that was made to cash-in on the increasing popularity of both hardcore Category III (the HK NC-17) horror of movies, like The Untold Story (Danny Lee Sau-Yin and Herman Yau, 1993), and colorful, effects-heavy action, like The Bride with the White Hair (Ronny Yu, 1993). It used to be streaming on multiple platforms, but has disappeared entirely.
Ebola Syndrome (Herman Yau, 1996)
My personal favorite of the ‘90s Category III horror, Ebola Syndrome sees superstar Anthony Wong as a psychopath infected with an aggressive form of Ebola. Immune to the effects of the virus, he goes on a killing spree, purposefully infecting people across South Africa and Hong Kong. The Diskotek Media DVD is OOP. Warning: Wong’s character is extremely misogynistic and the film is pretty graphic, even by modern standards.
The God of Cookery (Stephen Chow, 1996)
Five years before he had his first international hit with Shaolin Soccer in 2001, Stephen Chow made this achingly hilarious combination of kung fu cinema and Iron Chef, tinged with his usual sense of sarcasm. Somehow, it has never been officially released on DVD or Blu-ray in the US, though it was streaming on Netflix some years ago.
Bio-Zombie (Wilson Yip, 1998)
An early effort from future SPL: Kill Zone (2005) and IP Man (2008) director Yip, Bio-Zombie is basically the Dawn of the Dead (1978) meets Mallrats (1995) through a Hong Kong point-of-view. Sometimes obnoxious in its over-the-top comedy, but consistently charming and even a little touching in the end. Another OOP Media Blasters disc.
Wing Chun (Yuen Woo-Ping, 1994)
Wing Chun is almost certainly Michele Yeoh’s best leading role and action performance, outside of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), as well as one of Crouching Tiger choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping’s greatest achievements as lead director. Despite Yeoh’s popularity and other Yuen films, like Iron Monkey (1993) and Tai Chi Master (1993) having half-decent Blu-ray releases, there’s no other way to watch Wing Chun in the states right now.
More Movies from Elsewhere in Asia
Mystics in Bali (H. Tjut Djalil, 1981)
If you only watch one insane Indonesian horror movie during quarantine, make it Mystics in Bali. It sees an Australian woman tricked by an evil witch into becoming a penanggalan – a vampire whose head pops off and flies around, dragging its entire intestinal tract while seeking out victims. I think Mondo Macabro still has the rights to release this, so hopefully it’ll get a remasterd Blu-ray release sometime in the near future.
The Queen of Black Magic (Lilik Sudjio, 1981)
My affection for penanggalans aside, The Queen of Black Magic is probably the quintessential Indonesian horror movie from this era. It was apparently designed as a sequel to the Shaw Bros’ Black Magic series (1975, 1976) and was remade in 2019 by Kimo Stamboel.
Witch with the Flying Head (Chang Ren-Chieh, 1982)
Did you enjoy Mystics in Bali? Because this is pretty much the same thing. It might even be better!
Korean Dragon Ball (Wang Ryong, 1990)
A cheap and goofy, yet pretty page accurate live-action adaptation of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball comics. The actual title is Dragon Ball: Ssawora Son Goku, Igyeora Son Goku – Dragon Ball: Fight Son Goku, Win Son Goku – but fans remember it simply as Korean Dragon Ball. It was unlicensed to begin with, so I’m pretty sure you don’t have to worry about the legality of streaming it on YouTube. (Again, no subtitles, but you really don't need them)
Mahakaal (Shyam and Tulsi Ramsay, 1994)
Mahakaal, or The Monster, is the better of two Bollywood versions of Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street. The other, Khooni Murdaa, is also on YouTube and not as directly related to Craven’s film. (No subs, but if you're seen Nightmare on Elm Street you'll be just fine)
Sangharsh (Tanuja Chandra, 1999)
Bollywood Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) might seem obvious, but how about Bollywood Silence of the Lambs (1991)? An all-singing, all-dancing version of Silence of the Lambs is enough reason to watch this, but the perfect mix of unabashed melodrama and baffling cultural barriers makes it a must-see. I genuinely love this movie. (No subs, but, again, if you know Silence of the Lambs, you don't need. to understand Hindi)