I was enticed into watching The Devil when I happened upon a review that said watching it was like “a kick in the face.” The assessment proved to be quite accurate, although I might relocate the target to the stomach. Early on in the film, there is a montage in a shaman’s lair that tests your will to continue. The Shaman is “curing” a man who has been cursed by a witch. The Shaman stabs him with a dagger and tears open his torso. She then rips and rifles through his guts and finds everything infested with worms and beetles. She empties out the vermin by the first fulls and then pronounces him healed. Below is a sampling of the amazing shots that comprise this unique bit of cinema.
During the process, she jams a small tube or pipe into his side in order to extract some kind of milky fluid that splashes in a bucket. Nothing is explained about the fluid and it does not feature or even appear again in the film, but it is certainly a potent stomach turner. I chose to reproduce that for you as well. Notice the nuanced translation in the subtitles.
Then comes the spitting up worms and vomiting black goo part, oh and some animal cruelty via a small snake in a mortar and pestle. Then there’s the vomiting green goo.
Far more disturbing than any of this is the pair of ultra-tight short shorts that the young boy is wearing in the next scene. Especially when you factor in that his name is Ding Dong. Just as we are catching our breath from the abrupt transition of snakes and vomit to little Ding Dong the film cuts to a fountain featuring bronze statuary of naked people gathered around a boy peeing with a gleeful look on his face. The fountain is in front of a large white building bearing a sign that reads “Lucky Hotel,”
What the movie is about I am not sure. There’s a guy and he falls in love with a girl but there’s another guy who loves the girl but he is her cousin, but then the first guy seduces and marries the girl, but then he turns out to be a lothario and meanwhile people keep vomiting up gobs of worms and centipedes. The goo and guts don’t seem related to anything but there is a mutant-faced witch who appears to be the cause.
The little boy in hot pants is the go-between for all the characters. He is also the comic relief if you can call it that. He works at the Lucky Hotel and while on the job he changes into a red suit and hat like a bandleader in a parade.
The film gets repetitive after a while but fortunately, there is a special bonus. The print I was watching appears to have met with some kind of misadventure. It looked to me like it had been soaked in Mountain Due and then left in the sun. The result is a constant stream of splotches, streaks, and explosive splashes of neon green that run through the whole film. It imbues the whole movie with a certain experimental edge that I quite enjoyed.
Then there is the soundtrack to consider. There is an extended bar scene where the dialogue takes a back seat to an instrumental cover of Billy Joel’s The Stranger. I don’t know who arranged it (or better said disarranged it) but it sounds like a Muzak version of the way might interpret Billy’s 70s classic as interpreted by Ozzy Osborn. Later there is a violin version of Don McLean’s Starry Starry Night.
The Devil was made by Jen-Chieh Chang in 1981. It’s part of an ’80s, Hong Kong, black magic, gross-out, genre. Chang made several such films as well as some bad kung fu movies. It’s not likely I will be seeking him out in the future however I am intrigued by the title of his last film Noodles Not For Eating. It’s the red one on the right below. When you combine the title with the poster it’s pretty enticing… or at least is it to me.
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