IFD Film Arts was a Hong Kong film studio originally created by producer Joseph Lai after he split from Asso Asia Films. IFD made some martial arts action classics like THE MAGNIFICENT, DRAGON ON FIRE and THE DRAGON THE HERO, but what I want to chat about now are some of the other, madder, monster-oriented films that are linked to IFD – this is the Monster Zone blog, after all!
IFD made films in many other genres beyond kung fu flicks, including war, horror, dramas, ninja films, romance, psychological thrillers, crime and animation.
One subgenre that IFD is very famous for is the insane series of ninja movies (many directed by Godfrey Ho) from the 1980s. With titles including NINJA WARRIORS FROM BEYOND, NINJA TERMINATOR, ULTIMATE NINJA, NINJA THUNDERBOLT, NINJA DESTROYER and NINJA DRAGON, these films featured ninja characters who were given amusingly dated, anglicized names (like Alfred, Rodney, Harry, Gordon and Bruce) to appeal to western audiences.
Godfrey Ho was a movie-making machine! He directed over one hundred films, including more than eighty movies from 1980 to 1990, and many of them were IFD ninja flicks. These very unhinged, low-budget, pasted-together, mind-boggling, semi-senseless films sported soundtracks with music ‘borrowed’ from the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre and Pink Floyd, mixed multiple genres into the brew and were, obviously, great fun to watch. Back in the 80s his colourful ninja VHS covers could be found everywhere!
Ho, who was actually trained at the prestigious Shaw Brothers studio, created most of these kung fu opuses with a cut-and-paste technique: splicing footage from different (already existing) movies together, then adding additional recently shot ninja scenes to act as ‘plot glue’ for the new story. An English language track would then be added to help the movie make some form of sense. The preposterous results included such things as the scene where killer crabs crawl out of a cooking pot to go on the offensive and the jaw-dropping moment Ninja Master Harry receives an important message via a small, plastic, talking robot toy!
Speaking of Ninja Master Harry: he was played by Richard Harrison, one of the western actors brought in to play the ninjas. Just to be sure audience members knew what his profession was, Harrison often wore headbands with the word ‘ninja’ clearly written on them! As an added bonus, several of these films included scenes of a stern, serious-looking Harrison having deadly, important conversations on a plastic Garfield phone. The madness, the madness!
My favourite IFD cut-and-paste ninja flick is SCORPION THUNDERBOLT (1988). This is an unhinged IFD classic of weird plot elements, involving a witch with spiky fingers, soft core sex with a murderous femme, a magic ring and a girl who periodically transforms into a slimy, killer snake monster! The audacious icing on the crazy-cake that is SCORPION THUNDERBOLT is the soundtrack, which includes purloined music from the movies CARRIE, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and ALIEN, plus bits from Jean-Michel Jarre’s Oxygene!
SCORPION THUNDERBOLT ‘s serpent monster scenes are taken from an earlier film called SNAKE WOMAN and are some of the most enjoyable parts of the film: the glistening-skinned, big, clawed, rubbery reptile-beast-person bloodily attacks a bunch of victims, including one woman in a shower. The pacy movie features a blind flute player (who may be the reason one of the female protagonists periodically turns into the monster), a scene where loads of snakes slither over a car, and an amusing moment involving some characters proudly displaying a papier-mâché tadpole-ish model that they claim resembles the snake-beast!
Beyond their many ninja productions, IFD also released some pretty out-there animated titles, including SOLAR ADVENTURE, a part live action, part anime South Korean movie featuring kids using Transformers-type robots to fight green-faced aliens… who have teamed-up with Kim Il Sung: the then-leader of North Korea!
To cater for those with more esoteric tastes, IFD created/released such bizarro productions as ROBO KICKBOXER (a guy in a silver suit kicks the asses of other kickboxers), THE KILLER ELEPHANTS (featuring, er, killer elephants), THUNDER OF GIGANTIC SERPENT (a giant puppet snake goes on the rampage) and VAMPIRE RAIDERS NINJA QUEEN (which has a scene where a woman accidentally sunbathes on top of a hopping vampire on the beach!)
Another one of these mad movies is the flick ROBO VAMPIRE, which involves a Robocop wannabe dude taking on hopping vampires. Not content with this one film, IFD also released COUNTER DESTROY… that also boasts scenes of a Robocop wannabe dude fighting hopping vampires!
Other films that are part of the current IFD catalogue (the new owners of the catalogue are based the UK) include: DEVIL’S DYNAMITE (a Shadow Warrior battles vampires), NINJA THE FINAL DUEL (which includes shots of a special ninja team riding giant, rubbery, flying aquatic spiders), HUNT FOR DEVIL BOXER (featuring ghouls, zombies and a sacred sword), CROCODILE FURY (there’s an evil witch, croc attacks and vampires in this mash-up), VAMPIRE AND THE E.T. KID (a UFO lands in Taipei and awakens a group of buried vampires), DRAGON AGAINST VAMPIRE (friends rob a grave and evoke the wrath of the evil dark arts villain Black Dragon) and FIREFIST OF INCREDIBLE DRAGON (a period-set kung fu movie that has scenes of a human heart flying about the place, killing people!)
As mentioned at the start: IFD boasts some cool kung fu movies and iconic stars of that genre, including martial arts royalty Wang Yu, Hwang Jang Lee, Bolo, Gordon Liu and even Bruce Lee (footage of Bruce was legally used in FIST OF UNICORN). But it’s hard for me not to keep revelling in the madness of the cut-and-paste flicks, which are so far beyond what is deemed typical movie-making that it’s impossible to use regular judgements like ‘bad’ or ‘good’. And, maybe in this time of glossy, big-budget, franchised, homogenous filmmaking, it’s a relief to sometimes delve into some anarchic cinematic absurdity.