Directed by Meng-Hua Ho.
Starring Danny Lee, Ping Chen, Lily Li, Lun Hua, Hsieh Wang and Angela Yu Chien.
Written by Lam Chua (as Tsai Lan), this Malaysia-set story revolves around disabled seeker of justice Sheng Yung, who works for a law firm and finds himself compelled to use a spell that turns him into a supernatural, oily being, enabling him to protect his childhood sweetheart Little Yue (Chen) from lowlife characters.
Yung, however, begins to use his sludgy alter ego to inflict muddy vigilante justice on various other deceitful characters, including an unlicensed female surgeon who botches boob jobs and an actress that accuses an innocent neighbour of rape in court. Once Yung discovers that his corrupt, sleazoid boss is in cahoots with Yue’s new boyfriend, in a scheme that will eventually lead to Yue’s rape and suicide, events rapidly spiral out of control, climaxing in confrontations with machete-wielding thugs and the local cops.
This Shaw Brothers release, sporting pretty decent production values, is a crazy blend of 70s-style exploitation, horror and action, with some courtroom dramatics added to the mix.
The movie’s unique selling point, of course, is the Oily Maniac himself, initially brought to life when Sheng kneels at the bottom of a pit he’s dug in the centre of his living room, chanting a special spell as the hole fills with water. Sheng is submerged beneath the muddy waters… then rises back into view, transformed into a yellow-eyed, mud & oil-coated humanoid monster… as the music from JAWS plays on the soundtrack! This bizarre, grungy creature has an exposed, red beating heart and emits an echoey roar similar to the kind of sounds the monsters made in the cartoon series SCOOBY DOO, WHERE ARE YOU!
The Oily Maniac can turn into an animated, not particularly realistic mud puddle, which slithers around the place, before forming back into a slime-covered humanoid. We see this cartoony splash of goo zipping about floors and walls quite a few times in the movie, accompanied by the JAWS music! After his various attacks, the Oily Maniac always changes back into Sheng, who wakes up lying on the floor of his home, covered in oil splotches.
Whenever Sheng wants to become the monstrous maniac, he must coat himself in oily substances to trigger the transformation, so we get to see him do such things as pump diesel over his body at a gas station or submerge himself in a barrel of boiling oil near a road construction site.
Once he’s the Oily Maniac again, he can either slither about as that squirmy puddle or go on the rampage as the lumbering, blobby beast. Interestingly, when it suits him, the Oily Maniac ceases his slow, cumbersome mode of walking and becomes able to leap around very agilely indeed, dashing across rooftops and running over the top of vehicles.
Memorable set pieces include the glistening, oil-coated monster rising from a pink bathtub to attack a victim and a rampage through an operating theatre that specialises in restoring women’s hymens!
Danny Lee, years before starring in John Woo’s THE KILLER (1989), dabbled in several fantastical Shaw Brothers productions in the 1970s, including THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977) and THE SUPER INFRAMAN (1975). But it’s in THE OILY MANIAC that Lee gets to really immerse himself in an oddball, weirder-than-weird tale. As Sheng, who is disabled (due to contracting polio as a child), he is initially a browbeaten character inspired to become a powerful, avenging pile of slime to protect Little Yue, but his motivations become increasingly muddled, leading to him killing nurses simply because they happen to work for the unlicensed surgeon.
Constantly finding excuses to feature bare female breasts and various misogynistic moments, THE OILY MANIAC is certainly sleazy much of the time, intermingling these exploitative sequences with avenging monster action that predates Troma’s THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984).
The scenes featuring the vengeful mud-man are actually not particularly gory, but they’re certainly outlandishly enjoyable to watch, culminating in a couple of large-scale showdowns, where we see the Oily Maniac transfixed with blades and shot at by the police. But there’s no stopping this sebaceous mound of muck, who can always turn into a pool of cartoon sludge, so when his slimy arm and his oily head get chopped off at one point… they simply regrow again! Finally, it is a co-worker, who loves Sheng, that ends the Oily Maniac’s reign of vigilante terror by setting him on fire.
A colourful, cruel, crazy Shaw Brothers B-movie gem.
Okay then, one more shot of this oily beauty…