The Boxer's Omen may feature some of the most amazing black magic scenes on screen - a crocodile having its stomach hacked open and charms performed using vomitted food - but unfortunately, it also says if a martial artist has sex with a woman, he loses all his powers. Stephen Tan reviews.


If you have sex, you die - goes a common cliché in horror movies. In the Superman (Christopher Reeve) series, the cliché gets twisted into: if you have sex, you don't die, you just lose all your powers. For some, that means you are as good as dead!

Fans and movie critics have written a fair bit about Kuei Chih-hung's The Boxer's Omen (1983) but not many talked about the sexual aspects of the film. Kao Fei goes to Thailand to avenge his brother's defeat at the hands of boxer Yang Shih (that's Bolo Yeung, who challenged Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon). In the meantime, he has visions of a monk (Master Jing Chao) who says Kao must defeat an evil force, otherwise both of them will perish. To prepare for the fight, one of the requirements for Kao in his purification/strengthening process is the abstinence from sex.

Even with all the sexual attractions that Thailand has to offer, Kao keeps to the straight path and manages to defeat a black wizard (a barely recognisable Johnny Wang Lung-wei, better-known for being one of the key Manchu villains in numerous Shaw's Shaolin Temple movies). That's only the first half of the movie. Back in Hongkong to pick up his life and for some R 'n R, he does what's natural with his girlfriend and promptly loses his fighting power when the Black Wizard next shows up. This sets up a new "training" sequence where Kao first denies he has had sex; then undergoes the arduous re-training regime.

While the sex is only a small part in the movie, there is enough nudity to satisfy most hardcore filmgoers but the underlying message seems to be this - for a male martial artist, having sex with a woman is the start on the road to perdition. (Perhaps that accounts for the emergence of those who are castrated - but then these are also usually portrayed as villains - in films such as King Hu's Dragon Inn and Tsui Hark's Swordsman series.)

As mentioned before, The Boxer's Omen has so much going for it that the viewer easily accepts and overlooks the sexual politics of the film. After all, what's a little jiggling breasts and buttocks compared to some of the most amazing black magic sequences on screen:


- Shot with loving care (as if it is a sequence in CSI), using cobra venom, the Black Wizard mixes it with mashed human brains and the mixture is then fed to tarantulas.

- Kao vomits out a live eel (all without the help of any CGI, mind you).

- The Wizard slaughters a chicken, sprays its blood over crocodile skulls, from which a flock of bats emerges.

- The Wizard sprinkles a concoction over the crocodile skulls, which start to clatter their jaws, which then advance to attack our hero.

- The Wizard eats some offal, throws up some vomit, gathers it back into his mouth, and from the resulting vomit, grows a monster.

- A crocodile has its stomach hacked open and its innards emptied out.

- One of the wizard's minions bites into a freshly-killed chicken (with the feathers still intact), eats it with durian; spits the lot out and hands the mixture to the next man, who shafts everything into his mouth before spitting it out. You can reach for the barf bag as this is shown as one continuous take. This process is then repeated using banana skin!

- Another minion cuts off the head of a live chicken and eats what looks like the neck.

- All the regurgitated food is fed to the naked corpse of a young woman, which is then sewn up inside the crocodile's stomach.

- Later in the movie, the undead woman secretes a bluish liquid while "giving birth" to three fetuses. It then collapses and rots away in a scene involving maggots that is reminiscent of the director's earlier Corpse Mania (1981).

- The fetuses, which are cocooned, grow into human-size mummies - these are the three disciples of the Black Wizard. One of them disembowels itself, the other two chop off their hands and sprinkles their blood over the disembowelled body, which grow into, as a writer calls them, "tiny four-legged, one-eyed crested monsters," which emit deadly rays from their eyes.

While the crocodile sequence looks authentic, a lot of the film's special effects are laughable but still, The Boxer's Omen is an exhilarating viewing experience. While the film has undergone a remastering process, it still cries out for a DVD release, and at least one with an audio commentary.

By turns awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, vomit-inducing and totally laughable (some of the special effects are chessy, to say the least, and those black magic commands actually incorporate English words such as "Kill him"), this once-upon-a-time much-bootlegged film (especially in the West) probably was an inspiration to later kung-fu-black-magic films such as Witch From Nepal (1984) and Peacock King (1989). Director Kuei Chih-hung may be known for Bamboo House Of Dolls (1974) and atmospheric horror films such as Killer Snakes (1974) and Hex (1980), but nowhere does he prepare you for this exploitation film to end all other cheapo exploitation movies.

Note: The Boxer's Omen (Celestial) is only reissued on VCD and is not available in $ingapore. At press time, it has been announced that Shaw's The Boxer's Omen and Black Magic will be reissued on Image DVDs (Region I) later this year. Hopefully these will come with extras.

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