I have seen many films that would easily be classified as “weird” and “bizarre.” I’ve seen Japanese zombie movies, celebrations of disco from Thailand, Indian gangster musicals, David Lynch films, and Swedish existentialist fare. But none of them, and I mean none of them hold a candle to the sheer nonsensical insanity that fills up every single one of Fantasy Mission Force’s 90 some minutes. It easily ranks as the most bizarre movie I’ve ever seen, so bizarre in fact that I can’t even say if I liked it or not. I have no idea how this movie got made, and there’s a good chance that it’s very existence might negate one or two fundamental laws of nature.
Now, I’m not the world’s biggest history buff, but I do enjoy the subject. I minored in it in college, which included taking two very interesting military history classes. I have a couple books sitting on my shelves (though I admit that they’re there for decoration more than anything else). And I won’t deny the fact that I enjoy a good History Channel special as much as the next person. However, even with my scant knowledge, I somehow doubt the veracity of the exploits chronicled in Fantasy Mission Force.
It’s in the middle of what I presume is World War II and Japanese forces surround the Allies. The Japanese somehow take over the Allies’ camp in a brilliant military ploy that basically consists of walking right past all of the Allied troops and arriving, unseen, in the tent of the Allied generals while they’re arguing about the Japanese location in the Arctic Circle. Hilarious!
Now this is no ordinary cadre of generals, for you see, the American general is none other than Abraham Lincoln! Yes, the Allies have somehow found a way to resurrect one of our greatest presidents to lead our troops against the vicious Axis. Now I don’t know about you, but that was my first clue that something wasn’t on the up and up. But this was just in the first 5 minutes, so I knew things were just getting started.
Naturally, the Allied forces are concerned, so they quickly assemble a crack team of commandos to rescue the generals. Unfortunately, however, James Bond, Rocky Balboa, and Snake Plisskin are all unavailable, so they contact their toughest soldier, a man named Don Wen (whose hobbies seem to include driving around in jeeps with machine guns and mowing people down). Wen gets to work, assembling a team the likes of which have never been seen before.
There’s Old Sun, who we first meet during a bizarre musical number that’s like a cross between an Applebee’s commercial and Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. At first, I thought it was some bizarre ad like those weird ones from Japan that star Arnold Schwarzeneggar. But it’s just the first of many scenes that the movie just throws at you with absolutely no explanation or warning.
Then there’s Greased Lightning, a master escape artist who looks like the inbred cousin of Sylvester Stallone’s character in Cobra and Lily (played by Brigitte Lin of Chungking Express and Ashes Of Time fame), an Annie Oakley type whose favorite pastime consists of challenging guys to a drinking contest and then taking turns shooting off peoples’ clothes. Lily’s beau is a two-timing weasel who dresses like Elvis, complete with bad sideburns and pompadour, and who also enjoys a part-time job as a crooked cop.
Rounding out our intrepid group are the bumbling sidekicks Stone and General. Just picture Asian versions of Laurel and Hardy running around in kilts and suits of armor, waving swords and maces around while “Hee Haw” music plays in the background. And oh yeah, with about 10 times the homoeroticism (I still have no idea why one’s head was under the other’s kilt and frankly, I don’t want to know).
Of course, with a name like Fantasy Mission Force, you can’t expect things to proceed normally, can you? Along the way, they run into a group of cannibal Amazons ruled by a tortured artist who walks around in a cheap tux smelling fake flowers and waxing poetic. Our gang gets captured pretty easily, but you have to give them a break. They may be battle-hardened, but even the bravest soldier is bound to freak out when confronted by female warriors that fly through the air clad only in leopard skins while ensnaring you in yards of brightly colored cloth. I mean, there are just some things they don’t cover in basic training.
After escaping from the Amazons, they make their way to what appears to be a completely normal rundown mansion in the middle of nowhere. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen enough episodes of “Scooby Doo” to know that when you chance upon a dilapidated mansion in the middle of nowhere while wolves howl off in the distance, you just keep on moving. Sadly, Hanna-Barbera cartoons weren’t a part of our elite group’s briefing, as they decide to spend the night.
Surprisingly, they don’t get a good night’s sleep. Instead, they get enough zombies, floating heads, demonic mahjong games, and epileptic skeletons to make Spooky Encounters look sane by comparison. Apparently, the mansion is actually the secret hideout of some cult seeking to loose dark forces upon the world, and our heroes are the necessary sacrifice. D’oh!!!
Thankfully, Lily, who they all thought had died while escaping from the Amazon camp, didn’t. Lily rescues our band with some well-placed sparklers and a couple of rounds from her yellow bazooka, and it’s off to confront the Japanese. But when they arrive at the Japanese camp (nevermind all of the swastikas everywhere), the entire Japanese army has been slaughtered. And that’s when the movie gets strange.
Again, here’s where my knowledge of history might be a bit lacking. I’ve studied some of Hitler’s military tactics, but I don’t remember his strategy of “blitzkrieg” involving an armada of samurais and Mexican wrestlers riding atop a fleet of Oldsmodiles like extras from The Road Warrior. But maybe the creators of Fantasy Mission Force were privy to some info that I wasn’t. Still, my trust in the movie’s faithfulness to historic events was a little shaken when I saw this fearsome army come sweeping onto the screen as if heading for the nearest State Fair demolition derby.
At this point in the movie, noone seems to care about the generals any more. It’s now all about finding a hidden stash of money. But the Nazis (Or were they Japanese? Oh, never mind.) want it too, and they give our heroes one day to think it over. Now, our heroes have survived female cannibals and haunted houses. Do you think that they’re going to let a fleet of swastika-covered gas-guzzlers stand in the way of all that money? Why, no self-respecting mercenary would stand for that. With the help of Sammy and Emily, two would-be thieves that they’ve bumped into along the way, they decide to make a stand against The Humungus, err, the German general and his fleet of car-ridin’ shocktroopers and heavily-armed bulldozers.
As if all of this wasn’t eye-popping enough, your eyes will really start to bulge when you realize that none other than Jackie Chan plays the bumbling Sammy. Yes, that Jackie Chan. Apparently, Jackie made this movie as an obligation to Wang Yu (who plays Don Wen) after Yu helped Jackie get out of a few tight spots in his career. I don’t know the exact details, but it’s pretty clear that Jackie doesn’t belong in this picture (though he does it all with gusto, especially his fight with a big Sumo wrestler). This movie came out in 1984, after Jackie had already rocketed to stardom with films like Project A, The Young Master, and Drunken Master, so I doubt he was hurting for work just then. I’m sure that if you ever asked Jackie about this movie, he’d either deny it outright or drop you to the floor with a quick roundhouse for reminding him.
It’s utterly pointless to analyze this movie on any level, be it storyline (such as it is), characters, action, etc., simply because it willfully resists any form of criticism. This is the sort of movie you watch simply because it exists. You watch it so that later, once you’ve regained your senses, you can brag about it to all of your friends and smile as their jaws drop and their eyes bulge at your description (however insufficient it might be). Fantasy Mission Force is beyond good and bad. Or maybe it’s so bad that it inverts the very meaning of badness, becoming something that nothing in our universe can quite explain.
If anything you read in this review had you thinking for even a moment that you need to see this movie, then yes, you need to see this movie (if only so you can brag about seeing it). If not, then don’t even bother. But whatever you do, don’t try to think too hard about this movie. Don’t try to reason with it or analyze it. Don’t try to figure out why Amazons are flying through the air wielding colorful strips of cloth, why Nazis are riding around on 1975 Oldsmobiles to music from “The Patridge Family,” or why Abraham Lincoln is in the film. Only madness lies down that path, my friends. Rather, just appreciate it for what it is: one of those mysteries of creation that adds a little element of wonder to our vast universe.