• Eastern Horror: Magic Of The Universe/Counter Destroyer (BCI Eclipse/Deimos Entertainment) DVD Review



    Released by: BCI Eclipse/Deimos Entertainment
    Released on: April 25th, 2006.
    Director N/A/Edgar Jere
    Cast: Billy Lau, Joey Wong, David Ng, Amy Yip/Fui-On Shing, Cha-Lei Cho, Chan Kai Ling
    Year: 1988/1989
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    Eastern Horror: Magic Of The Universe/Counter Destroyer – Movie Review:

    Two Asian horror oddities on DVD!

    MAGIC OF THE UNIVERSE:

    Professor Jamir is a traveling magician who tours from village to village, accompanied by his wife Lovina, daughter Freza, and young assistant Bojok. In the course of two performances, Freza and Lovina are captured by unseen forces, and Jamir and Bojok must travel through rough jungle terrain to find them. It turns out that they are being held prisoner by the evil Milkul, a witch with a massive pulsing bulbous head. Since Jamir's great grandfather Omar had cursed Mikul with this hideous affliction some one hundred years previous (when she was his protégé, one with a taste for the darker side of magic), she is using them as bait to lure Jamir to his near-certain demise. Informed of this by the ghost of great g-pappy Omar, he is also told that he can only destroy Mikul with the aid of "The Regalia" (a pretty grand-sounding name for what is basically a tassel on a stick), which he must obtain from Siddha, a lovely, Kabuki-like vision of face paint and golden hair. Before that can take place, the duo are captured by scary midget natives (thank god for bananas!), and Bojok is in turn captured by Mikula, leading to a thoroughly bizarre party scene featuring the witch's monstrous minions (who have a rock band in their spare time) whooping it up. Jamir arrives with "The Regalia", and a not-so-epic battle between good and evil commences.

    Made in the Philippines for probably about eight dollars (don't worry, it's all onscreen), MAGIC OF THE UNIVERSE is a hoot! There are some insane costumes and characters (the pig creatures, swamp monster, and rather disturbing "Yoda-with-a-TV-for-a-chest" being spring to mind), spooky midgets, and enough mind-boggling cheapness on display to satisfy just about any jaded fan of this type of time-killer, all wrapped up in a weirdo package of indigenous mythology and fantasy motif (plus lotsa snakes). While it doesn't make a lick of sense, it's easy to get into and enjoy, especially with a group of like-minded degenerates. Hell, maybe you can even cop some moves from the creature party. If you do, take pictures.

    COUNTER DESTROYER/THE VAMPIRE IS ALIVE (Onscreen title: THE VAMPIRE IS ALIVE):

    A screenwriter (Joyce) and her assistant (Cindy) go on a retreat to an isolated house in order to finish a script about the Last Emperor of China. As soon as they arrive, they are greeted by a Taoist priest that warns them that evil spirits are afoot. This becomes obvious when their driver is strangled by a disconnected phone cord. The film's producer (Lawrence) suspects foul play, as several other companies are preparing projects on the same (apparently hot) topic. He hires a femme P.I. named Jackie who, along with her partner Fanny (!), goes "deep cover" to infiltrate and bust the nefarious triad gang run by Jackson, a smooth criminal that evidently has much to lose to the competitive production company. Meanwhile, as work is started on the script, the evil spirits manifest themselves as a vampire beast (with a Freddy Kruger glove!), as well as two of the hopping variety. It is eventually revealed that the beast is the spirit of the last eunuch in China, bent on impregnating Joyce so that he may foist a demon child onto the world and continue his legacy. The dragnet on the Jackson gang heats up, and Joyce's boyfriend (who has a few hidden talents of his own that are best left a surprise to the potential viewer), goes to check on her, astonished at what he finds........

    THE VAMPIRE IS ALIVE is one wacky film, even by the standards set other slap-dash Asian horror efforts of the period. Not overly gory (or even very bloody), it does offer some hilarious off-the-wall antics, and is made fairly unique by its casting of mainly Caucasian actors and actresses, which begs a question of the script: are they supposed to be Americans, filming in China? Unless I missed something, it's never mentioned. Best not to worry, just sit back with some cold ones and enjoy the hopping bloodsuckers, mild cannibalism, a ninja, and an appearance by an iconic late 80's sci-fi character that will have your head spinning for the remaining duration of the film. Not the best the genre has to offer (and that's being charitable), but worth a passing glance anyway.

    Eastern Horror: Magic Of The Universe/Counter Destroyer – DVD Review:

    Like other entries in this series, the visual quality is not the best, due mainly to the shape of the "original mastering elements" (i.e. they look like second or third generation VHS recordings), but unlike TALES FROM THE EAST/RETURN OF THE EVIL FOX, these are at least presented in something approximating their OAR. However, in both cases, the letterboxed image is placed high on the screen, and a new matte is placed over the bottom portion in order to mask out burned-in subs. With MAGIC, it appears that the subs were at least partly over the image, as some shots definitely look cropped along the bottom. Luckily, VAMPIRE's subs were all below the image (the tops of some characters are still evident in some shots), but BCI made an odd choice by making the new matte a much lighter shade than the original (near grey), so it looks like: skinny black line, image, skinny black line, gray bar! Kind of distracting, but the film is wild enough to help the viewer ignore it. Again, the colors aren't very strong (pretty weak in the daytime shots), definition is minimal, and in one surprising shot (during the opening scene of MAGIC), a DVD display function shows up in the upper right-hand corner. Whoops!

    Both films are presented with their original mono English-dubbed tracks only, and these have to be two prime examples of THE WORST DUBBING EVER! Being that these are cheap and cheerful productions, it doesn't distract as much as it adds to the whole experience. Both tracks are serviceable (you can make out great lines like "Have you ever seen a served head talk?" with little or no difficulty), but no more than that. No great instances of hiss, not overly muddy, but just kind of there. Given the visual quality, it matches.

    Bah! I suppose getting two films on two separate discs for a low price could be considered an extra, but not really. Besides minimal menu screens and chapter stops (eight per film), you get a whole lot of nothing.

    Eastern Horror: Magic Of The Universe/Counter Destroyer – The Final Word:

    Two more fun films in the EASTERN HORROR series from BCI/ECLIPSE are given a less-than-stellar treatment in the video/audio department, but the uniqueness of the films make this release worth a passing glance at least.