A far trek from On The Society File Of Shanghai for director Wang Chu-Chin, Three-Head Monster was the heading out party as it turned out for the director of the Taiwanese social realism classic and Wang made sure to go out with a constantly moving and noisy carousel of puppet fantasy.
Boy Hsiaoming (Chan Ying-Kit) is out looking for some healthy fungus for his ailing mother when he encounters the living, breathing Ginseng King who saves him from a venomous snake bite. About to cure his mother from a whisker of the legendary creature, another whisker has awakened a former Nazi now zombie and a group of fighters led by Cynthia Khan are also keen on obtaining the healing power the creature possesses. Eventually kidnapped, it's up to Hsiaoming to get Ginseng King back for his mother's sake so he gets assistance from the giants of the land to travel to the whereabouts of the three headed demon king who is hellbent on devouring the creature in oder to live forever...
Possibly a legend told through the ages, regardless the movie treatment by Wang is a treat of a puppet show on a low budget with admireable skill in maintaining a furious pace without losing sight of the free for all fantasy on display. With this energy and a sense of great fun, Wang nor the technical crew are shying away from the fact that we're being given a puppet show here. They're either small, suit performers interacting with the live action or being made part of composite shots. All basic but effectively conveyed. Light but not grating, Wang is inspired when spending a lot of time on the chase scenario involving the Nazi zombie that stops at every sign of a swastika to make the "appropriate" gestures, including when a Shaolin monk flashes the Buddhist symbol representing good fortune. Adhering to the tradition that almost all of Three-Head Monster takes place in confine spaces, nevertheless Wang maintains a furious pace.
Never letting go throughout the film, the imagery is consistently inspiring as we learn of the beings of this land, the rules, the gadgets and especially wonderful is the almighty wise giants that then take our duo of Gramps (Kim Fan) and Hsiaoming on an express journey in a giant's rotting purse. Working their way through underground caves, scarred savages and eventually teaming up with Cynthia Khan (dressed in a skimpy leopard skin outfit throughout the movie and getting a few well choreographed close quarter action scenes), key is still Wang Chu-Chin never letting us rest because we might miss an energetic beat or two. Wang went out and stopped the noise with a movie that decides to never do that.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson