Scorpion Thunderbolt (1985)
Director: Godfrey Ho
Writers: Godfrey Ho
Starring: Richard Harrison, Juliet Chan, Bernard Tsui, and Maura Fong

The Plot: Okay, let’s try and piece this one together. There are two stories that are unfolding within Scorpion Thunderbolt, and within this IFD product, Godfrey Ho and company barely try to tie them together at all. In the larger storyline made up from Taiwanese/Korean horror film known as Grudge of the Sleepwalking Woman (thanks to Kenny B. and Jesus Pérez Molina for this info), we find a series of murders have been taking place and there appears to be no clear suspect. Enter inspector Jackie Ko and his partner Miss Lee. Although it seems highly implausible, all signs are pointing to a killer that is not human. Our police officers soon run into photographic journalist Helen who is just as curious about this case as they are, but Helen holds a rather dark secret behind her beauty. At the same time that all of this is happening, Richard (Richard Harrison) finds that he is at odds with a vampire witch (who has metal claws and plays the bongos throughout the entire movie) who desperately wants a ring that has been passed down within his family for generations. Richard fights some random people and gets to kiss on a naked chick’s boobs, all in a day’s work.

The Review
It almost seems like cheating to list a Godfrey Ho production as being kung fu during this very special month of December. I reserve this month almost always for kung fu cinema as part of our annual Kung Fu Christmas festivities. While IFD, Godfrey Ho, and Joseph Lai were all a part of Hong Kong cinema’s rich legacy… these movies are such bizarre abstract entries into the world of “nutso cinema” that they’re hardly ideal martial arts films. Scorpion Thunderbolt, similar to the recently reviewed title Diamond Ninja Force, is part horror movie and part cut-and-paste cinema, as was usual for Godfrey Ho. The ninjas may be gone this time around, but there’s still fighting and there’s still Richard Harrison. The movie represents a clashing of styles that likely never should have been, but this strange mix is partly what makes the movie so special. Whether for good or bad, Scorpion Thunderbolt is about as, to use my previous term, “nutso” as cinema generally gets.

If you’d like to read more about the Godfrey Ho/IFD style of movie-making, please check out the previously mentioned Diamond Ninja Force review. What you need to know is that Scorpion Thunderbolt is every bit a cut-and-paste movie, but the implementation of these scenes featuring Richard Harrison are about as forced as these movies usually get. While it is apparent that Godfrey Ho and company try their best to combine Harrison with this incredibly strange Taiwanese/Korean snake-monster flick, they simply aren’t able to do it. What inevitably ends up happening is that the film combines two strange storylines, one from IFD focusing on Harrison and a vampire witch (yes, a vampire witch) and the other being the original snake monster movie that comprises the majority of the movie. As someone who loves watching Richard Harrison slum it out, it breaks my heart that there isn’t more of him in this movie, but at the same time, one has to appreciate how deliriously insane both storylines seem to get.

Quickly going into the Richard Harrison plot thread, we get our first westerner at 10 minutes into the movie. Normally it seems that IFD prefers to start their movies off by introducing the ninja elements, but this go around the snakelady storyline gets to take precedent. When the westerners do show up though, they get off to an impressive start. In a jarring sequence, due to it being sandwiched between the various snaklady plot threads, we get to see a white lady flash the camera while trying to flag down a ride. Soaking wet from the rain, this gal looks rather sleazy, and Richard Harrison looks even sleazier by slamming on the brakes after seeing her bouncing breasts along the interstate. Richard Harrison, whose character is named Richard of course, is taken to this strange woman’s “studio,” aka a movie theater, where he watches a strip tease (apparently from another Godfrey Ho production) on a projector. Harrison, obviously moved by the video of a nude woman covered only in paint, turns to the stranger and says, “I’ve gotta admit… you’ve got fucking talent!” This, of course, makes the woman strip nude for him and start to dance… honestly, at this point, the movie has been derailed to such a degree that you have to ask yourself, “WHAT IS GOING ON!?” Godfrey Ho, the mad “genius” that he is, throws the audience into a curve ball situation where we completely lose track of what is going on… and its only 13 minutes into the movie. The audience isn’t expected to second-guess the situation though. Afterall, we’re watching boobies onscreen.

This is Godfrey Ho at his most disjointed, but then again, it’s only the rare film where Ho’s work actually seems to be completely linear. The story that we’re given featuring Harrison barely even matches the tone of the snakewoman storyline that is playing out. In typical Godfrey Ho fashion, it generally becomes difficult to tell where the film is supposed to be in terms of plot. One minute we’re watching a snake creature kill some young girl in the shower, the next we’re watching the two leads run along the beach as lovers. It’s easy to appreciate the scene due to the young woman’s body, but it’s not exactly pertinent to the plot. Such things are rarely rationalized within a logical fashion, and Ho seems to edit the “good stuff” around in some fashion that seems impossible to comprehend. It makes sense only in the land of Godfrey Ho. The only thing that potential-viewers can do is sit back and try to let the movie wash over them. These Godfrey Ho vehicles are entertaining for the insanity that they bring to the table, and that insanity is fed to the viewer in small increments. The path that the film takes to get where it is going may not be logical, but enjoy this crazy, gory movie! Enjoy the scenes of a sleazy Richard Harrison fighting against the forces of evil for no good reason! Enjoy that awesomely bad snakeman costume that comes into play during the final act!

The Conclusion
Scorpion Thunderbolt is bad, this much is obvious. It’s a poorly made film, but it has a charm that is only understood by those who appreciate this particular brand of cinematic madness. On the whole, this is a movie that can be infuriatingly disjointed, but when broken down, it’s parts are infinitely greater than the whole. The Taiwanese/Korean film cut up within the movie is bizarre and wonderfully perverse, and the Richard Harrison adventure is absolutely bonkers. While they may not compliment each other entirely, they will stick in your mind.