Saturday, November 26, 2011

Movie Review: Oily Maniac

I love how straightforward the titles of Chinese movies can be.  Oily Maniac?  Well I guess we all know what we're in for with this fine offering!

The Gweilo's Movie Ratings for Oily Maniac
The Chinese movie review continues below this info box!
Category Rating
WTF Meter 1.8 out of 5
MST3K-Ability 2 out of 5
OVERALL QUALITY 1.6 out of 5
Chinese Movie Oily Maniac

Director Ho Meng Hua for the Shaw Brothers Studios
Actors Danny Lee, Chen Ping, Lily Li, Hua Lun, Wang Hsia
Year 1976
Format Viewed VCD Shaw Brothers 100185 What is a VCD?

This Chinese movie from the Shaw Brothers Studios is very much in the tradition of the goofy, random monster movies that proliferated in the second half of the twentieth century.  This movie making strategy takes anything, anything at all, and makes it into a monster.  The monsterfication of ordinary things was often done by making them extra big, or extra strong, or maybe “radioactive.”  A reliable hallmark of this technique was ominous, dramatically building music, the slowly rising “dun, dun, dun, dun, DUN!” that we hear whenever the monstrous ant or lizard or shark or doll or janitor or dog or toddler was approaching its next victim.

The monster in this Shaw Brothers movie is a relatively ordinary guy with crippled legs . . . dun, dun, dun, dun, DUN . . . who is covered in oil!  And once he's covered in oil, he becomes far from ordinary.  He becomes . . . dun, dun, dun, dun, DUN . . . maniacal, of course!  Like some kind of petroleum based Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he can't control his killing urges when he's gotten all oily: 

Ah, the ethical dilemma of reluctant monsters the world over!
Thoroughly oiled, the oily maniac also becomes really strong and pretty much invincible.  He's like an extra greasy Incredible Hulk.  He can leap really high, and knives and bullets cut through his oily self without leaving a scratch.  If he does manage to accidentally get his arm or head cut off, he oily-ly grows back a new one, through the seeping, amorphous power of oil!

Oil:  So many unexplored uses in modern, prosthetic medicine!

He's SO invincible, you start hoping that one of his victims will wise up and attack him with a giant bar of soap.  Alas, that never happens.  And if invincibility wasn't enough, he's also able to travel really quickly by turning into a slippery, sliding oil puddle (or oil slick, if he's at sea).  He can go wherever oil can go, and he's pretty unstoppable.  He can even flow through the city water system . . . dun, dun, dun, dun, DUN . . . into your tub!

How does he get these special oily super powers by just oiling himself up?  This old guy tries to explain it to the hero:

"Your father was a shaman; sort of exorcist."
But somehow this explanation leaves both actors looking confused and embarrassed:

Geeze, that can't really be what the script says, can it?
Also, the old guy has some kind of treasure map tattooed on his back, which has something to do with these magical oily powers.

Treasure map, etched out in . . . dun, dun, dun, DUN . . . OIL!

The Oily Maniac treasure map apparently tells our crippled hero to dig a big hole in the middle of his floor and sit in it.  Witness the result.

I should mention that this Shaw Brothers movie also tries to be some sort of weirdly sleazy romance.  (Buyer beware:  Many Shaw Brothers movies of the 1970s have a weirdly sleazy vibe to them.)  Unfortunately, the hero of Oily Maniac gets the romance parts of this movie utterly and completely wrong.

Tempting Fate:  You should never say this in a horror film!
What our hero lacks in romantic prowess, he makes up for in oily homicidal rage.  There's a bunch of rather tedious and complicated plot strands in Oily Maniac, involving unscrupulous lawyers and unscrupulous doctors and unscrupulous business executives and unscrupulous rapists and unscrupulous financiers.  You get the picture.  Our oily, crippled, Jekyll-and-Hyde guy lives in a mean and seedy world, and the sole reason director Ho Meng Hua populated his movie this way is to give our hero lots and lots of victims he can kill while still retaining our sympathy. 

Once you realize what the director is doing, this becomes quite an impressive feat.  Oily maniac wantonly and carelessly kills people left right and center, spattering oil and blood all over the screen, but each murder leaves you oddly cheered.  “Yep, he had it coming,” you'll say.  “And so did all those others.”

Bottom Line of this Chinese Movie Review:  Cheesy, slow at times, and rather genre-confused.  But hey, it's called Oily Maniac.  What did you expect?  If you are the kind of person who would even consider watching a 1970's movie called Oily Maniac in the first place, then sure:  for you, it's recommended.


  1. What I find hilarious in watching these Chinese movies is the way they translate them. Sometimes it will take you a minute to understand what they are talking about if you just rely on those subtitles.

  2. Yeah, I agree. The subtitles are half the fun!