I swear, I don’t know why I keep letting Cleveland cinemas do this to me. I know the secret film is going to be appalling, and yet I eagerly show up every time… Oh who am I kidding, I’m a glutton for punishment.
You never know exactly what they’re going to screen at one of these mystery films, it’s frequently horror but sometimes it’s some other sort of weird exploitation. I probably should’ve gotten clued in when the door prize was a Jackie Chan film. Still, When the Shaw Bros logo came up I thought I knew what we were getting into. I was so wrong.
Holy flame is kind of like A fever dream that happened when you fell asleep watching El Rey television. I have a passing acquaintance with samurai films, a much greater experience with anime and a general familiarity with foreign films. But even by my standards, this was over the top.
Holy flame begins with two infants, the apparent murdered as rival schools fight over them… I think. This part was kind of unclear. One is taken by the villain, the other is taken by the protective phantom – who drives away the villain is using his technique of ghostly laughter. The babies grow up, each prepared to avenge the murder of their parents, the daughter not realizing that her master is in fact the one responsible for their deaths in the Sun preparing to quest for the legend airy sword; the holy flame.
Our hero arrives at the cave of the moon, right after he rescues the local snake catcher and his daughter from again of devilish warriors. Inside the cave he battles flying cardboard letters (which I suspect would translate into “eat at Joes “) in an Indiana Jones like booby-trap… All to protect what appears to be a sword shaped like a cricket bat and made out of red Plexiglas with a baseball sized jewel centered towards the top. Once he retrieved the blade, he returns to his master with the daughter of the snake catcher – now in powered by a magic snake bladder when they prepare for the showdown with the land that killed his parents. The brother and sister avoid dueling and she eventually learns that her master was a killer for parents and together they combined the powers of the holy flame – the male aspect and female aspect, yen and yang, to destroy the villains in a spectacular show down there ultimately ends in them inflating the swords to giant anime style sizes and ultimately flattening the bad guys with them – there is probably some pyrotechnics as well, because once our heroes board the swords to fly off, magic carpet style, we see their skeletons underneath.
I’m leaving a lot out to be fair, because this film meanders and diverges incessantly. There is also a side bit with a death cult, a resurrected zombie wire, swordsman that appear out of paintings, I convent full of lady ninjas and the Bard like a character that keeps teasing them – and engages in swordfights with his flute. The imagery frequently goes from merely a loony to completely bat crap crazy. It’s one of these films that I genuinely wonder if they realized what they were making… They play it so earnest for most of it but then we have bizarre things like the way the Phantom does sitting somersaults while projecting ghostly laughter, or the least sexy sex scene ever,involving steam bath and bad special effects.
I’ve never so badly wanted to grab a film and give it the mystery science theatre 3000 treatment as I have with this one… The problem is for me to do that, I have to actually watch it again and I don’t think I have the fortitude to do that. It’s available on DVD, but quite frankly you view this sucker at your own peril.