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The Cutting Edge of Eunuch Flicks

You may ask what we Smithee peeps do to unwind after a hard day of show prep (475 Smithee 16 ballot packs stuffed with official Smithee voting components - whoot) and the answer this Saturday would be "Watch a Smithee movie". The movie on the plate this time was the infamous (Eunuch of the) Western Palace, which was previously rejected by both a regular DVD player and a Powerbook. As luck would have it, The Earl's souped up V12 hotrod DVD player couldn't care two bits about disc oddities or whatever made the other two players unhappy about this film so we finally got to watch it in all its glory.

We...I...errr...well, I don't think anybody is ever really prepared to watch something which is like a 15 minute cross between a Ripley's Believe It Or Not segment and a National Geographic documentary on Eunuchism in China as narrated by a Howard Cosell sound alike. No amount of prep in the world can prepare one for such an experience but I can now say that I know a lot more about Eunuchs in 1800s China than I did before Saturday. Did you know that a Eunuching table has a blood runnel carved smack down its center? And also a Eunuch named Wang (for which there is no limit of my amusement. WANG!!) was one of the most influential Eunuchs in that time period? And that this movie is his story?

Except that Wang never actually appears in the flick nor is it set at the Western Palace. So...I'm not sure what the deal is here. At least he was peripherally part of the plot (in that people talked about him) but mostly the story dealt with a cadre of rebels and Wang's right hand man Hung. Yes, Wang might not have been Hung, but his go-to guy was. Hee!

As for the rest of the movie, we kept wondering if we were completely missing out on some cultural infused knowledge which would have made identifying the characters much easier. We kept referring to them as "Fights with Scabbard", "Two Swords", "Tuberculosis Guy", "Invincible Sword" and "The Flag". The last two were the names given to the characters in the movie but the real names of the rest didn't stick. One of them was called "Go Sing Su" -- three verbs, and I still don't know who it was. I'm wondering if these characters were the Paul Reveres of old China and therefore didn't need any explaining because...Paul! Revere!

So. Plot. Wang wants to extend his power, and is making overtures to foreigners in order to secure his position. The rebels like this not and are trying to get incriminating evidence against Wang to the Emperor. Hung is heading up the efforts to stop this evidence from coming to light and TB Guy sort of wanders in and out of the plot. Oh, and he may be the mysterious "Dragon" figure whom nobody has seen in forever but has super scary Kung Fu and is also Wang's Master at Arms. Or he could simply be a dude with a jade dragon marker and a hacking cough who owes Hung a favor.

Some of my favorite highlights were an actual cymbal monk (!) (and also WHEEE!), the Alas fella who wrote the incriminating evidence letter to the Emperor and then committed seppuku because "This way they can't torture the information out of me". OoooKay then, that's one way of keeping silent albeit a rather permanent method of doing so. Personally I might have waited a bit to see if the message did indeed go through but hey. To each their own. Then there was the fella who had the message tattooed onto his back because that's not conspicuous at all. By the way, tattoo fella (the leader of the rebels) was captured and tortured but apparently the bad guys didn't deem it necessary to take off his shirt to do so. Doah!

We had a nice Whoops dub miscue and a classic Deus Ex "I decided to come back right in the nick of time to help you out of a jam" moment. Sadly, I expected a whole lot more from a movie about the "Power hungry eunuch Wang" but alas. At least it was incisive!


Go Sing Su. Is he with my litigation firm, Dewey Cheetum and Howe?

And wasn't seppuku a Japanese rite?
Tattoo the secret message on his back. So THAT'S where Adam Ant got the idea!