dwfeat

D’Wild Wild Weng

The enormous popularity of pocket-sized Filipino action star Weng Weng — in the wake of his successful debut as Agent 00 in For Y’ur Height Only — was destined to be short-lived. And apparently no one was more aware of that than the people guiding his career. As a result, the dawning years of the 1980s saw the P.I.’s theater screens deluged with a mini-flood bearing the Weng Weng brand. The sequel to Height, The Impossible Kid, followed hot on the heels of it’s predecessor, seeing release in 1982, while Weng Weng’s first headlining foray into the Western genre, D’Wild Wild Weng, hit screens that same year.

As with Height and Kid before it, D’Wild Wild Weng was helmed by stunt coordinator-turned-director Eddie Nicart (doing double duty as stunt director with the help of his renowned troupe, The S.O.S. Daredevils), with Peter M. Caballes producing and Caballes’ wife, Cora, contributing the screenplay. For dedicated Weng Weng watchers, many of the onscreen personnel will also be familiar from the previous entries, including serial Pinoy cinema bad guy Romy Diaz and glamour girl Yehlen Catral.

Further maintaining continuity is the fact that the filmmakers here once again make the wise choice to play the action completely straight, placing their unusually statured star at the center of what would otherwise be considered a typical example of Pinoy “Goon” cinema, as Filipino audiences of the day called it. Such films were basically stunt-heavy action films in which the hero would have a series of confrontations with gangs of anonymous henchmen, or “goons” (often played by the aforementioned S.O.S. Daredevils), who would then be picturesquely tossed from balconies or cliffs, or otherwise showily dispatched. (Which is a formula well familiar to any fan of old Republic movie serials, or, for that matter, Dara Singh’s Indian stunt films.)

While the novelty value alone of having that hero be under three feet tall is enough to make the fight scenes in Weng Weng’s movies plenty memorable, it should be noted that Weng Weng — who trained in martial arts from an early age and subsequently received extensive stunt training from director Nicart — both doles out and takes his punishment in those scenes like a true professional — which, to be honest, just makes things that much weirder. If anything, D’Wild Wild Weng showcases the tiny star’s stunt and fighting abilities to an even greater degree than the preceding films, making less use of the gimmicky dick-punching moves the others relied on so heavily (though, grieve not, dick-punching fans; there still are some, as well as another of those trademark scenes in which Weng Weng’s partner literally tosses him at an opponent). I’m guessing that Weng Weng’s status at this point of being a proven performer and box office draw, combined with an increasing level of confidence in front of the camera on his part, had something to do with this.

While, as I mentioned above, D’Wild Wild Weng represents a venture into the Western genre, it maintains a connection to its star’s Agent OO films by casting him again as a government agent, this time one known only as “Mr. Weng”. Furthermore, the action is kept in the present day, though only the appearance of a jeep at one point would clue you in for certain. Like India, the Philippines has no shortage of remote rural villages with a subsistence farming, agrarian-based way of life, which provides filmmakers the opportunity to create — as in Bollywood “Curry Westerns” like Sholay or Kaala Sona — an “Old West” feel without being bound by period. It also, in this case, allows us, the audience, the chance to enjoy the spectacle of horse-riding, sombrero-wearing bandits fighting alongside masked ninjas as our little hero fires away on a jeep mounted gatling gun.

Our story begins as Mr. Weng and his muscle-bound partner, Gordon (Max Laurel) arrive in the small village of Santa Monica. The agents’ purpose there is to investigate the mysterious death of the town’s mayor, which quickly is revealed to be not all that mysterious at all. It was, in fact, the work of the evil Sebastian (Romy Diaz), who, with the help of his sizable gang, has taken over the town and declared himself governor. After being spirited into town inside a gunny sack by Gordon — perhaps to preserve the element of surprise — it is not long before Weng starts to make his presence known, and soon Sebastian is demanding to know the identity of the “little boy” who keeps handing his cronies asses to them. Interestingly, no one ever disabuses Sebastian of his whole “little boy” misapprehension, though I suppose it would slow your rollicking Western up considerably if you were to have one of the characters step forward at some point to explain the concept of primordial dwarfism.

In classic fashion, Sebastian dispatches his lieutenants one after the other, each successively charged with the task of coming back with Weng Weng’s widdle head. Thus is set the stage for the episodic, fight centered structure of the film’s remaining acts. One of these lieutenants is named either “Fu Manchu” or “Ku Manchu”, but is, in either case, played by Ernie Ortega, and has a small army of black clad ninjas under his command, which makes for some of the film’s more silly and enjoyable brawls. Meanwhile, Gordon and Weng recruit the former mayor’s mute servant, Lupo (Max Alvarado), to assist them in their fight — a decision that will prove regrettable, as Alvarado’s caterwauling performance is the element of D’Wild Wild Weng guaranteed to put the most mileage on viewer nerves.

In the acting “plus” column, the ever-dependable Romy Diaz delivers some of the films most enjoyable moments, gaining quite an assist from the film’s writers, who, at one point, have him dismissing an underling as “a useless, scampering little mouse”, and, at another, declaring of Weng, “Let the disgusting vultures feast upon his rotting flesh”. Such hate-filled oaths aside, the movie also finds time for romance. For, as usual, every attractive young girl in the village is warm for our hero’s diminutive form, a compliment Weng returns by serenading one belle from beneath her bedroom window. (As usual, Weng Weng is dubbed, but he is nonetheless given an awful singing voice.)

And then, of course, despite the film’s overall serious tone, there are the few requisite little person gags, all of which benefit from Weng Weng’s natural (and perhaps neurologically impaired?) deadpan demeanor. At one point, the recoil from a shotgun that Weng is firing repeatedly sends him somersaulting backwards, and at another, Gordon, disguised as a monk, jams Weng’s face into his crotch in an attempt to hide him under his robes. And this is all not to mention the tribe of pygmy Indians that comes to the rescue during the finale. Fortunately, coming to the rescue of Weng Weng’s dignity is the wardrobe department, who, among other things, kit the little star out in a spiffy black miniature matador outfit, complete with foppishly ruffled shirt. (Which may or may not be meant to conjure associations with Robert Conrad’s Jim West, though the film, despite its name, nowhere else spoofs or otherwise attempts to reference The Wild Wild West TV series.)

If you’re looking for an introduction to all things Weng Weng, I suppose that D’Wild Wild Weng is as good a place to start as either For Y’ur Height Only or The Impossible Kid. Like those films, it’s fast paced and violent, and offers ample opportunities for you to observe a very tiny man defeating many larger ones with the power of kung fu. However, if you were to watch all three movies in sequence, I think it would likely be the point at which you realized you’d had too much of a good thing. (Given you thought it was a good thing in the first place, mind you.) Like most films dependent on novelty for their appeal, D’Wild Wild Weng, once having delivered that novelty, doesn’t really have much incentive to strive toward being anything more. In addition to its generic plot, the methodical way in which it sets up and delivers one “Weng Weng vs. goon” set piece after another undermines the establishment of any of the kind of drama or suspense that would make for a more memorable viewing experience, while the big, shoot-em-up finale — consisting of Weng Weng systematically mowing down every threat to his person with the aforementioned gatling gun — just ends up being a particularly noisy anticlimax.

All of this brings us back to Weng Weng’s limited shelf life as a superstar, and the fact that, not very long after D’Wild Wild Weng’s release, his film career would be a thing of the past. Despite efforts to mix things up, even the most easily amused and/or stoned web surfer can find the concept of a dwarf punching people in the dick golden for only so long. I imagine that the Philippines’ movie audiences felt much the same way.

Release Year: 1982 | Country: Philippines | Starring: Weng Weng, Yehlen Catral, Nina Sara, Max Alvarado, Max Laurel, Romy Diaz, Ernie Ortega, Robert Miller, Rene Romero, Dencio Padilla, SOS Daredevils | Screenplay: Cora Ridon Caballes | Director: Eddie Nicart | Cinematography: Baul Dauz | Music: Pablo Vergara | Producer: Peter M. Caballes

2 thoughts on “D’Wild Wild Weng”

  1. Fantastic review Todd. As you’re aware, I have been circling this one for some time now – wondering how it stacked up – and how much it ‘borrowed’ from the Wild Wild West tv series.

    I am guessing that Mr. Weng’s partner’s name, Gordon, is a play on Artemus Gordon, Jim West’s partner in the TV series.

    Just curious, was there a train in the movie?

    I guess the reason that D’Wild Wild Weng decided to riff on The Wild Wild West – is that in the tv series, West’s number one nemesis was Dr. Loveless, played by Michael Dunn – who was a dwarf. The Fillipinos have flipped it, having a vertically challenged hero instead.

    Sadly (as far as my budhget goes), you haven’t turned me off this – and I am going to have to watch this now.

  2. But Artemus Gordon never threw Jim West like a football, did he? I didn’t think so.

    Nope, no trains in this movie. Like I said, I didn’t notice a lot of references to the TV series, but, then again, I haven’t watched the series in quite some time, so there may have been things I missed.

    I wouldn’t warn you off this one. It’s quite entertaining. It’s just that it doesn’t offer you much you couldn’t already see in the previous Weng Weng movies. Still, life for the hypothetical Weng Weng completist could be harder, to be sure.

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