When it comes to humorous material, For Your Height Only pretty much writes itself. I wrote in the review of Nigahen about what I call the Something Weird Phenomenon — when a movie’s basic description turns out to be far more entertaining sounding than the movie itself. The Filipino action film For Your Height Only can be summed up as, “A three-foot tall midget superspy in a leisure suit uses a boomerang fishing hat, jet pack, and kungfu to tear a bloody path through the criminal underworld.” One would think, with a description that fabulous, that surely For Your Height Only would be another example of the Something Weird Phenomenon. It is a monumental feat, accompanied by angels blowing mightily upon trumpets of gold, that For Your Height Only manages to live up to and perhaps even surpass the expectations instilled in the viewed by so striking a summary.
Suffice it to say that this is really one of those movies you just need to see before you can grasp just how wonderful it is. This is the sort of movie that gave birth to this website. For Your Height Only was actually one of the first movies ever reviewed on Teleport City. Like most of my early reviews, it was of exceptionally poor quality, as opposed to our current standard of just “shockingly poor quality.” In time, I deleted the review with the intention of rewriting the whole thing so as to pay proper respects to a movie in which the leading hero is referred lovingly as being, “small and petite, like a potato.” So it is with considerable anxiousness in regards to my own abilities as a writer that I open a bottle of fine champagne and say, “Weng Weng, Agent 00, welcome back.”
The world of Filipino cinema is a pretty messy place, but like the seedy back streets of Manila, it’s well worth picking your way through and becoming acquainted with some of the more flamboyant members of the society. Filipino cinema leapt into the global cult film consciousness thanks in large part to their willingness to play host to Hong Kong and American film industry cast-offs. The Philippines ha acted in many ways like the Italian film industry in that they love to latch onto an exploit a trend, but with even less money. In the 1970s, they produced a slew of cut-rate kungfu films — and I mean cut-rate even when compared to cut-rate Hong Kong kungfu films. During the 1980s, the post-apocalypse and crappy action films fell into the loving embrace of their bosomy Filipino lover, resulting in some of the most daft entries into each genre, often prefaced with the title, “A Cirio Santiago Production.” Santiago was sort of the Filipino answer to Golan and Globus, a filmmaker who never saw a concept that couldn’t be drained for every penny it was worth, and then some so long as he added some nudity.
In the 1990s, when the Girls With Guns trend that delighted us for many years in Hong Kong finally fell out of favor with audiences who preferred, it would seem, romantic comedies, the entire trend packed its bags and headed toward the Philippines, where genre staples like Yukari Oshima and Cynthia Khan found new life in really bad films.
For Your Height Only is the Filipino attempt to cash in on the James Bond inspired trend of the 1960s, except that it came out in 1979. It’s not because they were Johnny Come Lately on the spy trend; it’s because star Weng Weng was worth waiting for. Star Weng Weng stands three feet tall, making him one of the shortest secret agents in espionage history, at least until Tom Cruise came along (sorry, it was such an easy joke, but I couldn’t help myself). In fact, Weng is on record as being the shortest leading man in movie history. Beyond that, however, the man called Weng Weng has lived a life every bit as shrouded in mystery as that of the secret agent character that catapulted him to international stardom.
What little we know about him is a heady concoction of fact and unconfirmed legend. Some say he worked the blue movie circuit for a while, though as far as I know, no one has ever turned up any evidence of this, and more than likely, it just seemed like a funny rumor to start, like John Denver being a Special Forces sniper during the Vietnam War (he was actually a sniper during WWII, and then was cryogenically frozen and revived when it was time for someone to sing Sunshine on My Shoulder). All I know is that when the moon is full and the tradewinds are sweet with the scent of coconut oil that has been spread on the flat, tan belly of a languidly relaxing topless island girl, you can still here Weng Weng, voice, drifting through the palm trees, saying something wise like, “Ow, my wuttle head!”
For a man’s man, actions will always speak louder that words, and while the story of Weng Weng may be shrouded in mystery and lies, we do have For Your Height Only — For Y’ur Height Only, as the credits dub it — which sees Weng Weng donning a white leisure suit to do battle with the forces of evil, as the forces of evil believe that, “the forces of good are our sword enemies! They must be exterminated — and I mean lethally!” When a top research scientist is kidnapped by thugs working for the mysterious Mr. Giant (one guess as to how tall he turns out to be), Filipino secret agent Weng is interrupted in the middle of reclining with a cocktail with a couple hot babes by the side of his pool. Weng is a lover, and no woman in this film is able to resist his charms, but he’s also a fighter, and when duty calls, it’s time for the broads to hit the bricks.
Weng is armed by his chief with an array of James Bond style gadgets that were apparently the gadgets the British Secret Service received as a result of their “Design your own spy gadget” contest that was held for children ages 8-12. He gets a goofy looking old man hat that doesn’t match his debonair look (it looks like it should have fishing lures affixed to it for ease of access when the bass start a’ bitin’), but it is remote controlled, which means he can fling it at would-be foes and then steer it with his watch, thus annoying the foe to no end as the otherwise innocuous and harmless hat flutters about in their faces, sort of like a medium sized moth or one of those discarded shopping bags that gets swept up by a gust of wind and plasters itself momentarily to your shin. He also has a pair of X-ray glasses which are perfect for looking at bosomy secretaries in his chief’s office, a special gun, and a pen that “looks like a normal pen, but it’s a weapon. Has many uses,” none of which are explained to us. I assume Weng can just jab it in a guy’s throat, but if that’s the case, it’s not really that impressive an invention, because they already have pens and toothbrushes that are specially designed for murder (you can get them at Pottery Barn).
Now properly equipped, Weng immediately sets out on his mission, befriending a woman named Lola — just one of several women who will fall for the small guy’s suave moves — and this guy has both disco moves and hardcore kungfu skills. Giant’s henchmen do their best to kill Weng as he chops, slices, shoots, and jet packs his way toward Mr. Giant’s secret lair on an island called Secret Island.
For Your Height Only does not skimp in the least on the action. Weng can’t walk down a street in Manila for more than a few steps before someone is taking potshots at him, forcing him into a storm of secret agent fury. The choreography in the fight scenes is played slightly for laughs, as Weng flips, flies, and is flung all over the place with surprising agility. At the same time, however, the choreography is still pretty good. The fights move briskly, and Weng pulls off quite a few decent stunts (obviously, he doesn’t use a stunt double), including a lot of dangling and jumping about as he is chased through and over the rides in a parking lot carnival. His sword fight with a bunch of thugs is pretty good, too — especially when he does the weird “aiming with my sword” thing where he rests the blade on his forearm and looks down it like the sights of a rifle. I don’t want to say that the power of his kungfu is entirely believable, but it’s filmed in such a way that, at least within the context of a film about a babe-bangin’ midget secret agent, you can buy that Weng is a bad-ass.
The film strikes a pretty good balance between serious action and goofy comedy — some of which comes from the dub, which peppers the dialogue with a little more hamminess than I assume was resent in the original. Most of the comedy works well, though it does rely heavily on the simple appeal of the visual gag of seeing a guy under three feet tall who kicks the ass of the villains and makes sweet, sweet love to the womens. Weng isn’t a great actor, but he handles his role well, pulls off the action, and manages to be fairly charming in a goofy way. He’s no Roger Moore, but he’s doing a decent enough imitation of a Roger Moore Mini-Me. The supporting cast — well, since everyone is dubbed anyway, and it sounds as if some of the dialogue was rewritten to be funnier (which, in a rare occurrence, it actually manages to be), there’s not much point in attempting to assess the acting.
The music is largely stolen from or based on the music from the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. Everything about the film is dirt cheap, but it’s competently if unspectacularly made never the less. It looks better than many independent films with more money, and as good as some of the bottom-of-the-barrel Eurospy movies from the 1960s. Not having much money means that you’re not really going to get that jet-set international feel. The villains drive a powder blue Volkswagon, and Weng seems to walk to all his locations, probably because that’s how he keeps fit. Weng’s wardrobe is pretty impressive, though, as he boasts an array of suits and shirts with big collars and open chests. The gals seem fond of Capri pants and tropical-print blouses. There aren’t really any special effects at which to fail, at least up until Weng straps on his jet pack and flies to Mr. Giant’s secret lair. It looks like they just strap him to a crane and swing him around — he even kicks his feet playfully as he drifts through the air with a sparkler sticking out his rear.
One thing for sure, For Your Height Only never takes a break from the action and always has another trick up its sleeve — whether it’s a sword fight, a disco scene, or Weng just looking like a stone cold killer as he runs down the street with an M-16 that’s just as tall as he is. For Your Height Only really wants nothing more than to thrill and entertain and be a good time at the movies, and it certainly accomplishes that. It’s a tremendous amount of fun, not just because it’s a Filipino midget spy kungfu action extravaganza, but also because halfway through, you pretty much forget that Weng is such a small guy, and you realize that you’re enjoying the movie, cheap as it is, simply because it’s an enjoyable movie.
Release Year: 1979 | Country: The Philippines | Starring: Weng Weng, Yehlen Catral, Carmi Martin, Anna Marie Gutierrez, Beth Sandoval, Max Alvarado, Mike Cohen, Tony Ferrer, Rodolfo Garcia, Romy Nario, Ruben Ramos | Screenplay: Cora Caballes | Director: Eddie Nicart | Cinematography: Val Dauz | Producer: Peter M. Caballes