Release Date: 1972
Country: Hong Kong
Starring: George Lazenby, Angela Mao, Betty Ting Pei, Ing-Sik Whang, Joji Takagi, Sammo Hung, Chi Chu Chin, Lu Chin, Yi Feng, Hsing Chung Hung
Screenplay: Huang Feng, I Kuang
Director: Huang Feng
Original Title: Tie jin gang da po zi yang guan
Alternate Title: Shrine of Ultimate Bliss
I had to watch this movie more than once to verify that George Lazenby actually has more dialog than just, “Hmm? Hmmmmm,” mumbled with that smug chin-in-the-air look as if to say he has discovered something important and must now jut forth his chin and stroke it slyly. Who the hell does he think he is? Mr. Bean? He does have a few other lines, but for the most part, he just hums through the whole movie. I know this isn’t the best way to kick off a review, but come on! Speak, damn you! This isn’t Quest for Fire.
Okay. I had to get that off my chest. Now we can proceed. I originally rented Stoner because, well, it was called Stoner. How many kungfu movies do you find with a title like that? I knew there probably weren’t any stoners in the movie, but the joke was still funny in a persistently juvenile, stupid way, like Dirty Ho, Deep Thrust, and Golden Swallow. Upon getting home and watching it, I was overjoyed to discover that there are in fact quite a few stoners in the movie, as well as the main guy, Stoner. Stoner is not a stoner, but he is fighting many of the main evil stoners while trying to save some of the other stoners who were just looking for a good time.
Besides Stoner and the stoners, this movie has the wonderful Angela Mao Ying in it, who doesn’t really do much other than show up randomly to kick someone’s ass, but that’s why we love her so. I apologize that, with so many great films starring Angela, this is the first of her films that we’ve reviewed. It’s not exactly the most wonderful example of what she can do. She is not a stoner in this film, but she does team up with Stoner. And she looks good doing it.
Stoner is played by George Lazenby, known by, well, not many people as the guy who was only in one James Bond film, the one everyone pretends never got made. I don’t understand why. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is among the coolest of the Bond flicks, and it’s certainly heads better than much of the crap that starred Roger Moore. I mean, at least it doesn’t have a scene of evil Nazi-Communist millionaire (!) Christopher Walken sneaking up on dumb as toast Tanya “Sheena” Roberts in a blimp! It’s a blimp, for Christ’s sake!!! You can’t sneak up on people in a blimp!
Anyway, where the hell was I? Oh yeah. Stoner. George Lazenby is Stoner, man of action. Stoner is hot on the trail of some goofy drug dealer whose new product tends to make people go severely orgiastic, and then die. Nothing’s perfect, I suppose. So there. You have Stoner fighting stoners, and there some cheesecake nudity thrown in to boot. Some of the nudity involves actress Betty Ting Pei, at one time the most hated woman in Hong Kong. Well, how can people hate an attractive woman who just can’t seem to keep her clothes on? I myself wondered the same thing, but keep in mind that Betty Ting Pei was Bruce Lee’s mistress, and she was with him during those final fateful hours of his life. Plenty of people theorize that Betty was in on a plot to kill Lee, working perhaps with vengeful film director and known thug about town, Lo Wei. Could Betty Ting Pei have been the one to poison Lee, or let hit men in to beat him to death while he was enjoying some hash brownies?
We’ll never know, though you can get her side of the story in the sleazy Bruce Lee “biopic,” known as Bruce Lee, His Last Days and Nights, in which she stars as her frequently nude self and Bruce Lee is played by a young Danny Lee Hsiu-hsien, also known as the star of Inframan and “that cop from The Killer.” Lee has gone on to make all sorts of creepy, brutal crime films that seem to glorify the torture and rape of suspects by the police force. Frankly, that guy freaks me out. As for what happened to Betty Ting Pei after her brief stint as a B movie exploitation star, I don’t know. She was pretty much run out of Hong Kong after Lee’s death, but obviously, she eventually returned to get naked again.
It’s too bad the plot of Stoner isn’t as wild as the Bruce Lee conspiracy. Maybe Oliver Stone (quite a well-known stoner) should sink his teeth into that one next. Anyway, I digress yet again. Stoner. Stoner is a man with a mission, and that mission is to wear flared slacks and wave his arms wildly at his opponents. I guess this is supposed to be kungfu, though I have seen orangutans do something similar. I’ve also seen Jimmy Wang Yu do it, but he is the master of waving his arms angrily in the face of his opponent. Stoner gets to hand out beat-downs like the star of an Italian cop film. All in all, Lazenby is believable enough as a tough guy. He has a tough guy mustache (on loan from Maurizio Merli), so that makes him believable, though not in the same league as other masters of mustache toughness (the two biggest masters being Merli and Franco Nero).
Lazenby, of course, is no stranger to ass whuppin’ Asian style. A slightly more out of shape Lazenby would later co-star with Lee Van Cleef, who was even more out of shape than Lazenby, in an episode of the critically acclaimed (I’m pretty sure, but not entirely certain about that acclaim) television series Master Ninja. I think Lazenby might have climbed a wall or something in that episode. Luckily, he’s a lot more active here, strolling around and casually beating up people who deserve to get beaten up.
Angela Mao gets involved in things as a mysterious agent working to crack the same case as Stoner. She gets to show off some quality Angela Mao kungfu ass-kicking but is really just a supporting cast member. Still, any chance to see Ms. Mao in action is a treat. But Lazenby is the star here, even though he doesn’t speak the language. I spent half this movie trying to figure out if it was a Hong Kong or British production, and in the end I decided it was both. It was England’s way of repaying Hong Kong for loaning them Ti Lung to appear in Shatter.
This movie has everything you expect from a 1970s goofball action film. The bad guys live in a Holiday Inn or something, complete with lots of mirrors, thrones, revolving platforms, and secret doors. Who do you get to build these things? Is there a special super villain contractor that specializes in secret caves and futuristic fortresses? Everyone is dressed gaudily. The bad guys are really bad, and the good guys are tough as nails. I will have to watch it again to check, but I think the movie does lack a midget henchman, which is surprising. Maybe there was one in there. I will have to watch again to see. As if all that isn’t enough to send you searching for this doggie treat of a film, Sammo Hung stars as a character who was probably called “Thug Number Two” in the credits.
Quite honestly, I dig Stoner. It’s a totally ridiculous, goofy movie. The fashion is bad. There’s trippy drug scenes and go-go dancing hippies and Betty Ting Pei in a see-through nighty. There’s George Lazenby muttering and going “Hmmm? Mmmm.” over and over. There’s Angela Mao showing up every twenty minutes to kick everyone’s ass. All the sets look like airport lounges. Since I’m a mark for both Mao and Lazenby, it was great to see them fighting evil together. I mean, we’re not talking martial arts masterpiece, but in the right frame of mind, Stoner is one of the most enjoyable action flicks you can see. Stoner. Remember his name. When you smash through a window, think of Stoner. When you dole out two-fisted beat-downs to a gang of dope peddling thugs, think of Stoner. When you get a smug look, stroke your chin, and go, “Hmmm? Hmmmm. Mmm,” think of Stoner.