Hands of Death (1987) Review

So, for my third to last chapter in “Kung Fu Gunk Fu”, I planned on reviewing Godfrey Ho’s Hands of Death (aka Ninja Operation 7: Royal Warriors, even though it’s not actually a sequel to anything, and there are no warriors or anything “royal”), but then I discovered to my absolute horror that this was not the Hands of Death in my 20 Kung Fu Movie Pack DVD set when sitting down to watch it. Instead, that film turned out to be a different 1974 Hands of Death, aka The Tongfather, starring and directed by Peng (or Roc) Tien.

Distressed, I drooled all over my coffee table trying as hard as I could to gather my sanity, collecting my broken thoughts which scattered like cockroaches beneath the sun, the veins in my head attempting to reach out and crawl away like spider legs. My eyes twitched uncontrollably as I tried to regain my grasp on my own eye muscles. This was not the film I wanted to view, not in any way. It was no Godfrey Ho masterpiece, and the fact that I didn’t possess the version I wanted seemed immeasurably awful in every way.

Thankfully, I discovered a temple of awesomeness on YouTube called Godfrey Ho Cinema, and was able to find that treasure thought to be lost, much like the literal treasure that’s discussed in this film. My eyes finally relaxed so I could see clearly, and the drooling abruptly ended. I even stopped hitting myself on the top of the head with my TV remote, which broke completely and required a replacement (thank fuck for Amazon!). I may have induced a pretty bad concussion, but I’m not afraid of anything.

Nirvana washed over me in an awesome wave, and the film itself turned out to be everything a Godfrey Ho film should be. It had Caucasian ninjas (in pink outfits this time!), Richard Harrison as a good ninja back in good old camo ninja wear, other ninjas with “Ninja” written on their headbands for clarity, female slaves (I think) who love to be topless in water even when in perilous danger, a female Tarzan, an old woman who lives in a cave and hates humanity, old Japanese treasure that’s nearly impossible for anyone to find, and a perfect villain aptly named Evil Willy. It’s a film with four or more plots crammed into a single incredible hour-and-thirty-minute-long adventure.

Let’s jump in.

First, the cast. Who better to be the hero of this film than Richard Harrison as the cool nameless “Commander”?

Richard Harrison in Hands of Death

And this was my introduction to another Godfrey Ho favorite, Mike Abbott as the villainous Baron,

Mike Abbott as Baron in Hands of Death

and other actors whose roles I can’t pinpoint, of course.

So let’s dig into this marvelous wonder, which happens to be a Joseph Lai production with IFD, as with all other Godfrey Ho films. Bringing us something akin to Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender with A Band Apart, no doubt.

Joseph Lai credit in Hands of Death

Amazingly, this jungle and river setting is totally different from the usual Hong Kong setting we always see in these films’ openings. After the brief credits, which abruptly end in a spot in the jungle, two guys appear to be evading gunfire.

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It’s quickly revealed they’re hiding from this trio of pink ninjas using heavy artillery. They even wear headbands that explain their occupation.

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The two “innocent” guys have a couple of weapons: a pistol and a sniper rifle. They’re no good against the ninjas’ machine guns, though. They duck down after firing at them once.

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The guy with the glasses tells mullet man, “Gary, give ’em the map. I don’t wanna die!”

Gary tells him they can’t, because it’s all they have. Damn.

Mike Abbott, the pink ninjas’ leader, tells his two men to split up and surround them, and they wind up flanking the two map-keepers.

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The men search their bodies and find the map, with which the main villain is quite pleased.

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He even emits an evil laugh to further establish himself as a psychopath.

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This is the scribbled half-ass bullshit on the map, but it makes perfect sense to the guy.

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“Boys, we’re gonna be rich!” he psychotically exclaims with a psychotic face. This is only the first stage of his facial evolution here.

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“The goldmine is in Willy’s territory,” he adds.

“Who’s Will-ay?” one of his men asks.

The leader’s eyes grow even wider, and he exclaims, “He’s my old buddy!”

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His other man asks, “What’re we gonna do with the other gold hunters?”

This only tightens the leader’s face even more.

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He comes up with a very intelligent yet simple plan. “We have to stop them some other way–KILL THEM!” I honestly don’t think anyone can out-emote Mike Abbott at this point.

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“Yes,” one of the men calmly says. The other grunts.

Apparently we weren’t done with the credits.

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As these play over mountains and the inside of a cave in the background, we hear an echoey voiceover narration from some unknown source that explains the basic premise: In a cave that was at one time the Burmese border, Japanese soldiers hid treasure they looted from WWII. Many men have died looking for it.

The bad guys want this treasure all to themselves, as we’ve seen. Simple enough of a plot, right? Well, if you know Godfrey Ho, you know that this is only the bare beginning of his intricacies when it comes to plot development.

At the end of the credits (for real this time), Richard Harrison in army garb explains strategic positions to his two men with a model in the sand.

Thanks once again, IFD Films, for giving us a top quality production.
Thanks once again, IFD Films, for giving us a top quality production.

He further explains to his men Mickey and Ronnie (Mickey Rooney tribute?) that they’ve been instructed to guard “this area:”

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They have to “destroy” a group of fugitive soldiers led by a former captain named Baron. I think I know why they’re fugitives, having been forced by the army to wear pink outfits as some kind of presumed punishment.

In a weird hoarse voice that doesn’t really match the face it comes out of, Mickey says, “Commander, I’ve heard of Baron. He was involved in many massacres during the war. They court-marshaled him.” For some reason he and Ronnie wear “ninja” headbands, too, even though they’re apparently not ninjas.

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I guess they’re covert army ninjas, which Richard Harrison always seems to play, although oddly enough he’s not wearing a headband, which must mean he’s not kosher.

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