We love a good film rip-off here at Zombie Club so when I suggested doing a night of movies heavily influenced by Alien the boys lapped it up. I did some scouting and soon came back with Inseminoid and Galaxy of Terror, both very Alien, both very gory, both with a couple of early career celebrity cameos and both from different sides of the pond. Alien the British Norman J. Warren way followed by Alien the American Roger Corman way, what could be better?
Well once you read about one Alien rip-off movie, you soon realise that there are quite literally hundreds of them out there to choose from. Would it really do to only show two? Forbidden World was next on the list because it has never been released on DVD (except in Germany) and is currently unavailable on VHS, so when I picked up a cool pre-cert edition on Ebay for 99p (thank you very much) I knew it had to get in to the line up.
And if you’re going to watch three you might as well do four, and what better to end a Zombie Club marathon than with another, even rarer, Bruno Mattei travesty, Shocking Dark. This is the movie that Claudio Fragrassi thought was so bad, he turned round to Mattei after it wrapped and told him he wasn’t prepared to work with him any more. Bearing in mind that the two of them worked on Zombie Creeping Flesh and Rats – Night of Terror, I knew the only place where Shocking Dark would get any appreciation was at Zombie Club.
At Zombie Club no one can hear you scream. That’s because we’re too busy drinking and watching bad Alien rip-offs…
This evening's selection was brought to you by Jim in association with the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to John Hurt type characters in Alien rip-off movies.
Plot Stephanie Beacham does Alien.
Jim Tonight’s opening movie is about a bunch of astronauts (including a young Stephanie Beacham) who land on a seemingly deserted planet to check up on two previous disastrously fatal missions that have landed there before. Initially they uncover nothing, but when they open the underground temple they soon find more than they bargained for.
First off the blonde guy gets inexplicably injured and is bought back to the ship (“He’s the John Hurt then?” – Zomblee) only to go nuts and head off back out through the cool orange airlock door (more on that later). At the same time Sandy (“She’s got a lot of teeth!” – Zomblee) and Mark get jiggy under the pretence of him ‘fixing a fault in the wiring’, Stephanie Beacham and the black haired Captain argue about what to do next in the Operations Room with all the multiplying monitors, before it’s back to the mad ‘John Hurt’ guy jumping on a cool, Temple of Doom style train ride and riding around in circles for a bit. Next up Gail heads outside to take some pictures, gets her leg caught in something and panics. The guys try to get her free by telling her to “connect the blue wire to the yellow” which, as Rawshark swiftly pointed out, has a certain Crystal Maze quality to it. She fumbles, also loses it, and promptly chops her leg off with a very small hedge trimmer.
Anyway while all this is going on, the alien sneaks in and rapes Sandy using his giant glass tube penis and big mushy pea sperm (that was the grossest bit – I hate mushy peas) and she goes mad too and screams a lot, although not before the alien kills the other members of the cast whose names you can’t remember in what can only be described as the fastest alien attack drive-by ever. Rawshark missed it first time around and wound it back, although there wasn’t much point as (“I still missed it and I was watching the whole time!” – Zomblee) I was watching it the whole time too and also I missed it.
So, is the orange airlock door the coolest in the movie, or is the Explosives Store door where they store them tomato bombs better? Or what about the Derelict Passage door that looks like the kind you get in a butcher's? Is the suggestion of “Top Ten Doors in Inseminoid” a good idea or quite ridiculous? When Zomblee cried out “We’re starting to run out of doors – I’m beginning to panic!” was he justified? How come Stephanie Beacham looks so good? Do you think she’s really “Getting ready to go on Mr & Mrs…” as my old mate and guest for the night Andy suggested? And would the movie have been any better if, as Rawshark suggested, she’d gone “the whole rest of the film in T-shirt and panties!”
Who knows, all I can say is that Inseminoid was a crackerjack film to start the night with and a good time was had by all. It’s just a shame that Zomblee’s opening shout of “I think it’s just a cast of women – brilliant!” proved to be untrue as that would have really made it something special…
“Our best bet is the derelict passages; she won’t look for us there”
Zomblee Well, to be fair, there were quite a few women in it, Jim. About half and half I’d say. At one point it featured Stephanie Beacham and Judy Geeson scrapping on the floor. Well, I say scrapping - it was more like rolling around playfully on the floor. I’ve done my research: the reason their fight looks so unconvincing is because Beacham had only just injured her back, and Geeson her neck. They couldn’t have timed it better because as fate would have it, it had to happen just before their big death fight which, in the end looks about as convincing as that big plastic tube that’s supposed to be the alien’s penis. No mushy peas were included in the meal Jim cooked for us tonight, thank God.
So, Inseminoid. For those of you who are wondering (like Rawshark was), no, it’s not “the one with the weird backwards monster crabby thing”. No. That comes later, kind of. Through the years Inseminoid has been unfairly targeted as a cheap Alien rip-off. Well, it’s not an Alien rip-off, but it is cheap. Alien hadn’t been released theatrically in the UK at the time Norman J. Warren and his crew made this enthusiastic yet sporadically unpleasant slice of space-door showmanship. 20th Century Fox gave their blessing and best wishes to the low-budget filmmakers, saying it was clearly not a rip off. It’s actually quite a fast-moving, pacey affair when cast members aren’t sitting around talking about stuff in their control room, which is a big desk with buttons, faders and some TV monitors (“Wait, that’s just an editing facility!” - Rawshark).
The insemination scene is pretty well-handled, as well as being, like a lot of the film, quite unpleasant; “That’s the most obscene alien rape sequence I’ve ever seen!” shouted Jim, who, amazingly, probably has seen several films that feature alien rape scenes. The scene is actually pretty striking in that when Sandy (Geeson) is strapped to the sex table, what we as an audience see is her fantasy – that her ?boyfriend is approaching her with carnal intentions, but before you can say “mushy peas”, she snaps out of the fantasy and sees the reality of the situation - that a huge alien monster is in fact making a b-line for straight between her legs. Nice.
The rest of Inseminoid features the pregnant-possessed Sandy running about the place in a very hostile mood indeed. You can tell she’s being hostile by the way she’s killing and eating her colleagues. She’s a nasty piece of work and I have to say, Judy Geeson is pretty convincing in the role. The filmmakers would’ve been hard pushed to find anyone else to make this as convincing as she did, and hence a lot of the film is quite unsettling. There’s so much intense screaming coming from her – especially during the nauseating birth scene – that you may have to reach for that volume control just in case your neighbours decide that it’s time to call the police. They say in space no one can hear you scream. Someone forgot to tell Judy Geeson.
“There seems to be some sort of energy field surrounding the crystals.”
Rawshark With all it’s many different doors (“the Operations door is the best of all the doors! ” - Zomblee), fleeting glimpses of nudity, women in spacesuits, exploding tomato bombs and glass tubes filled with mushy peas, Inseminoid had something for everyone at tonight’s Zombie Club, and was an inspired choice as the kick-off film for this Alien rip-off (prelude?) night. You don’t get many British ‘aliens in space’ movies anymore, which is such a shame, because this film proves that we can have as much fun on an alien planet as any American or Italian ‘b’ movie monkey in a space suit.
Using the old familiar ‘kill off the cast one by one’ plot device, Inseminoid features some terrific low-budget gore for it’s time (as well as the afore-mentioned leg amputation by hedge-trimmer, there’s also a great stomach rip and a scene where Sandy tears apart Gary’s groin and eats it!) as Sandy gets influenced by the space crystals and ultimately gives birth to two darling little alien babies. Throw in some “Futuristic space funk music” (Zomblee), 4mph tunnel train chases (“Yay! It’s just like Indiana Jones!” – Jim) and lavish cardboard set designs and you have a film that’s as cheerful as it is cheap. And that’s a compliment.
Of course, the cast suffer from stupidity at times (don’t you know you shouldn’t try to ‘mother’ two evil looking alien babies – especially ones who like to smuggle themselves in spaceship suitcases), but that all adds to the enjoyment, and hey, if all the characters hadn’t have died, we wouldn’t have got that terrific sequence that showed all the cast’s highlights and ‘meet their maker’ moments over the end credits. Top stuff.
“You know, there must be something about these crystals we haven’t discovered yet.”
Director Norman J Warren
Cast Robin Clarke
Runtime 93 mins
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Galaxy of Terror (1981)
Plot Corman does Alien.
Rawshark Released in the same year as Inseminoid (does that make it an Alien rip-off then or not?) Galaxy of Terror shares many traits with it’s British counterpart in that a spaceship with expendable crew visits an alien planet, there’s another nasty alien rape scene with female nudity and one of the crew members is especially attached to crystals.
Reading like a who’s who of horror (the cast includes Robert Englund and Devil’s Reject Sid Haig as well as featuring the fantastic production design of future Aliens director James Cameron helped by set decorator Bill Paxton), Galaxy of Terror is another fun journey into ‘kill off the cast one by one’ b-movie territory. Sent to a planet by a mysterious “red glowy face man” (Jim) to discover the fate of a previous mission, the crew of spaceship Rebus land and decide to investigate a large alien pyramid structure nearby and are then killed off one by one by their own deadliest fears.
Sid Haig is one of the first to bite the space laser in a terrific scene that involves his Krull-like crystal stars worming his way into his forearm. Sid then chops his own arm off, but is soon killed by his own maggot-ridden severed hand. One of the girls is then raped and squashed by a big slimy giant worm, another man is disembowelled by a space werewolf and Robert ‘Freddy’ Englund obviously fears himself as he gets to fight his imaginary evil twin, before he comes to his senses and wishes his adversary away with the power of his mind - “Yay! He’s disbelieved it!” – Jim.
All fairly good fun then, especially if you are a fan of Happy Days as Richie Cunningham’s sister Erin Moran (also in Joanie Loves Chachie) is torn to pieces by tentacles, but a weak ending (what did happen to Robert Englund’s character?) lets the side down as we find out it was all part of red-glowy face man’s game. Tch - those bloody red-glowy face men and their Trading Places gambles with human lives, eh?
“I live and I die for the crystals.”
Jim Yeah, Zomblee nearly had a cow when Sid Haig walked on screen. "It's Saig!" he shouted excitedly, something we all shouted later on when Saig comes back from the grave to demo some one-armed boxer kung-fu that even Jimmy Wang-Yu would have been proud of.
But he's not the main draw of the movie; the main draw is the cool sets and the chance to take the piss out of a bunch of actors that are either on their way up or on their way down, while looking like other more famous actors. I mean, how many casts can you describe as Freddy, the bird from Happy Days, Burgess Meredith, Luke Skywalker, Tom Selleck and Mork, and get away with it? None I tell you, although there was much debate over the Mork role ("It's Michael Douglas!" - Andy, "It's Sean Penn!" - Zomblee, "No, it's Mork!" - Rawshark) Yeah, it's Mork; I bet Zalman King got that all the time.
And watching them go out, one by one, is a barrel of laughs. The old guy going down the shaft for no reason and getting eaten by alien tentacles ("Alright, pull me up!" - Zomblee) was my particular highlight, and the girl maggot death also raised eyebrows, ("I love films where girls get their clothes ripped off by giant maggots!") But why do the surviving crew members torch their fallen comrades' corpses so eagerly when they die? And what did happen to Robert Englund? One minute he's fighting himself ("My money's on Robert Englund." - Zomblee) the next he's sat on a step while Tom Selleck goes to confront red glowy face guy. Is he still sat there? Who knows; at least the Happy Days girl gets her face mashed in in good, old fashioned 70s head-splatting style.
"Vibration exceeding maximum level stress!"
Zomblee Face mashing - I like that. Well put, Jim. Every actor in Galaxy of Terror really is a poor man's someone or other. They had the real Robert Englund on board though, though I will stand firm and say that bloke looked NOTHING like Burgess Meredith, except that he was old. Sorry, Andy. But I enjoyed the argument. Come to think of it, was Burgess Meredith ever young?
The part of Galaxy that really stuck in my memory was when the giant maggot ripped the clothes off "worm girl". The maggot starts very small like, say, maggot-sized, then grows into a huge and very horrible beast indeed, adept at ripping off women's clothing - quite impressive if you like this kind of thing. (The real) Sid Haig was great value here too, his character was a bit odd to say he least, prompting Rawshark to mutter, "You gotta have a silent nutter who speaks in hand signals". Haig's hand-signalling days were numbered however, following a bizarre encounter with his crystals whereby he hacks off one of his hands ("What did he chop it off with, his fist?" - Rawshark, "Sid is so f**king gutsy, man!" - Jim). Yes.
The production design in Galaxy of Terror is impressively ambitious, and it comes off well thanks to James Cameron's sterling efforts. Heck, even the walls seem to have veins running through them - perfect for an alien environment that preys on your fears and demons by making you face them. Good concept, lush visuals, some nice set pieces, good gore, and a red glowy faced man known as 'the Mentor'. Enjoyably silly fun. Next!
"It was my own fear that attacked me, brought alive somehow by this place."
Director Bruce D. Clark
Cast Edward Albert
Runtime 78 mins
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Forbidden World (1982)
Plot Corman does Alien. Again.
Zomblee Having been told by Jim to concentrate on Forbidden World because "you're going first on this one, remember!", it is with great embarrassment and shame that I admit not quite remembering how it starts, apart from some nice classical music, which Rawshark really liked. The crux of the story however is based around an intergalactic research facility where scientists are working on a new food source through "genetic synthesis". Don't they mean genetic synthesizers? Anyway, they've only gone and inadvertently created some kind of mutant which keeps changing its genetic make up, "totally unpredictable". A bit volatile. Dangerous. It's about the worst kind of bacteria - the kind that is probably resistant to power sprays like 'Flash' or 'Cillit Bang'. Even though there's a lot of techie-talk, I was pleased to see that the 'being' still turned out to a big toothsome, slimy alien monster.
Eventually the crew destroy it after the chain-smoking doctor nobly donates his cancerous tumor, the cells of which are used to kill the monster. It's a great idea eh? There are a few of them here. There's also a robot called Sam who, as we'd recently watched the magnificent Starcrash at ZC, Jim labelled as "a poor man's Police Robot L". "Would that not be a poor robot's Police Robot L?" You know, Rawshark, I think it would.
In all honesty, my memory is a bit shady on this one (I was getting excited about the next film - don't ask), but my notes state that Rawshark said, "I keep seeing flashes of sex. I can't understand why", below which I've written 'he's right, sex flashes are being gratuitously inserted throughout the peril scene. Naked hot chicks in a steam bath'. So there. What else could you possibly ask for?
"I thought we'd leave the mess until you got here. Heard you liked messes."
Rawshark There certainly was a lot of sex and nakedness in this indie space effort, largely thanks the Mike the hero and his randy exploits (he manages to shag both of the science lab women!) on this planet of genetic synthetics. The plot goes something like this: scientists attempting to create a new food source accidentally create a metamorph monster by splicing a Proto B gene with a human. All-round hero Mike (we see him and Robot Sam blow up an enemy mothership in the pre-credits sequence) is sent to clean up the mess, sleep with the women and ultimately kill the nasty alien by feeding it a cancerous liver.
Despite it’s rarity, Forbidden World (aka Mutant) is a surprisingly intelligent entry into the world of ‘b’-movie space monster slaying, and a damn enjoyable one at that. The gore is pretty good and nasty, the script is mostly well written and the tone is consistently strong, even when playing around with normal film conventions. At one point, during Mike’s first sexual encounter with the blonde girl, the camera pans across a montage to see the black scientist playing the film’s soundtrack on a futuristic saxophone, prompting Zomblee to excitedly announce “I’ve always wanted to see that happen on film!”
Unfortunately the two girls in the film are not quite as smart. After both of them have shagged Mike and then shared a shower together (“What? Fantastic!” - Zomblee), they hatch a plan to go and have a quiet word with the monster, reasoning that a nice chat will probably make it stop killing. Off they go in their skimpy towels and converse with the metamorph, via computer, asking it if they “can co-exist.” “That’ll be a no then” muttered Jim as the tentacles crawled up the girls’ bodies and swiftly dispatched them both.
So, leave it to Mike to save the day, as he performs live liver surgery on the Doctor (a particularly nasty and gruesome scene) before feeding the tumourous liver to the metamorph. Jim really wanted the puking maggot monster to explode at this point (“It might still, Jim, it might still explode” - Zomblee) but unfortunately it just keeled over and expired, leaving a slightly disappointed Jim to sing “It’s a montage” over the montage ending.
“Let's go bag ourselves a ding-whopper!”
Jim But wasn’t there a montage at the beginning too? I’m sure there is: isn’t it supposed to represent coming out of hypersleep or something? It’s right before that opening space battle, which has a lot of space effects ripped straight out of Battle Beyond the Stars. Roger Corman eh? You’ve got to love him; not only does he regurgitate the SFX, but since he also produced Galaxy of Terror, it’s quite obvious that half the sets in Forbidden World are in that movie as well, although as Rawshark pointed out, it’s got a “better Operations Room than the last film.” He’s right too.
Anyway apart from that, it’s business as usual. Blah blah, land on planet. Blah blah, alien kills them one by one. Blah blah, think of original way to kill alien (feed him a cancerous lung? Cool). Throw in plenty of nudity, a few rooms with “gore on the floor” (Zomblee), and that big rock landscape that’s in Star Trek and that Bill and Ted movie, and you have Forbidden World wrapped up in a nutshell.
Like Zomblee, I too was pining for the last movie of the night, so I let most of Forbidden World wash over me. But there certainly was a highlight or two. When they go looking for the alien and see something moving under a sheet, Zomblee offered up “it’s the director’s cat!” only for one of the girls to enter stage left and enquire “Has anyone seen my cat?”. Brilliant, as was the scene when the girls try to talk to the monster; “If you can understand me give me a sign!” said one of the girls. “Yeah, if you can understand me, disco dance!” Thanks Andy.
But as usual, everything was under control really. Rawshark got a bit lost near the end and, as Zomblee said, kept complaining about getting flashes of sex and not understanding why. But Zomblee calmed him down, exclaiming that “You don’t have to worry about this one man, I go first and I’ve got it covered.” Sometimes it’s good to know you’re in capable hands.
“That’s just about the most God-damned stupid idea I’ve heard all day.”
Director Allan Holzman
Cast Jesse Vint
Runtime 77 mins
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Shocking Dark (1990)
Plot Bruno Mattei does Aliens. And Terminator.
Jim And finally on to the last film of the evening, the little known Bruno Mattei Aliens and Terminator rip-off called Shocking Dark (also known as The Alienator and – ahem – Terminator II). All indications were that this was going to be a piece of shit but - you know - Bruno Mattei films are like a drug to us here at Zombie Club, so when the excuse to screen this one came along I just couldn’t pass it up.
So here it is. Shocking Dark is set in a near-future Venice wasteland and follows a troop of badly dressed soldiers who are sent on a mission into the catacombs to retrieve Doctor Rafelson’s diary. They are accompanied by a representative from the Tubular Corporation called Sam Fuller, although for obvious reasons he was forever referred to as “Tubular Bells Man!” - thanks Rawshark. Anyway, along the way they encounter a lot of mutants (aliens) and meet a little girl called Samantha (Newt), that the strong women ‘specialist’ called Sarah (Ripley) bonds with. (“It’s the same fucking script, I can’t believe it!” – Rawshark) Cue many confusing fire fights where marines die randomly, a bit of crawling through shafts, climbing over pipes, stuff like that, before the “Tubular Bells Man!” gets injured, his flesh falls off and he turns out to be a Terminator! (“Oh it’s such a stinker man…” – Zomblee) So there’s a bit more running, some crap explosions, and then a bit of pointless time travel that makes no sense in context with the rest of the so-called plot whatsoever, making Rawshark's comment that Mattei must have fallen asleep watching Aliens and then woken up watching Terminator probably very accurate.
So, Shocking Dark? Shocking Shit more like, and despite Zomblee’s bold claim that in some scenes it “almost looks like a good movie…”, there’s really nothing to recommend about it. Fragrassi did well to jump ship when he did, although I bet he’s kicking himself he didn’t do it years earlier.
“Kill me… Kill ME!!!”
Zomblee Phew. Kill me, you say. That would've been wishful thinking. What the fuck was I thinking by getting in any way excited about watching another Bruno Mattei film, let alone one that his long-time producer walked away from? Could it really stink that much?
We've all been in situations where we're watching atrociously awful films for comedy value. It's familiar territory. It's a nice place to go; a kind of refuge for people of our kind. A place your girlfriend won't be. A place she'd never want to be. It's a good place, and a bad place. It can make you happy then sad, then even sadder, then you might even have fleeting thoughts of ending it all, and that life isn't worth living anymore. It's where you watch Bruno Mattei's entire oeuvre, where it gets SO bad that it's not funny anymore - just bad. Painfully bad. Shocking. It's Aliens meets The Terminator - the product of Jim Cameron heyday fallen into Italian hands - Bruno Mattei's hands. It's shameless. Completely and utterly shameless.
Jim's old mate Andy is beside me on the sofa. He's not moving. Been asleep since halfway through Forbidden World. He's either in a pain-free zone, or the voices of Mattei's characters are somehow going into his dreams, in which case he may not be in such a pain-free zone. There isn't much more toffee popcorn left in the bags on the floor, but I'm not hungry anyway. It's late. I can't take my eyes off those Japanese subtitles. I might learn something about Japanese from them.
Get this. This is Mattei's worst movie. The worst we've seen anyway. It's the kind of movie that makes Zombie Creeping Flesh and Rats: Night of Terror seem like Hitchcock. The only way to watch it is in a state of confused disbelief, saying things like, "What the fuck was that scene all about?" (Rawshark) or "I don't know what they're doing!" (Jim). I'm unable to help in either case. I just want someone to tell me it's not really happening, but I know it is. Andy's still sleeping; Jim nearly falls when he gets up. Rawshark looks puzzled but somehow content. I have trouble with stairs.
So, when are we gonna watch Robowar?
"Let's get out the KY so we can shaft them real good."
Rawshark Yep, I’ll echo Jim’s comments here (and to some point Spinal Tap), and enter a review for Shocking Dark that is simply a two word review. Shocking Shit. And yes, I can say that.
Really, I don’t know where Zomblee and Jim get their Bruno Mattei obsession from, but it’s not from film abominations like this one. Admittedly Zombie Creeping Flesh was all right in a ‘bad movie’ kinda way, but Shocking Dark really bites the bulldog’s bottom for sheer-faced cheek and bowel-filled crapness. Terribly acted with awful, awful line delivery, Shocking Dark is a literal rip off of Aliens, set in a futuristic putrid and decaying Venice.
Megaforce are sent in to Venice to retrieve Rafelson’s diary (?), and along the way mimic the antics of Aliens, Ripley, Apone et al, all the way down to the exact recreation of Cameron’s best scenes and dialogue. They have a meter reader, they find a little girl (Samantha, not Newt), they look at creatures through microscopes (“Fantastic isn’t it” – er, no it isn’t), and they even take shelter in a med-bay where Tubular Bells Man tries to kill off Samantha and the lead heroine by planting two mutants (aliens) in the med-bay with them whilst they sleep.
By the time we were approaching the end and the film gets to it’s Terminator homage (sorry, rip-off) with Fuller turning into a cyborg and time-travelling pods and face-melting PDAs, I was, like Zomblee, spending my time looking at the floor wishing that there was some more toffee popcorn left, and envying the sleeping Andy in the corner who was missing this shit. Still, at least that’s one less Mattei film we have to bring to Zombie Club now…
“Help. Hurry. Help! We’re not going to last any longer! Help!”
Director Bruno Mattei
Cast Christopher Ahrens
Runtime 85 mins
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And it was with great sadness that my Alien Sci-Fi Gore Night (and not Alien rip-off as Zomblee kept correcting me - misery) came to an end, but by the end of Mattei’s Shocking Dark I think we’d all had enough really. Except Andy of course, who’d been in the land of nod for a good couple of hours. But who can blame him? As much as we all had fun with the other three movies (the cool doors, the naked showers, the Saig, the red glowy face man, the hedge trimmer, mushy peas, etc), Shocking Dark really took the biscuit. Sorry about that guys.
So that’s it; I’m not watching any more Bruno Mattei films; no way, no sir, they all suck. I’m not wasting my time with the… what? Robowar you say? Ooooh…
But before we go I’m going to give you lucky readers a rare insight into what happens behind the scenes here at eatmybrains.com. It’s well established here that, while watching a movie, Rawshark makes better notes than Zomblee or I, and he often posts them up so we can use them as reference if our notes are shit (which they often are). Tonight he excelled himself, so if you fancy a look-see, click here, it’s well worth it…
31st Jan 05 Peter Cushing appears to have modestly declined from participating in any of this kung fu nonsense although there is a charming battle later on when he gets a little carried away with a big flaming branch...