Friday, 1 October 2010

Yes, Weng Weng, it is that time...

"The forces of good are our sworn enemy, and I repeat, they must be exterminated, and I mean lethally!"

The early 80s were, without a doubt, a difficult time for the Philippines. But they were still years away from the People Power Revolution that would rid them of the human rights abusing, corrupt, shoe-hoarding regime of the Marcos’. Hard time often inspire great works of art. Luckily for us however, they can also inspire kung-fu-dwarf-spy films.
1981's For Y'Ur Height Only tells the story of the diminutive Agent 00 and his struggle to stop the ominously named, Dr. Giant from using the "N-bomb" (a highly technical doomsday device, not the most unimaginative of racial slurs) to hold the world to ransom. Employed by the Filipino government, Agent 00 is forever using his height, or rather lack thereof, to his advantage. Lying in wait, hiding in boxes, sneaking around where the less vertically challenged man could not, and repeatedly kung fu kicking crouching bad guys in the bollocks, Weng Weng is not one to be overlooked. Navigating his way round Manila's underworld, which consists of about two dozen mostachio'd guys who hand around smoking and hubristically referring to themselves as "The Forces of Evil”, he is aided by a series of tall, similarly lethal female agents, who of course fall for 00's cheeky chappy charms. Learning of Dr Giant’s evil scheme, he equips himself a jet-pack and flies off to the villain’s lair to save the planet.

This is a fairly standard Some-twat-gets-his-hands-on-a-world-destroying-weapon-secret-agent-gets-some-gadgets-and-stops-said-twat stuff, that we've all seen a hundred times, boiled down to its essentials leaving more screen time for a cheeky little bugger in a white disco suit to kick guys in the balls.

What makes this film special is its leading man. Our hero is played by the very charismatic and very short Weng Weng. Standing at a mere 2 foot 9 inches, Weng holds the world record for the shortest man to have the lead role in a film to this day. The one inch shorter Mini Me presumably begrudges the fact that he has never had a leading role, and the moody faced one from In Bruges is taller. Weng, real name Ernesto De La Cruz (Weng Weng being a nickname for a small yappy dogs), was born no bigger than a coca cola bottle. He lived a full and rich life, marrying a porn star and joining Imelda Marcos as her preferred duet partner in karaoke, before following fellow countryman, Herve Villaces', wee footstep and persuing a career in the movies. Teaming up with esteemed producer of crap, Dick Randall (a man partly responsible for the shockingly insensitive "Clones Of Bruce Lee" A film about cloning martial artists from the diseased actor's brain matter, released only 4 years after his death), and actor turned director Eddie Nichart they put together this film to showcase Weng's unique talents.

With a budget roughly the size of the leading man, the first hour was seemingly filmed on one block in Manila. The bulk of the action takes place in a spectacularly ugly multi story hotel, a disco that plays the first few bars of Boogie Wonderland on a loop, a couple cafes and a few warehouses. Dr Giant makes several references to his deadly shark tank, which, sadly is never shown. The English dubbing for all the characters is done by just two actors, reputedly a drug-addled American ex-pat husband and wife team. The large roster of male characters are kept distinct by giving them each a very broad, wholly inappropriate and often surreal accent; ranging from Speedy Gonzales to effete Englishman. All this merely adds to the film’s shambolic charm.
There is so much to enjoy in this film: the bizarrely slow-paced Q scene where Weng is kitted with a series of ever more rubbishy looking gadgets, a gang of bad guys terrified by a flying hat, Weng catapulting himself across an obviously over-polished floor being the mere tip of the iceberg.
Initially screened as part of the very first Manila Film Festival, an event designed to show off Filipino culture and cinema to the world. Sadly, only one film managed to be picked up by distributors… None other than For Y’Ur Height Only!

You're such a little guy though, very petite, like a potato.

And it’s easy to see why, the film can either be read as satire, ridiculing the 70s womanising, hard-as-nails, superspy action hero by making him tiny, or as a hastily put together film by some bloke with a martial arts knowing dwarf mate who'd seen You Only Live Twice once on a bootleg beta-max and vaguely remembered it. If no one else is, Weng Weng is very much in on the joke, winking and capering his way through his performance. Despite its change-down-the-back-of-the-sofa budget, insane dubbing, Tesco-Value James Bond plot and ripped off score, For Y’Ur Height Only is one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences I've had the honour of watching. Causing even my low-budget-exploitation-film weary self laugh with pure joy.

Of course you can see this on Monday, 4th October at half 7 with a pint and some mates down at the Mucky Pup with us...
Or dig up the Region 1 DVD available through Mondo Macabro.

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