Human Lanterns (1982)
By: Michael Helms on.May 5, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Siren Visual Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Mandarin DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 94 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Sun Chung
Starring: Liu Yung, Chen Kuan-tai, Lo Lieh, Tanny Tien Ni, Linda Chu, Lin Hsiu-chun, Lo Meng, Sun Chien, Wang Ching-ho
Screenplay: Ni Kuang, Sun Chung
Country: Hong Kong
AKA: Human Skin Lanterns

The opening credit sequence is fired by an electrical storm that tantalisingly introduces imagery to come as a bloody female body hangs from a tree and a cackling maniac in a skull mask jumps around like he's an attention deficit sufferer who's just discovered crystal meth. The camera finally comes to rest on a blood soaked blade attached to a cross.

The story then kicks in as a twisted revenge piece that's fuelled by the rivalry of two masters Lung and Tan. The setting is a period Chinese village. Master Lung wants to outdo Master Tan at the lantern championships this year and through bribing an old master with silver pieces gets in touch with a lantern craftsman who turns out to be an old enemy harbouring a grudge.

Meanwhile, accompanied by spooky music the skull mask maniac breaks in on a gal who he knocks out and stabs with one of his claws before sneaking a look up her dress and laughing even harder. Back at his fantastic dungeon/workshop that has a waterway running through it, he drags a thick blade across her skull that causes blood to drip down her naked body. He then starts to remove large patches of her skin which he taunts her with when she regains consciousness. The Master's house is soon put under surveillance by the local police force led by Sergeant Poon. This situation really annoys Master Lung. Soon, a small body count develops which eventually leads to Tan fighting Lung when the formers sister goes missing. In fact, the fighting escalates all over the place with barely a break for the man in the mask to abduct Lung's wife who he subsequently flays. Holding her skin up to the light he lovingly admires a mole that used to be on her back. Lung and Tan eventually team up to have a slo-mo fight with the evil lantern maker who by this stage has produced four beautiful lanterns that happen to resemble the four women who have gone missing. Tan is impaled on a fan frame and it takes the cops to turn up, the roof to cave in, and everyone to be set on fire before the crazed craftsman can be subdued. The entire experience causes Lung to denounce all his material possessions and to leave on indefinite travels in the hope of calming his soul.
Video
Shaw Brothers films are almost always of an incredibly high visual standard due to their reliance on meticulously arranged and lit sets, superb costuming, and general attention to detail. Human Lanterns is no exception getting off to a particularly striking start when cooking up the storm. Colour (with the exception of often chalky blood) holds fast and true throughout and its reproduction is especially sharp. Even though our disc began to pause of its accord in the second half (which no amount of cleaning could prevent) this was but a minor irritant that ultimately didn't impede the overall viewing experience too much.
Audio
The stereo sound is loud and clear with suitably spooky keyboard work prominent whenever necessary.
Extra Features
Still & poster galleries, talent text profiles, and trailers for Clans Of Intrigue and Invincible Shaolin.
The Verdict
Despite its reputation Human Lanterns is more kung fu than kill fu with gore scenes sounding better on paper than on screen. However, scenes of mayhem not completely martial arts dominated do propel Human Lanterns along at speed and with more than a little bleeding interest. Heads do roll (or rather hang around), skin is flashed (and removed), and the lantern craftsman himself is not without crazy charm. His workplace has to be seen to be believed.
Movie Score
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