Monday, December 19, 2011

For Y'ur Height Only (1981)

For Y'ur Height Only (Eddie Nicart, 1981)

According to Australian film critic Andrew Leavold, during the 1981 Manila International Film Festival, a film festival established by the Marcoses to position Manila as the Cannes of Asia, where all the most daring, deep and artful Filipino films were exhibited to foreign guests, critics, and distributors, Eddie Nicart’s For Y’ur Height Only, a spy actioner that seemed to be the exact opposite of what the new film festival supposed to represent and share to the entire world, was the only film to land an international distribution deal. The success of Nicart’s film only reinforced the Philippines’ position as a hotbed of weird cinema, of cinema that intentionally or unintentionally poked fun at Western pop culture, of bad films so ingeniously bad they’re good.

See, For Y’ur Height Only is a essentially a montage of novel and not-so-novel action sequences tied together by a very simple story of an American scientist who gets kidnapped by the minions of mysterious Mr. Giant, a devious and evil crime lord who sends his dastardly instructions to his assistants through a twinkling mirror. There is absolutely nothing in the film that would consider it a good film, even within the genre it places itself in. The acting is notoriously bad. The cinematography is at best, serviceable. The music scoring also do not inspire any excitement that is more than what the story offers. In the company of Peque Gallaga’s Oro, Plata, Mata (1982) and other well-regarded features, the film clearly pales in comparison.

It is a film that relies mostly on its lead’s starpower, a starpower that is based not on good looks or acting prowess but on his being extremely short. Weng Weng, the two-foot nine actor who has the facial features of a seven year old kid and the flirtatious antics and libido of a dirty old man is the glue that puts everything together, from the tongue-in-cheek humor to the height-specific action set pieces. Playing the film’s debonair spy called Agent OO, he gamely fights goons three times his height and cavorts with women whose breasts are larger than his head. The film, from being a mere run-of-the-mill spy thriller, mutates into a parade of visual gags, witty references, and unbelievable stunt acts.

Paced quickly to reinforce the fact that there really isn’t much substance in the sequential turnover of showcases of Weng Weng’s physical bravura despite his evident vertical limitation, the film rarely loses steam. Whenever the diminutive hero does not karate chop his opponents’ balls or share saliva with his bevy of female friends (a bevy that includes Beth Sandoval, Anna Marie Gutierrez and the Carmi Martin), he tries on his array of spy gadgets lent to him by his commander (played by Tony Ferrer, the much famed Tony Falcon a.k.a. Agent X44). His favorite, unsurprisingly, is the ill-fitting x-ray sunglasses that gave the little rascal an enjoyable glimpse of his commanders’ sexy secretaries’ secret sexy parts, making him beam his trademark smile prior to his mission of clearing the bakery of drug dealers who attempt to make a lot of dough from dough.

For Y’ur Height Only is vastly enjoyable despite its lack of any aspiration towards being anything more than a film that exploits Weng Weng’s uniqueness for commercial purposes. In fact, the film might even overtake the Bond film from which it creatively borrowed its title in terms of guiltless and mindless fun. It is a film packed with thrills, comedy, titillation, romance, and even a little bit of tragedy right in the end. In its expected modesty, it survives the test of time simply because it precisely knows its assets and limitations and therefore does not overreach. The film, like its star, is small and terrible in every way possible, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

(Cross-published in Lagarista.)

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