I’ve been going on a bit of a ninja/martial arts binge these last few weeks. I used to eat them up when I was a young kid, 8-9 years old, raiding the local video shops for the most bad ass (read: ridiculous) looking movies. I decided to revisit them and see if they still held up.
Probably the most ridiculous one I watched was Special Silencers, directed by the eponymous Arizal (fast becoming one of my favourite action directors). I’ve learned to expect certain things from Arizal: indecipherable plotting, terrible acting, hilarious scripting, ridiculous hair, sweat, comedy villains, funky music, explosions and insane stunts. And while Special Silencers delivers on all counts, it ups the ante by adding something new to the repertoire — Gore.
Indonesia, 1979, Arizal
Plot-wise, Special Silencers is pretty thin. Everything is explained in the first five minutes during an exchange between the movie’s two main villains — Gundar (Dicky Zulkarnaen) and Gumilar (W.D. Mochtar). Gundar was in line to become mayor of his village, only his grandfather (who was once mayor) decided to quit to become a monk, passing the right over to another family. Gundar decides that if he can’t be heir to the current mayorship, then he’ll simply kill all the other candidates until there’s nobody left to oppose him. He plans to do this by poisoning everyone with his ‘Special Silencers’, which are magic pills stolen from his grandfather the monk. When consumed with food, Special Silencers cause tree branches to erupt and grow out of your body, killing you.
Yes, you read that correctly.
It’s the perfect crime really. I mean, how do you go about accusing somebody of killing political figures through the use of exploding plant pills? It was almost too easy. If only he’d considered a rogue element entering the town. A rogue element riding a motorcycle, sporting a flowing mane of curly hair and a cheeky grin. A rogue element by the name of Hendra (Barry Prima).
Hendra arrives in town just in time to help the Mayor with his broken down truck, and to flirt outrageously with his daughter, Julia (Eva Arnaz). It must be said that the Mayor is almost more impressed with Hendra’s chat up lines than his daughter is, but it doesn’t last. Seconds after Hendra leaves the scene, the Mayor is poisoned, leaving him a bloody tree branch tangled mess.
Hendra returns home with Julia and, together with her brother Dayat, they decide to clean up the town the only way they know how — with an endless stream of kung fu scenes. But before that, Hendra has to crack on to Julia, using her grief over her father’s death to his advantage. The slimy bastard.
In the meantime, we are treated to more scenes showcasing Gumilar being a complete bastard, extorting money from poor fisherman. Later, in a frankly outrageous scene, Gumilar insists on taking the fisherman’s young daughter as interest on a late payment. After an awkward rape scene, there is a genuinely subtle moment of sadness and despair, played with convincing pathos… until the young girl stabs herself in the chest with a samurai sword spraying an insane geyser of blood across the wall.
It has to be pointed out during these scenes that Gumilar’s right hand man has the worst contained afro in the history of cinema. I mean, seriously dude, set that sucker free. There’s like, an explosion of afro flowing from above that thick leather strap. It cannot be contained.
After this we are assaulted by a barrage of action scenes, each one more insane than the last. In true Arizal style, the safety of his stunt performers are an afterthought. I was rarely convinced that anybody died during this production, but there are constant moments where fatality is mere inches away.
Barry Prima is an Indonesian action legend, and he’s quite good in this movie. I admit I haven’t seen any of his other films up until now, but he has the confidence of a star, if not the acting ability. This is a pretty energetic performance, but credit must also go to his co-star/love interest Julia (Eva Arnaz) who was also Prima’s ex-wife. She can throw down with the best of them and you won’t expect it when she busts out some kung fu of her own. She and Prima make a good team in this movie.
Whilst Hendra and Julia are kicking the hell out of Gumilar’s stupid army, Gundar is still wiping out the village in various ridiculous ways. The silliest and most dangerous involves dropping snakes on somebody from a tree. While his victim is wrestling with the snakes (there are about five of them on his face!), Gundar laughs at him manically, and I have to admit, I was laughing too.
From here, it all goes a bit Bruce Lee, featuring a shirtless and oiled up Barry Prima kicking seven shades out of an endless barrage of crap henchman whilst howling at ridiculous volumes.
The funniest scene is near the end of the movie when Julia is being held captive. Another character has just been fooled into eating Special Silencers and died a revolting and hilarious plant exploding death. Gundar decides to torture Julia by forcing her to smell the deceased man’s shoes.
The brutality in this movie is merciless. Gundar, being the sick bastard he is, then throws a box of rats onto her. He calls them his Black Commandos. I call them painted mice. We’ll just leave it at that.
The insanity levels are cranked up higher and higher as the movie goes on, but the ending has to be seen to be believed. Between the in your face gore and the choppy editing, I was left speechless.
Special Silencers is a strange movie indeed. It’s filled with so much lunacy that I never felt bored. It combines elements of martial arts, horror, gore, comedy and action. At 80 minutes, it flies by and is easily the most watchable Arizal movie I’ve seen yet. It lacks the budget and laughs of his later films, but this is economical filmmaking at its best and Arizal really throws everything he has at the screen. Special Silencers is well worth hunting down.
Like many of Arizal’s movies, Special Silencers isn’t officially available anywhere, other than an ancient video release via Dutch VHS label Delta Video. Happy hunting..