Friday, 6 January 2012

Review of the Year : For Y'ur Height Only

My unearthed gem of the year cames to us from the later days of the Filipino exploitation movement and is a shining example of how the apprentice can best the master.  With the American's out of the land the local film makers turn their hand at making adventurous and entertaining cinema in keeping with the work of Roger Corman.  A lot of people would describe For Y'ur Height Only as a spoof Bond movie and in doing so create a great injustice.  This is not Mike Myers territory, this is a completely different thing and it's shameful that I would have went so many years without encountering Agent 00.


Certificate: 15
Running time: 87 mins
Director: Eddie Nicart
Starring: Weng Weng, Yehlen Catral, Carmi Martin
Genre: Action/Comedy
Format: DVD
Country: Phillipines

Every once and a while you encounter a film that makes you truly wonder “how on Earth you managed to live life this long without ever watching it”.  The Filipino Grindhouse movement is one that’s returned to a small but bright spotlight with Mark Hartley’s wonderful documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed with the emphasis on some of the more colourful and crazy characters that would literally do anything to make a great scene.

For Y’ur Height Only  takes it’s inspiration from the James Bond franchise including all the trappings from gadgets to gals to signature theme.  Agent 00 (Weng Weng) is called into the Secret Service’s office when Dr. Van Kohler is kidnapped by the gang of the crime syndicate led by Mr. Giant.  Giant’s goal, like all good villains, is to hold the world to ransom using Van Kohler’s N-Bomb.

The first thing you’ll notice, apart from the films two foot nine inch star, is how faithful everything is to the genre which it strives to belong.  To call For Y’ur Height Only a Bond spoof is unbelievably unfair to Nicart’s film and elevates those drab spoofs like Austin Powers to heights they simply do not belong.  Yes a lot of the style is influenced by Ian Fleming’s spy but the film manages to stand alone in it’s own right and even surpasses a lot of the Moore era.

Visually the film is extremely strong, the cinematography is solid and a lot more expertly crafted than most of the Filipino offerings of it’s time.  The colour palette of Nicart’s film is a wonderful mash up of the lingering 1970’s and the blossoming 1980’s and in being so has limitless amounts of cool, style and soul with echoes of Rudy Ray Moore and D'Urville Martin's collaborations.  The blue swishes of light between some transitions give the film a cool that now, with the re-emergence of the genre, is actually right en trend for the twenty first century cinema audiences and is something that many directors would attempt to replicate if they spent 87 minutes to watch the film.  The dialogue and general script is fantastic, at times so wonderfully clever and beyond smart and at others simply tripping over itself in a way that is so endearing.  This and others like it are beautiful because of their imperfections.

The choreography of the martial arts sequences are absolutely brilliant.  At times truly breathe taking, Agent 00’s street fight against four thugs over twice his size not only showcase the man’s dexterity but also the creativity of experts working on the film.  The Philippines is a country with a rich martial arts background as Kali Eskrima, Silat and Syoc show not only does a large percentage of the population have a more than normal understanding of self defense but they are well versed in a combat form that’s been field tested and in recent years has been showcased in the Bourne trilogy.  Likewise some of the non combat physicality is excellent in an over the top way that would make Bond proud, special mention to Weng Weng’s umbrella escape.

Performances through the film are solid, Weng Weng is amazing.  Not only does he match the strength and athleticism of those twice his size but he carries the entire film on his shoulders with ease.  At times he is in full combat mode only for his tough exterior to be shattered by him giggling at how naughty his special sunglasses can be or having received advances from the ladies who find him irresistible.  Irma (Beth Sandoval) is the Secret Service’s mole inside the syndicate and a solid partner to Agent 00 both narratively and combatively.  Oddly, for exploitation films of its time, the females characters are given some serious consideration when penning the script and are not solely there to be stripped down and stared at.  There is a quiet toughness about Irma, a toughness that any undercover operative requires just to hold their nerve when they go behind enemy lines.  Sandoval portrays this wonderfully without losing her other, more feminine, qualities.  Rodolfo Garcia (as Mr. Kaiser) is a brilliant baddie, he downright unlikable but in the course of executing the role manages to create a fleshed out character that allows the audience is crack a smile each time Garcia, or his gang, is on screen.

For Y’ur Height Only is one of the greatest films to have slipped through the cracks of time.  Like Bond it has moments that have aged but never badly, like Bond it has wonderfully ridiculous gadgets but unlike any of the films that have attempted to be Bond over the year it has something extra.  The film is rich with soul and enthusiasm.  It’s clear that everyone involved in the film had a love of film making, a love of martial arts and a love of showcasing their talents and abilities.  As a film it would be great with a star of average stature but with Weng Weng it actually becomes even greater.  Watch this film, you will not regret it.








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