Saturday, November 30, 2013

i SPY ASIASPY: Summons to Death

Summons to Death
Director: Wei Lo
Year 1967

Summons to Death is a wonderfully 60's spytastic extravaganza brought to us by the legendary Shaw Brothers. Bound in swinger style and brimming with vibrant audacity, this interesting Asiaspy flick plunges its audience straight into outlandish adventures filled with equally wild characters. Super charged with a stellar cast and set against some of the most picturesque locales, Summons to Death is an outstanding adventure flick with a wicked espionage attitude.

The film follows super swinger secret agent Teng Lei, AKA The Owl, and circus acrobat Mei Li as they are stuck together on a dangerous hunt to recover a lost pirate treasure. Armed with one half of a treasure map and their wits, the two set off on a wild goose chase filled with ruthless pirates, vicious gangsters, and deadly women. Can Teng and Mei work together, or will the lure of the treasure be too much for their unlikely truce.

Tang Ching takes on the role of Teng Lei, the suave secret agent who's got a way with the ladies. Introduced in truly grand style, Teng lounges around his psychedelic bachelor pad showcasing some of the most unusual furnishings this side of a Derek Flint flick. Ching takes the role with stride as he effortlessly embodies the cool and skillful agent, injecting a most essential tongue and cheek attitude to the film. Being no stranger to the genre, seeing that he starred in Interpol 009 and Angel Strikes Again, Ching has a grand time with the proceedings, lapping up every single ridiculous moment.

Pairing up with Ching is Tina Chin Fei as Mei Li, the baby-faced sister of the fearsome gangster Brother Gin. Another Asiaspy alum, Fei has had a number of memorable roles in the genre, including Temptress of a Thousand Faces and Interpol 009, where she also co-starred along side Tang Ching. In Summons to Death, Fei plays a painfully sweet character who knows how to hold her own. She's also a great contrast against the other female member of the cast, Fanny Fan. Sultry, deceptive, and all around venomous, Fan plays Ying Nian, a unscrupulous nightclub singer with a sadistic side. Another vet of the genre, Fan appeared in Angel with the Iron Fists and she also had a small role in The Golden Buddha, but with Summons to Death she is really given ample opportunities to shine. Soaking up the scenery and looking absolutely stunning in various stages of dress, she truly leaves her mark on the film, and makes it the better for it.

As for the overall feel of the film, it's just plain wacky fun. From agent Lei's psychedelic bachelor pad, to the pirates swanking ship, to a swinging nightclub, to Ying Nian's pink filled groovy bedroom, this film has got the goods on unusual and vibrant locations. Set across a wide array of locales, the production goes to great lengths in showcasing to its audience a plethora of picturesque visuals which truly capture the globetrotting nature of the spy genre. Pristine beaches, neon-caked streets, smoke-filled casinos, and idyllic islands are in abundance and director Wei Lo films it all in vivid style. Hyper realized and outstandingly robust, Summons to Death is a visual treat that keeps on giving.

Ridiculously camp, the film stays true to its era and tongue and cheek genre tendencies, as it forges into some outlandish territory. Agent Teng Lei gets into all sorts of wild situations, including a hypnotic seduction ordered out by the sultry Ying Nian who uses a poison filled kiss to control the mind of our hero. Of course that isn't the only memorable moment of the flick, as Teng Lei also has some morbid fun with a corpse at the morgue and even makes out with a statue in order to lock up his swanky bachelor pad. Weird doesn't even cover some of the moments of this film, but all of these oddities add up to one entertaining Asiaspy entry.

Summons to Death is insanely succinct in brining on the strangeness while thoroughly dishing out the goods on what makes this genre so damn fun to watch. An unbeatable secret agent, a string of gorgeous femme fatales, a gaggle of baddies, and an abundance of breathtaking locations and sets are delivered at a constant pace, and the energy of the production is top notch. Vibrantly displayed and lovingly represented, Summons to Death is without a doubt a beautiful rendition of the genre.

Tang Ching, Tina Chin Fei and Fanny Fan, all do a great job with the material given to them, and each one makes their own unique part stand out. Tang Ching especially takes on the challenge of Agent Teng Lei with a confident stride, never breaking out of his cool collective demeanor, not even for a second. Enjoyable to the last, Summons to Death is an off the rails adventure film with an espionage twist. As unrestrained as they come, this Asiaspy effort is one that truly embraces the wackiness of the genre. Amplifying the elements that make these types of films so much damn fun, Summons to Death successfully hits its mark as a 60's spy entry in which fun is held most important above all things. If you love the Asiaspy genre, then give this one a go. Summons to Death is one.....

Lose the top and then we'll talk.

What the hell is going on in this wacky place?!?!

You just keep making out with that wall pervert!

Have you seen these weirdos?

So I guess high fives are out of the question?

Dinner Time Staring Contest...... GO!

Go fish... bitch!

Deserted Beach Staring Contest..... GO!

Hello there!

My arm would feel a lot better if you took your clothes off.

Maybe someone should call an ambulance.


Now we're talking!

Raise your hands, raise your hands or I'll shoot.

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