International Horror Film: Robo Vampire 3: Counter Destroy (dir by Godfrey Ho)

In 1989, Hong Kong director Godfrey Ho made what might be the most confusing film of all time.  It has been released under many different name.  The Vampire Is Still Alive was one.  Another was Counter Destroy.  And finally, there’s  the title that I’m choosing to use for this review — Robo Vampire 3!  This is indeed the third part of the Robo Vampire trilogy, though the guy in the robot suit doesn’t show up until the very end of the movie and even then, it’s never quite clear whether he’s really there or if he’s just a figment of someone’s imagination.

Robo Vampire 3 is actually two movies in one.  Half of the film deals with a private detective named Jackie.  Jackie has been hired by a movie mogul named Lawrence.  Lawrence is producing a film about the last emperor of China but, apparently, there are several other film companies that want to make a movie about the same subject.  (Uhmmm, guys …. Bernado Bertolucci beat all of you to it by about two years.)  Lawrence is concerned that the other film companies and their gangster allies are going to try to disrupt his production so he hires Jackie to find out what their plans are.  Jackie accepts the assignment and then go around killing all of the other studio heads and gang bosses.  Jackie is presented as being one of the film’s heroes, even though she’s basically just tracking down middle-aged men and murdering them in cold blood.  Now, in fairness to Godfrey Ho, the efforts of the Triads to control the Hong Kong film industry are fairly well-documented so, when seen in that context, Lawrence and Jackie’s action might make more sense.  It’s still kind of jarring to watch Jackie assassinate a man, at close range, with a crossbow.

Meanwhile, Joyce has been assigned to write the script for Lawrence’s Last Emperor movie and she’s been given a week to do all the research and get the script done.  Joyce and her assistant, Cindy, are working in a villa.  However, after Joyce and Cindy have a conversation with a mysterious monk, a scarred guy who has a Freddy Krueger-style glove knife shows up at the villa and starts to haunt Joyce’s nightmares.  Meanwhile, a bunch of hopping vampires (in Chinese folklore, vampires hop) are approaching the house.  Who do they work for?  Are they connected to all of the other productions of The Last Emperor?  Are they college students who have been brainwashed by Bertolucci’s Marxist cinema?  It’s never really made clear.

But where is Robo Vampire?  As I said, he shows up eventually.  Long after Joyce has been possessed by an evil spirit and it appears that the film set is going to be overrun by hopping vampires, the director of this film’s version of The Last Emperor suddenly spins around and is transformed into the cyborg Shadow Warrior dude from the previous two films.  No one is particularly shocked when this happens.

As you may have guessed, Robo Vampire 3 is a bit of a disjointed film but it’s pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Godfrey Ho.  One gets the feeling that Robo Vampire 3 was stitched together with stock footage and outtakes from several unrelated movies.  It also wouldn’t surprise me to discover that there were several different versions of the film out there.  The version I saw was badly dubbed so who knows what the film’s plot actually was.  The whole thing has a “make it up as you go along” feel to it.  With the previous Robo Vampire films, the shoddiness was kind of charming but Robo Vampire 3 takes forever to get going.  It needed more hopping vampires.

As far as I know, this was the last Robo Vampire film.  Hopefully, Robo Vampire’s version of The Last Emperor was a big enough success that he could retire from shadow warrioring and devote himself to cinema.  Now, that’s a happy ending!

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