Friday, May 31, 2013

Cinematic Dregs: For Your Height Only

(1981) Directed by Eddie Nicart; Written by Cora Caballes; Starring: Weng Weng, Yehlen Catral, Carmi Martin; Available on DVD.

Rating: ***

“You're such a tiny little guy, though. Very petite, like a potato.” – Irma (Beth Sandoval)

I confess that I’ve always harbored a hidden agenda with my Cinematic Dregs feature.  As I’ve plumbed the depths of the most maligned films, the crème de la crap if you will, I’ve been on an ongoing quest for a most elusive piece of cinema.  Like Diogenes searching for the last honest man, I’ve cast my lantern on cinema’s worst, endeavoring to find the perfect bad film; one that’s undeniably terrible, but oddly entertaining.  My search might be at an end with the latest result of my pursuit, For Your Height Only (aka: For Y’ur Height Only).  This dwarfsploitation flick from the Philippines hits a sweet spot between incompetence and genius.  I can’t believe anyone thought this was a good idea to bring to the big screen, but I’m thankful they gave it the green light… I think. 

For Your Height Only is a shameless James Bond rip-off, down to the derivative theme music, but with one important twist.  The movie’s ace in the hole is its diminutive star, 2-foot, 9- inch Weng Weng, as Agent 00.  Despite his obvious shortcomings (sorry, I know that was bad), he effortlessly dispatches dozens of foes with his signature move, attacking them in the crotch.  When he’s not displaying his martial arts prowess, he takes on multiple bad guys (who conveniently take turns attacking) with his specially designed gun and lethal flying hat.  His devastation of the local crime syndicate leads to an eventual showdown with its shadowy leader Mr. Giant (Can you guess his secret?).  Agent 00’s fighting skills are matched only by his penchant for enjoying life.  He certainly knows how to boogie down on the dance floor, and he’s handy with the ladies, although I haven’t paused to contemplate the logistics of his sexual escapades. 

The cheap production values just add to For Your Height Only’s charm. One of the movie’s dubious assets is its unintentional costume design, with a festival of polyester on display that resembles a daytime fireworks show.  The horribly dubbed crime lords spout dialogue that would have seemed clichéd in a 1940s gangster film, throwing about lines peppered with “dirty rat,” and “dame.”  At one point, a gun-wielding thug threatens Ageng 00 with “lead poisoning.”  The urge to provide one’s own Mystery Science Theater-style quips, alongside the film, is irresistible.  If ever a DVD could have benefited from a Joe Bob Briggs commentary, this is it.

The phrase “critic proof” was probably invented to describe For Your Height Only.  I wouldn’t deign to describe it as a well-made film, but it scratched a certain itch.  It’s hard not to admire such misguided filmmaking.  While it’s a foregone conclusion that this movie will never end up on Sight & Sound’s Critics’ Top 250 Films list, I’d venture that there are few titles on that list that would leave an impression as indelible.  If you demand a higher caliber of schlock, this is the one for you.  I can’t say that I respect myself for liking For Your Height Only as much as I did, but I’m okay with it.  This film definitely belongs among my growing list of dumb movies that I like anyway.

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