Do you know Weng Weng? No? Well he was a major international movie star in the mould of James Bond. He wore white leisure suits, got the girls, nabbed the villains and could drink ten stubbies of beer in a single sitting. He was also a two feet 9 inch actor from the Philippines who according to the Guinness Book of Records is the shortest actor ever in a lead role. Who could forget his turns in For Y’ur Height Only and The Impossible Kid (Umbrella)? “You’re such a little guy,” offers a horribly dubbed lady, “very petite, like a potato.” The films are surreal, ridiculously cheap, horrible Bond knock offs shamelessly exploiting the ridiculousness of Weng Weng’s stature, making him dance, posing him with his shirt off (he has very large nipples) and having us believe that agent Double 0, is a killing machine, dispensing his attackers with well executed kicks to the groin. With faux Bond music, an incomprehensible plot and action scenes where he jumps out of a 20 storey building with an umbrella, flies a jet pack that’s attached to a rope and zings across the ground on his back shooting his pistol, you can’t go wrong. The ladies love OO too, “Are you a sexual animal,” purrs one potential suitor in an inconceivable posh British accent. “I don’t know,” he offers like a frightened schoolboy. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately we’ll have to use our imagination about what happened next.
He was an unlikely megastar in an exploitation cinema revolution in the mid 70’s early 80’s Philippines under the Marcos regime where life was cheap and making films even cheaper. The American B movie exploiters came in their droves; your Roger Corman’s, your Jack Hill (The Big Doll House), Joe Dante (Gremlins) and Australian Brian Trenchard Smith (Turkey Shoot) who turned out all manner of kitsch drive in crap. It’s all documented in Machete Maidens Unleashed (Umbrella) from Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood), which delights in tales of movie making debauchery and lawlessness, catching up with Sid Haig, Chris Mitchum, John Wayne’s son, and a bevy of faded starlets who were just dropped into the jungle. It’s hilarious. It really was anything goes guerrilla filmmaking. Producers carried guns, stunt people died on set and were simply replaced with new ones.
The recipe was the three b’s, blood, beasts and breasts, drive in fodder brimming with unusual gimmicks, such as giving the audience a vial of ‘green blood’ to consume at pre arranged time in the film. Filipino directors also rose to prominance. Eddie Romero’s Blood Island films though the 60’s and 70’s were just the same film remade time and time again, Cirio Santiago offered Vampire Hookers (blood isn’t the only thing they suck), and Bobby Suarez’s Cleopatra Wong is a classic, thanks to the shootout finale with a gaggle of well-armed nuns.
“They took control, but they’ll show you their tits,” offers a salivating John Landis (The Blues Brothers), a man who revels in crap. Despite throwing in Apocalypse Now, which doesn’t really fit, mostly because it’s not terrible, Machete Maidens shines a light on one of the most obscure and exciting times in B movie history. A time when there was no such thing as too cheap. Or too ludicrous. The good old days when an oddity like Weng Weng could become a star..