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Human Lanterns
Chen Kuan Tai | Tanny Tien | Anthony Lau | Lo Lieh
Human Lanterns
This professional review refers to Human Lanterns

Shaw Brothers made martial arts movies, and Shaw Brothers made horror movies, but when they made martial arts horror movies they really struck gold. Slowly, these shivery action flicks are being unearthed from the Shaw Brothers vaults and as each one is exposed to the light it gleams like pure gold. Human Lanterns (also known as “Human Skin Lanterns”) is a Technicolored marvel that looks like the kind of movie MGM would have produced if it had suddenly stopped making movies in the 1950’s and started making horror flicks: a lush, beautifully lit emotional epic that unfolds on a series of gargantuan soundstages. Chen Kuan-tai and Liu Yung play two tetchy noblemen locked in a long-running game of one-upmanship, each trying to humiliate the other with his wealth, good taste and refinement or his martial skills. Their entire village is pretty sick of their antics that long ago spiraled out of control but these guys are gentlemen of leisure and no matter how many fights they pick or how many high balconies they leap off of, all they get from the chief of police (Sun Chien) is a slap on the wrist.

Things start getting dark when the Lantern Festival approaches and one of these posh toffs gets a nutty lantern maker (creepily played by Lo Lieh) to come up with a gorgeous lantern that’ll shame his rival. Lo needs the best raw materials for his lantern, and so he starts stripping the skin from his patron’s loved ones to make his masterpiece. Flayed beauties start turning up all over town and it takes a series of boot-to-face sessions before the evil is tracked to ground in the lantern-maker’s workshop/torture dungeon. The scariest thing in this flick is Lo Lieh as the nutty craftsman. His relentless violence is the kind of unstoppable sadism that comes right out of a nightmare.

By Grady Hendrix

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