Color, 1976, 87 mins. 48 secs.
Directed by Meng Hua Ho
Starring Danny Lee, Chen Ping, Lily Li, Hsieh Wang, Lun Hua, Ku Feng
88 Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK RB/R2 HD/PAL), Celestial (DVD) (Hong Kong R3 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

An The Oily Maniacavenging monster The Oily Maniacmovie unlike any other, this sleazy action-horror-sex hybrid from Shaw Brothers remained a dirty secret of sorts in Asia until its English-subtitled DVD release in 2003 left more than a few unprepared viewers gob-smacked.

Years before he starred in John Woo's The Killer, Danny Lee (billed as Hsiu-Hsien Li in between gigs starring in two other outrageous Shaw Brothers outings, Infra-Man and The Mighty Peking Man) is cast here as Sheng, a young Malaysian lawyer at the Hu Ly Faw law film. Crippled by a childhood bout with polio, he's startled by a consultation with a soon-to-be-executed convict (Feng), who saved his daughter by murdering a would-be molester. The doomed convict orders Sheng to copy down a powerful spell tattooed on his back; apparently this will allow Sheng to continue to protect the deceased's daughter, Yue (Ping), who's still in peril and is a platonic friend of Sheng. It turns out the supernatural rite can turn him into a powerful, glowing-eye The Oily Maniacpile of ambulatory black ooze, but also comes with a catch: "You can't use it for wrong intent, or you'll die... in a very, very bad way." Though the process The Oily Maniaccalls for a prayer for peace and power, he soon realizes he can use his temporary ability to transform into an avenger by slathering himself in gobs of oil will allow him to take out the human garbage the law can't touch... but of course, his ability to tell right from wrong is quickly compromised.

Extremely sleazy at times including a bizarre tangent involving a female doctor who restores women's hymens for wealthy patrons (a process we come very close to seeing on an operating table), this one has that unmistakable mid-'70s Shaw Brothers feel including violently colorful costumes, pilfered soundtrack music (including snippets from Jaws and The Cat o' Nine Tails, among others), and enough dollops of fake blood and nudity to keep your eyebrows raised. It's also interesting how much time is spent covering the Malaysian legal process complete with barrister wigs. The obligatory police subplot is actually fairly entertaining, too, as the dense officers are repeatedly confronted with oil smudged all over dead bodies and even wipe it on their faces.

The Oily Maniac The Oily Maniacmade its aforementioned DVD bow in 2003 from Celestial who, as was their usual practice at the time, The Oily Maniacmastered all of their films in PAL for higher resolution. Unfortunately this also meant the faster, incorrect film speed was carried over uncorrected for that NTSC release, which also resulted in some odd motion issues in addition to the inherent pitch shifting problems. The DVD features the film's Mandarin track with optional subtitles in English, Malaysian, Indonesian, or traditional Chinese, with extras including the usual bonus promos and a handful of minor talent bios.

More impressive is the 2017 Region B Blu-ray release from 88 Films, which finally runs at the correct speed and looks much more impressive in terms of detail, color resolution, and pretty much anything else you can name. The LPCM two-channel mono track sounds solid as well, with optional English subtitles provided. The sole video featurette, "A Slippery Story" (15m46s), features Calum Waddell covering the very different 1956 Malaysian film that inspired this (Curse of the Oily Man), the baffling opening note in this film claiming it's based on a Nanyang folk tale, and noting some similarities to another outrageous Shaw Brothers film, The Killer Snakes. The limited edition sold directly via 88 Films also features a colorful slipcase sporting the original poster artwork.

Reviewed on September 12, 2017.