So I’m in the Wal Mart in Duncan BC milling around the electronics section whin I spot the refrigerator box full of movies and a big "$4.95 EACH" sign next to it. At first, scanning over the top level of videos, seeing little of interest, I realized plunging my entire upper torso into the mass of tapes and wading through them like some deranged video-paleontologist was going to be needed. There, amongst thirty copies of D.C. Cab, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze, and Ski Patrol I found the solitary copy of Chu Yan Pin’s Fantasy Mission Force starring Jackie Chan.
I’ve been a fan of Jackie’s since seeing the episode of "The Incredibly Strange Film Show" devoted to him in 1990 and I know how hard it is to find an original copy of any of his movies for sale, much less at some run of the mill shopping cattle chute like Wal Mart.
Appearances can be deceiving: the cover art shows a generic kung-fu action scene a la Fearless Hyena but this film is so much more. While not as visually explosive or stunt-filled as his later four-star action-fests like Dragons Forever, Police Force or Drunken Master II, Fantasy Mission Force excels in weirdness.
The film starts off with Generals from France, Africa, England, and the US (General Abraham Lincoln!) being captured by the Japanese. The world leaders must capture back their beloved Generals. Options to lead the rescue mission include James Bond, the Bald Detective, Rocky and Captain Blackfox (??), whom are all rejected. They settle for Don Whey, the Chinese Killing Machine. He forms an elite force made up of convicts, bandits, fey Asian Highlanders, and a guy who looks like Elvis. Who else would you get to save the world?
Chan plays two roles in this cheez-fest; a young upstart fighter who follows the Fantasy Mission Force throughout the film, hoping to get some money, and a hobo-scammer member of the team. By the time everyone is assembled and off to find the hostages, the film is half-way over! Along the way they tell stories around the campfire, rip each others’ pants down and have a few touching musical interludes. As an added bonus, the action in the film is emphasized by the stirring soundtrack work of Ennio Morricone and Jerry Goldsmith—imagine Jackie kicking butt to the music of Planet of the Apes !
The wackiness really begins when a group of hooded Amazons come flying out of nowhere and shoot colored ribbons from their hands! Not only can they fly but running on water is also on their resume! After our heroes ditch the amazons, they hop into a Jeep, drive to a haunted house and indulge in kooky, spooky, ghostly fun! And, just when you figure it can’t get any worse, it does!
The film concludes when they drive to Nazi headquarters and have a fifteen minute shoot-em-up with caped Japanese Nazis riding on the roofs of ’70s muscle cars! We’re talking Ed Wood bad now!!! Tragically, the Nazis kill everyone except Chan who realizes that it was Don Whey who kidnapped the Generals! What a plot twist! For this, Chan kicks Whey’s ass and drives off into the sunset after telling the rescued military leaders, "You say you are Generals but you look like clowns." Ooh, Burn!
Fantasy Mission Force is the first film Chan did after returning from the U.S. with his tail between his legs following the disgraceful Cannonball Run movies. His next project was Project A, one of his most brilliant creations that is currently considered a hallmark of the Jackie Chan films. However, while Fantasy Mission Force is not nearly as popular or well known as Project A or later films, it’s a movie you should seek out to revel in its bizarre campy goodness!