Special Silencers (Arizal) – Barry Prima, Eva Arnaz, W.D.Mochtar.
The political killer shrubbery splatter movie genre isn’t exactly over-subscribed. In fact, as far as I’m aware, ‘Special Silencers’ is the only entry in it, and it’s uniqueness is compounded since it adds mysticism and kung fu to the mix. if Jackie Chan was to direct a remake of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ written by John le Carre, the end result might just look like this. Though on the other hand, it might not.
The final nail in this particular cinematic coffin is the presence of a bad guy who laughs manically. “Pah!”, I hear you say, “Every bad guy worth his salt laughs manically”, and you’re right. However, ‘Special Silencers’ now holds the marathon duration manic laugh record: 23.04 seconds, with barely a pause for breath. Try it yourself and you’ll begin to appreciate the recognition this feat deserves.
Although the film is definitely from the east, it’s exact home is obscure: sometimes it looks Indian, other times it could be from Hong Kong – I’ve even heard rumours it was directed by John Woo under a pseudonym! About the only clue is a reference to Djakarta, which strongly suggests it’s Indonesian. If this is the case, chalk up yet another unusual feature.
It all starts with a plot to kill Hamud, the mayor of a village, by chief baddie Gandar (who bears some resemblance to Saddam Hussein). In a swift flashback we see Gundar beating up his own grandfather after the latter has refused to hand over the Special Silencers, pills which should be used for meditation but which, when taken with food, also cause plants to grow in your stomach, rapidly leading to death by rhododendron.
Gandar pops one in Hamud’s tea because the mayor is trying to clean up the village, which would interfere with Gandar’s activities and plans to take over the place. The Mayor duly becomes his own floral tribute – judging by the phlegmatic reaction of his nephew Dayat, such an ecologically conscious death is an everyday occurrence in wherever-this-story-is set.
Hamud’s policeman brother, and daughter Julia are on the way to help their relative and when the car breaks down, Hendra, a passing hero, offers to help. The bridge to town is also broken and so Hendra rides off for assistance leaving the other two to a picnic, also containing some Special Silencers. Scratch one cop, unless plain clothes includes disguising your intestines as a herbaceous border. Julia, who’d been off to the river, washing, getting attacked by bandits, you know the sort of thing, comes back and faints.
Hendra returns, only to be attacked by Tonto, a henchman of Gundar’s. After some simple but effective kung fu, Tonto lands against a dead but pointy branch and proves that even non-living vegetation can cause serious arterial spurting. This leads to the following exchange between Gundar and Gumillar, his head henchman:
“Why did you leave Tonto’s body out there?”
“Well, I didn’t have a saw.”
We leave Gundar complaining, “It’s a crying shame, Tonto was the last in a line of great killers”.
Hendra carries Julia back to the village – it turns out he and Dayat (the ex-mayor’s nephew, to save you the bother) went to school together. There have been a lot of unnatural deaths in the village lately. Then we get a maudlin bit where Hendra puts his arm around Julia and says things like “Regret will only make his soul restless”.
At this point, we can briefly discuss a sub-plot that wanders through the middle third of the film. Gumillar runs a protection racket, taking a percentage of the catch from the local fisherman (what he does with all these fish is not covered), or alternatively, their virgin daughters. We see one such girl sacrificing herself to save her family, getting pawed by Gumillar and committing suicide (spurt, gush, spray) in a series of scenes that manage to be simultaneously melodramatic, sordid and quite sad.
Hendra, on his motor-bike, is chased by a lorryful of thugs, and after they fail to respond to his challenge to “get down here and fight me”, he climbs up and drags them down. We get the line “Ayu! Sic him!”, which I only mention because the Dutch sub-titles at the time also read “Ayu! Sic him!”. After some more sub-plot (see above), Hendra and Julia are attacked by people leaping out of holes in the ground. The infinite supply of trained killers to be found in one small village suggest that in Indonesia the three R’s are reading, writing and Rkung-fu.
At this point, the phone rang and I got distracted. I don’t think I missed much, save a minor character being killed by having snakes dropped on him. I returned just in time to see Dayat walk on top of a man-trap that could hardly have been more obvious if there’d been a neon sign saying “Here is a vicious, poisoned, man-trap” above it. He struggles back to the village, and Hendra & Julia take him (all three on the same bike) to a nearby holy-man who cures him and says “You’re out of danger”, adding as an afterthought, “And alive”. Well, I suppose death DOES count as being “out of danger”…
Hendra heads off on his motorbike to tell the police all that’s been going on, leaving Dayat and Julia vulnerable to capture by the bad guys. And this is exactly what happens, despite some nifty fire-extinguisher-fu by Julia. Dayat gets a Special Silencer, Julia is tortured by being made to smell Dayat’s old shoes and getting white mice thrown at her, and Hendra is captured and whipped to the great amusement (23.04 seconds) of Gundar.
His use of the Special Silencers for meditation has made him invulnerable to normal weapons. Hendra finds this out when he escapes and attacks the bad guy with a sickle prompting the immortal line:
“You bastard! You took my leg! Give it back now!”
Perhaps not quite “invulnerable”, but certainly a lot less bothered by it than the other people who lose appendages to the sickle… Then, a sudden voice-over tells us that evil invulnerable people can be wounded with bamboo and before you can say “chrysanthemum”, Hendra does the deed and all the Special Silencers Gundar’s taken simultaneously sprout, producing enough flora to stock a medium-sized National Trust property.
Poking fun at foreign ways isn’t something I like to do. But if Indonesia, or wherever ‘Special Silencers’ was located, is really like the movie, then it’s one place I’m crossing off the list for my next holiday!