Monday, 26 January 2015



Confession: until this documentary arrived in the post I'd never seen a Weng Weng film. In the interests of completion I immediately added to my rental queue For Y'ur Height Only, the celebrated 1981 Filipino spy spoof in which Weng plays Agent 00, out to rescue a scientist from a mad gangster and his legions of easily defeated minions. Of course it's terrible even as a Z-grade Bond pastiche, but you almost see why bad movie fans took it, and its 2'9" star, to their hearts. But who exactly was Weng Weng, where did he come from, and what became of him?

The Search For Weng Weng follows director Andrew Leavold's quest to find out more about him. Surprisingly, this turns out not to be the easiest of tasks: in the Philippines there seems to be a reluctance to even acknowledge Weng's existence, let alone discuss his movies, as if they're ashamed of him and them. Given that Imelda Marcos (who is actually interviewed in the film) set up the Manila International Film Festival with a view to showcasing the cream of Filipino culture and cinema, and the only thing that sold was the freakshow exploitation knockabout of Weng Weng, this is perhaps one of the world's more understandable conspiracy theories.

Still, with the help of members of the Filipino exploitation movie community (including Height's director Eddie Nicart), Leavold does manage to unearth a lot of information about the man, from his childhood through to his later years when his brief movie career was over, It's actually a pretty sad story: not only has he been all but written out of his own country's cultural history but he never got to enjoy, or even see, any of the money his movies generated. But it's also a strangely fascinating one, not so much for the bad stuff and the novelty act obscurity into which he seems to have fallen, but that it happened at all: he's still the shortest actor to ever play a leading film role and he seems to have had a measure of fun doing it. Incidentally, if you don't know (or don't want to know) what eventually happened to Weng Weng, then don't look at the menu for Disc One's extras first. And don't check out his bio page on the IMDb which is pretty thorough.

Generously illustrated with clips and stills, The Search For Weng Weng is certainly not without interest, especially for fans of Filipino exploitation movies, though I'm not sure how much appeal it might have to someone who doesn't like trash cinema and/or has never actually heard of Weng Weng. What it never manages to do, however, is make me want to see any more of his films: I've never been a fan of so-bad-it's-good movies anyway and one viewing of For Y'ur Height Only really is enough (even though the DVD comes with comedy western D'Wild Wild Weng as an extra on Disc Two, which looks oddly squeezed from its 4:3 ratio till it's closer to 7:6). Worth a look.


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