For Your Height Only (1981)

For Your Height Only (or: For Y’ur Height Only, as the opening titles would have it) at long last realized the Filipino midget James Bond spoof that audiences around the world craved for two decades. And once you have seen the under-three-foot-tall Weng Weng kick, punch, shoot, and – most of all – floor-slide, you will have no further patience for the likes of Derek Flint, Matt Helm, Austin Powers, or Woody Allen’s Jimmy Bond. Weng Weng’s Agent 00 will occupy that space in your heart: crouching, winking at you, and waving (as he does).

Supposedly the film was the brainchild of Dick Randall, American producer of such arty hits as Cottonpickin’ Chickenpickers (1967), The Erotic Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1975), and Pod People (1983); the stroke of genius was to make a low-budget picture in the Philippines which would be a vehicle for one Weng Weng, a placid-faced little person eager for his shot at superstardom. The end result became a regional hit and spawned sequels (Agent 00; The Impossible Kid). Weng Weng plays Agent 00, aka “Weng,” who wears a white leisure suit and is dispatched by his superiors to break up drug syndicates. Crooks fear him, women love him, and wherever he goes, the James Bond theme song plays (because, really, who’s going to see this, right?). The bad guys know they’re such; one declares to his cohorts, “The forces of good must be exterminated – with lethal force!” When they kidnap our hero’s partner, Irma, she delivers speech after speech to her captors on the virtues of good and its high likelihood of overcoming evil. Between scenes such as these we’re treated to Agent 00’s battles with the baddies, in which he typically hides behind objects, creeps up behind his adversaries, kicks them in the balls, and slaps them over and over in the face. After a while, this gets old, but then it gets fun again. Such is the cyclical nature of life.

When we first meet Agent 00, he rescues a beautiful woman, then questions her about the evil men chasing her. She explains: “They’re big on drugs, and they said they’d peddle my pretty bod as a prostitute…I said I wasn’t interested, and now I get shot at once or twice a week. One of these days – bye-bye, Lola!” Yes, this film is poorly dubbed with absurd dialogue, but For Your Height Only achieves an absurdity that borders on Ionesco or Beckett. Shortly after rescuing Lola, Agent 00 calls her from his hotel room, and the following exchange occurs, rapid-fire:

“Hello, Lola? Now listen carefully. This is important.”
“Check it out.”
“I’ll go right there.”
“Meet you there!”

Now, presumably the above conversation is missing a few lines which our able storytellers have decided to leave out. However, it’s presented with no evident time lapse. For all the world it feels like Weng and Lola had their dialogue rewritten by Waiting for Godot‘s Vladimir and Estragon. Further, the dubbing itself crosses the line into the cheerily whimsical. A guy named Cobra sounds like Humphrey Bogart, another like Terry-Thomas at his most upper-class fey. Keep in mind these are Filipino actors, driving cars with Philippines license plates. Nevertheless, the dialogue is rewritten to sound more American, which is why one mob boss tells his underlings (with a New Jersey accent), “we’ve gotta get the ball into the end zone!” One bored voiceover artist dubs her character with the phoniest English accent she can muster, which really adds something special to the sequence in which Weng dances with her beneath a glittering disco ball, saves her from the bad guys, and then succumbs to her womanly charms in her hotel room.

“You’re a great person, you know.”
“You know what they say. It ain’t the size, it’s where you use it.”
“Maybe. But are you a sexual animal?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’m crazy about you, Agent 00.  Why, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the way you strut your stuff, YOU KNOW SEX is like tequila. Take one sip and you’re a goner.”
“Shall we get it on?”

Fear not: you’re spared a sex scene (it’s not that kind of film). He does have an eye for the ladies, though. Later he meets a large-breasted photojournalist playing racquetball. He asks for a picture of the drug lord he’s seeking, and she responds, “In my duties as a police reporter, by all means do I take a lot of bad guys’ pictures. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a private rogues’ gallery. Buy a girl a highball?” By all means he does. But Agent 00’s heart truly belongs to Irma, even though, when she first meets him, she casually says, “You’re such a little guy though. Very petite, like a potato.” When she’s captured by supervillain Mr. Giant, who communicates to his minions via a cosmetic mirror, Agent 00 will stop at nothing to rescue her, and by that I mean he kicks a lot of people between the legs.

Naturally Agent 00 has gadgets. In this scene, his boss issues him his equipment; note that his delivery has the curious feel of a stand-up comic dying onstage, while Weng merely stares blankly at him.

The ring which can alert him to the presence of poison comes in handy when a woman slips something into his glass of Coke before offering it to him (and then gets up and leaves, which is suspicious enough). He picks up the glass, notices his flashing ring, shrugs, and drinks from the bottle instead. His Oddjob-style razor-tipped hat does Goldfinger one better by being remote controllable, so he can torment his enemies by swooping his little white hat at them over and over again. But his finest gadget is a Thunderball-style jet pack. When he straps it onto his back and launches himself across the water to Mr. Giant’s stronghold on Hidden Island, Weng Weng flies through the air and looks fucking terrified.

“I declare war on that little stinker!” proclaims one bad guy. But Agent 00 is a one-man army, sliding on his back across the floor in nearly every fight scene, as though he’s been shot out of a cannon onto the set. He jumps off a bridge and even out of one of the uppermost floors of a hotel, using an umbrella to slow his fall. (For this special effect, a doll is tied to an umbrella and thrown out a window.) His kung fu is commendable, especially when the people he’s fighting help him out, by bending over and allowing him to spring off their bodies and kick somebody else in the face. He sword-fights, too, wielding a small Bushido blade while cornering a frightened American gangster against the edge of a balcony. Even though the American’s sword is about three times as long as Weng Weng’s, it is flung out of his hands as soon as Agent 00 taps it gently.  (Then Agent 00 kills him.) This feels less like an action picture than an extremely elaborate home movie showcasing Weng Weng, and he appears to be having a great time. I submit that For Your Height Only is adorable.

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