Longtime Weng Weng fan announces DVD release of ‘For Your Height Only’, documentary to follow
A self-confessed eccentric cinema fanatic from Australia has just released a new German DVD of the cult classic “For Your Height Only”, starring the late, diminutive Filipino actor and martial artist Weng Weng.
Andrew Leavold, who describes himself as “a published author, researcher, film festival curator, musician, TV presenter, filmmaker, and above all, unrepentant and voracious fan of eccentric and lowbrow cinema”, made the announcement on his Facebook page. He proudly declared that a new German DVD bearing the title “Agent 003 ½” is the most definitive DVD release of “For Your Height Only” anywhere in the world thus far.
The deluxe and limited edition DVD produced by a company called Film Art boasts of exclusive features such as its small hardbox pagkaging with leather improvement (“like a small leatherbound book”) limited and 1,000 copies, 4:3 fullscreen and 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen versions, German and English language sound and a half-an-hour featurette, “The Weng Weng Story” with German subtitles.
There is also an on-disc booklet by Leavold and audio book spoken by Charles Rettinghaus, the German dubbing actor for Jean-Claude Van Damme, extensive picture gallery with rare movie posters and stills and original English trailers of “For Your Height Only” and its sequel, “The Impossible Kid”.
With all these special treatment given to a James Bond parody originally released in 1981 and headlined by an actor who died more than 20 years ago, one has to wonder what kind of impact Weng Weng has had on a filmmaker who helmed films with such titles as “Lesbo-A-Go-Go” and “Bluebirds of Peace and Destruction”.
In an exclusive interview with InterAksyon, Leavold said he has never seen someone quite like “the midget Filipino James Bond”.
“For 15 years I ran a cult movie store called Trash Video in Brisbane, Australia, and collected old, obscure and oddball films. I stumbled across an old VHS release in the early ’90s – a friend of mine said, ‘You’re not going to believe your eyes…’ And he wasn’t wrong. It also happened to be a life-changing moment for me, as my growing obsession with Weng Weng eventually led me to the Philippines in 2006 to begin work on a documentary on the enigmatic little guy,” he enthused.
Leavold said this documentary called “The Search for Weng Weng” is nearing post-production. He started the project seven years and eight trips to the Philippines ago.
“I’ve interviewed every possible person connected with Weng Weng, from co-stars to his directors, fellow actors and even former First Lady Imelda Marcos. It’s true, Weng Weng used to visit the President’s family at Malacanang!
“The amazing thing is that the bulk of his story had been wiped from everyone’s collective memories. Piecing the Weng story together was very much like a detective story, with me as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau on the trail of a two-foot-nine Pink Panther,” he continued.
The sad part about his quest for Weng Weng is that Leavold never had a chance to interview his idol. First introduced in the 1977 drama, “Sila…Sa Bawat Bangketa”, Weng Weng quickly shot to fame with succeeding films like “Chopsuey Met Big Time Papa” with Ramon Zamora and “The Quick Brown Fox” and “Da Best In The West” starring Dolphy.
All of his solo hit movies which also included “D’ Wild Wild Weng” and “The Cute, The Sexy…and the Tiny” were directed by former stunt double and character actor Eddie Nicart. When his popularity started to wane by the late ’80s, Weng Weng reportedly turned to heavy drinking and succumbed to a heart attack in 1992.
“Weng Weng died long before I had a chance to track him down. On my second trip, however, I did manage to find his only surviving brother, and he finally solved the mystery that I’d spent so long trying to decipher—the long-forgotten true story of Weng Weng, real name Ernesto de la Cruz,” he further revealed.
“At long last, Weng Weng was transformed from the TV screen image of a karate-kicking midget to a heartbreakingly real, flesh-and-blood person. I think you can safely say I’m much more than a fan, more like a missionary from the First Church of Weng Weng, and I believe the documentary will be a testament to that!”
With all the information he gathered in the course of making his documentary, Leavold was also able to pierce together enough material for the bonus features that he managed to include on the new “Agent 003 ½” DVD.
“It’s actually been released several times before, most notably on the fantastic British DVD label Mondo Macabro, and here in Australia on a double bill with ‘The Impossible Kid’. I guess it’s the first time a label has gone to a great effort to include extras, which I more than happily supplied, as bonus materials, like information on Weng Weng himself, have been difficult to source. Now that it’s been released, I must say I’m extremely proud of what Film Art have produced,” Leavold said.
More than the bonuses, film fans would of course want to know if the main course, the film itself lives up to its elaborate packaging. In terms of picture and sound quality, Leavold gives “Agent 003 ½” his two thumbs up.
“Considering the film’s age and the conditions under which it was produced, I’d say the picture and sound are astoundingly good but then I was brought up watching tenth-generation Betamax bootlegs,” he quipped. “I have to thank the Digital Gods for the miracle of having a version of the film that looks and sounds half-decent in the first place.”
The half-hour “The Weng Weng Story” featurette is also something fans would want to feast their eyes on.
“It’s a compilation of three TV segments I did back in 2007 telling the Weng Weng saga for the 50th anniversary of his birth. It should give you a good introduction to the little guy and includes part of my interview with Eddie Nicart,” Leavold noted.
“It should also give you a taste of the upcoming ‘Search For Weng Weng’ documentary which I hope to finish as soon as I raise enough post-production funds with my ‘Kickstarter’ campaign . If all goes according to plan, I hope to see all of you in the Philippines for the 2013 film tour.”
Leavold said those interested to purchase the DVD of “Agent 003 ½” online may visit www.diabolikdvd.com and Film Art’s main distributor www.mediatarget.de.