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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: October 31st, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1980

Will Your Heart Beat Faster?

Overview -

Will Your Heart Beat Faster? aka: Kakabakaba Ka Ba? is a sharp Filippino satire from 1980 that skewers the country’s history of colonialism, government, and the power of the Catholic Church. Highly influential at the time, the film follows four friends unknowingly caught up in a drug syndicate operation between Japanese and Chinese gangs. Filled with campy humor, madcap comedy, and absurd musical numbers, the film is a subversive comedy made during the Marcos regime that still rings true today. Recommended.

WILL YOUR HEART BEAT FASTER? (KAKABAKABA KA BA?)

After repeatedly failing to smuggle drugs into the Philippines, yakuza soldier Onota (Bobby Garrovillo) slips a laced cassette tape into the pocket of a stranger on the plane: pop singer Johnny (Christopher de Leon). This singular deus ex machina sets the Yakuza, the Filipino-Chinese Triad, and a fake convent of nuns onto Johnny's tail. Determined to figure out why everyone is chasing him and his friends – bandmates Nonong (Jay Ilagan), Nancy (Sandy Andolong) and newfound love interest Melanie (Charo Santos) – the quartet dress up and go undercover. When the lunatics come together, a cartoonish rock opera ensues!

Concerned that the audience might mistake the film’s nuns for real ones, Will Your Heart Beat Faster? begins with a disclaimer mandated by the Philippine Board of Censors: this musical farce is a work of fiction. But no disclaimer can dampen the shots fired here by Filipino master writer-director Mike De Leon (Kisapmata, Batch ’81) against Jesuit education; China and Japan’s tendency to meddle in Filipino affairs; and a myriad of other corrupt institutions that would become common targets of his acerbic cinematic critique. A master of various genres, this is Mike De Leon at his most outlandish and comedic!

Also included in this edition:

Gregorio Fernandez’s salvaged Miss Philippines (1947), which Mike De Leon calls one of the earliest film-within-a-film films, is one of the few surviving films from its era, notable for its self-reflexive tone. A timeless screwball comedy produced by LVN in its heyday, it features cameos of the studio’s biggest stars and directors as themselves, many of whose work is now lost.

Mike De Leon’s short film Aliwan Paradise (1992, also written by Doy Del Mundo) is set in a semi-futuristic Philippines where unemployment is through the roof. Your best bet? The Ministry of Entertainment. Acts line up around the block for a chance to prove both their competence at their old-world job and that they have that "it" factor. A natural companion to its black comedy sibling Will Your Heart Beat Faster? originally shot for the omnibus film Southern Winds (1993).

directed by: Mike De Leon
starring: Christopher de Leon, Jay Ilagan, Sandy Andolong, Charo Santos
1980 / 106 min / 1.85:1 / Tagalog DTS-HD MA 2.0

Additional info:

  • Region A Blu-ray
  • 2K restoration by L'Immagine Ritrovata from 35mm print kept at Asian Film Archives (Singapore)
  • Restored and Revised audio tracks
  • 8mm making-of featurette (Edward Achacoso, 1980, 14 mins)
  • Short film Aliwan Paradise (Mike De Leon, 1982, 27 mins)
  • Interview with screenwriter Raquel Villavicencio (2023, 31 mins)
  • Bonus Feature Miss Philippines (Gregorio Fernandez, 1947, 99mins) digitally enhanced from extant elements in 2023 with optional English and Tagalog subtitles
  • Miss Philippines: Before and After (2023, 4 mins)
  • Booklet featuring excerpts from Last Look Back (Mike De Leon, 2022), new writing from Teddy O. Co and Jessica Zafra, and archival photographs
  • English subtitles

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
This special limited edition slipcover (designed by Haunt Love) is limited to 1,000 units
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
Tagalog DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English
Special Features:
Interview with screenwriter Raquel Villavicencio (31mins), Short Film: Aliwan Paradise (28mins), Behind the Scenes (14mins), Bonus Feature: Miss Philippines (99mins), Before and After Miss Philippines Featurette (2mins), Insert Booklet
Release Date:
October 31st, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

“Life’s nothing without thrills.”

Bumbling smuggler Onota (Boboy Garrovillo, What Isn’t There) fails to thwart airport security, hoping to move contraband into the Philippines to impress his Japanese Yakuza boss. After failed attempts, he slips an opium-laced cassette tape into the pocket of musician Johnny (Christopher De Leon, Across the Crescent Moon), who makes it through security quickly. Soon, the would-be rocker is caught in the melee between Chinese and Japanese syndicates with his three friends Melanie (Charo Santos-Concio, Whether the Weather Is Fine), Nonong (Jay Ilagan, Bad Bananas on the Silver Screen), and Nancy (Sandy Andolong, Batch ‘81). They evade the madcap efforts of the gangs only to become embroiled in the larger schemes to control the government and Filipino citizens through the Catholic Church.  

Will Your Heart Beat Faster? is not to be taken seriously. Still, its subversive treatment of colonialism, the Marcos regime, and the power of the Catholic Church is what got director Mike De Leon in hot water, leading him to add a disclaimer to the film indicating that “This is pure fiction. It did not happen”. De Leon centers the film around our four young leads, with their romantic coupling driving the film’s momentum when we’re not witnessing him skewer the power struggle China and Japan have over his country. Personified by Chinese mafia boss Madam Lily (Armida Siguion-Reyna, 9 Mornings), whose subtitle sparring match yields one of the most interesting moments in the film that doesn’t contain Broadway-style choreography. 

De Leon’s epic culminates at a mountaintop chapel in which our leads comically impersonate priests and nuns and stumble upon an underground smuggling complex. Here, we meet Pinoy Master, the Japanese syndicate chief played with committed resolve by Johnny Delgado (Balweg). Pinoy breaks into song, leading his audience of followers inside the white disco temple.  “Behold this cassette, the expression of our genius,” they sing out before divulging their plans to poison communion wafers in order to control the country. Baking the drug into holy wafers and calling it their “Super Bread.” It's all a rousing disco celebration of their process and genius through song and dance. A final swordfight between Johny and Pinyon ends the celebration with dazzling effects and campy tension. It's like The Apple if Sammo Hung directed it. 

De Leon’s revolutionary film was released during a time of political repression and censorship. Evading censorship by disguising his political commentary as a comedy, De Leon could broaden his progressive ideas and easily capture an audience to further his message. The film's satirical portrayal of the Marcos dictatorship, the Catholic Church, and foreign imperialism made it a hit with Filipino audiences. 


Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Will Your Heart Beat Faster? arrives on Bluray thanks to Kani Releasing and OCN DIstribution. Housed in a transparent keepcase, the disc is accompanied by an insert booklet and a reversible artwork sleeve. 

Video Review

Ranking:

Will Your Heart Beat Faster? opens with a disclaimer about its restoration. In 2015, the film was restored by L’Immagine Ritrovata in Italy. Elements were scanned in 4k dry down and then converted to 2k for the digital restoration. Pieced together from moldy elements stowed away decades ago by De Leon, the resulting HD image on this disc is an astounding achievement. 

Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in an AVC encoded 1080p, the HD image looks excellent considering the condition of the original elements recovered for this restoration. Fine film grain is stable and offers a pleasing amount of depth. DNR is applied but isn’t overused, though when combined with soft lenses, the presentation becomes quite messy. Fine detail is limited but appears in some close-up shots of Johnny and his friends. Costuming textures are visible, and facial features retain some detail. 

Black levels look solid, but sadly, details within shadows disappear. Primaries are weak and subdued, lacking any dynamic brightness. Reds appear strong throughout the feature. White looks faded, leaning towards beige. Errant hairs and light damage on the image are present, but this never detracts from the overall experience. 

Audio Review

Ranking:

Will Your Heart Beat Faster? includes two DTS-HD MA 2.0 Tagalog audio options with the original damaged track and a restored option. Both include optional English subtitles. The restored audio is punchy and vibrant, with dialogue clearly discernible. Upbeat musical selections are fully realized within the audio track. Hiss and pop aren’t evident throughout the feature. The raw audio option presents a good idea of how far the restoration efforts went to clean up this original audio track. 

Special Features

Ranking:

Kani Releasing includes plenty of worthwhile bonus features on this release, including the early LVN Studios film Miss Phillippines making its home video debut. Archival footage accompanies a short film and an interview featurette. Start with the short film Aliwan Paradise, which works as an excellent double feature, then check out the insert booklet for a deep dive into Filippino cinema. 

  • Interview with screenwriter Raquel Villavicencio (HD 31:22) An interview in which the screenwriter speaks at length about her varied experiences working in film and collaborating with De Leon. 
  • Short Film: Aliwan Paradise (HD 28:49) A celebrated short from 1992 that De Leon directed for an anthology series titled Southern Winds. It is set in a dystopian future, yet still relevant today, in which an entertainment company is tasked with distracting the citizens from the violent government. De Leon adds plenty of flashy neon, musical numbers, and searing social commentary. Tagalog with English subtitles. 
  • Behind the Scenes (SD 14:01)  Archival 8mm promotional reel for the film’s release in 1980. 
  • Bonus Feature: Miss Philippines (SD 99:26) This postwar romantic comedy from 1947 is a seminal early feature from LVN Studios in which a poor laundry worker wins a contest to be in a film. This feature highlights class divides, stardom, and the struggle for prosperity. The presentation here is rough but still watchable. 
  • Before and After Miss Philippines (HD 2:02) A brief look at the efforts made to bring Miss Philippines back to life through side-by-side comparisons of the available source elements.
  • Insert Booklet with excerpts from Last Look Back (Mike De Leon, 2022), new writing from Teddy O. Co and Jessica Zafra, and archival photographs.

Final Thoughts

Will Your Heart Beat Faster? aka: Kakabakaba Ka Ba? is a groundbreaking and subversive film that remains relevant today. It’s a hilarious and thought-provoking satire of Philippine society and its history of foreign control. De Leon’s zany musical numbers, madcap comedy direction, and absurdist humor combine to make an unforgettable and entertaining experience. Recommended.