As a kung fu star, Pearl Cheung Ling was less of a martial artist than an actress, and less of an actress than a comedian, and that probably only inadvertently. But whatever she was, you could be guaranteed that, whenever she appeared on screen, she'd be at the center of some fairly unusual goings on.
One of the problems with writing about the kind of movies that I do is that you very quickly run out of synonyms for "cheap" and "weird", and few films tax the vocabulary in that regard like Fury of the Silver Fox, the retitled American video release of the Pearl Cheung Ling vehicle Matching Escort. Directed by Pearl herself, the film is every bit as much of a head scratcher as her other auteur efforts Wolf Devil Woman and the nigh-unwatchable Dark Lady of Kung Fu (itself a remake of the Shaw Brothers' The Black Butterfly), in that it is a perfect storm of gore, terrible overacting, unhinged fantasy elements and painfully obvious wire work.
As the movie opens, we see Pearl's character as a child being chained into a pair of heavy cement boots. When she reaches adulthood, we will see that this has somehow honed her agility to the point where she can run across treetops and rivers as if she were, I don't know, suspended by some kind of wire or something. This skill will come in handy when an evil warlord slaughters her entire family and she is forced to flee for her life.
In the course of her flight, Pearl falls down a well and ends up in a psychedelic cave filled with gigantic poisonous flowers that's inhabited by a reclusive kung fu master. She begs the master to train her so that she can exact revenge for her family, and he eventually agrees. However, from what we see, this master's particular teaching method doesn't involve any actual physical training, but instead requires Pearl to eat poisonous mushrooms, bathe in magical vapors, and have caustic substances rubbed in her eyes. Once this abuse is over, she is ready for her mission, and it is one that involves much decapitation, head stabbing, throat slashing, and anything else that will result in the walls of cheap but highly bizarre looking sets being drenched in arterial spray.
Throughout all of this, Pearl Cheung Ling furiously mugs and over-gesticulates like some kind of live action cartoon character, and while you may not call it acting, it is--to me, at least--certainly endearing. It also helps Pearl to project a personality big enough to overcome any amount of lackluster English dubbing. This is a film that really doesn't benefit from translation--even if you do get to savor lines like, "I am the most tortured soul on this Earth!"--and if you can find it, I'd highly recommend going for the unsubtitled Chinese language version. Some things just transcend language, and the wonderfully wacked-out phenomenon that is Pearl Ling is definitely one of them.
Past Misdeeds: Kokkuri-san (1997) - *Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious **Exploder Button** and the ensuing server changes, some of my old column...
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