Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Sexy Killer (Hong Kong, 1976)

The Sexy Killer, I’m happy to report, is a film with a strong anti-drug message. Drugs, according to The Sexy Killer, will cause a person to slash another human being to ribbons with a cleverly disguised straight razor while wearing almost no clothing. And that’s just the people who don’t use them. I’m referring there, of course, to The Sexy Killer’s heroine Wanfei, as portrayed by resident Shaw Brothers sexploitation starlet Chen Ping. Wanfei, as she states unequivocally throughout The Sexy Killer, hates drugs, and were you to suggest otherwise, she would very likely whip her shirt off and start hacking away at your face with a special face-hacking implement that she had designed for specifically that purpose.

Interestingly, this is about all that we get to know about Wanfei’s character – or at least for the most part of The Sexy Killer’s running time it is. The film begins with a brisk prologue set in a nightclub filled with drug-taking naked people. If all of the nakedness and flagrant drug taking hadn’t already clued you in, both the preponderance of beaded curtains and the erotic wall murals populated by intertwined, big-bootied figures will surely hip you to the fact that this establishment’s habitués are all about “getting it on” while being completely “wasted”.

In that spirit, we are soon taken to a private room upstairs, where Wanfei’s younger sister is being coerced into an act of prostitution in exchange for the drugs that will feed her addiction. Later, Wanfei’s policeman friend, Weipin (Yueh Hua) – not only the last honest cop in Hong Kong, but also an anti-drug crusader of such zealotry that he’s earned the nickname “The Drug Smasher” – leads Wanfei to the aftermath of this scene, where she is inspired to make her first emphatic pronouncement about how much she hates drugs. From there, it’s only a matter of a convenient jump cut before we get to see Wanfei suddenly behaving as if she were a well-oiled machine built for the soul purpose of violently killing drug dealers – despite the fact that we’ve really been given no insight as to what it is in Wanfei’s background that makes her choose this particular approach over, say, community organizing or starting some kind of outreach program.

To be fair, The Sexy Killer does later tell us a bit more about Wanfei. She apparently works as a nurse, for one thing, and, more importantly, has a boyfriend who is a popular young up-and-coming politician. Unfortunately, this boyfriend also turns out to be elbow-deep in the whole drug business, which ends well for no one except Yueh Hua’s character Weipin, who gets to be all smug about the fact that he’s been telling this to Wanfei all along. Weinpin is, of course, smitten with Wanfei, and, after watching her making all kinds of crazy ecstatic faces while mercilessly slaughtering lowlifes for ninety minutes, it’s hard to imagine why he wouldn’t be.

Directed by Sun Chung, The Sexy Killer owes more than a small debt to Jack Hill’s Coffy, and is also a spiritual sibling to Japanese Pinky Violence films in the vein of Norifumi Suzuki’s Girl Boss films. Of course, Suzuki would never have bothered with the kind of prophylactic moralizing that Chung employs here, but the graphic lengths that Chung goes to explore the sexual depravity of the film’s villains – one of whom announces that his ambition is to make the “whole world” addicted to drugs – clearly demonstrates just how shallow his commitment to those morals runs. What we have here, above all, is an agreeable amalgam of sleaze and style, centered around that most perversely thrilling of seventies movie archetypes: the wild-eyed, hot pants-clad girl with an axe to grind, a shotgun to blast, and a platform boot to high-kick directly into the face of any creep who dares cross her.

While the film makes an effort to busy up its plot with some internecine battles between the drug dealers, I can’t say that I was inspired to bother keeping track of who was backstabbing whom. Instead I was happy just to let my attention skip from one gory set piece to the next, finding my ultimate reward in the movie’s fittingly combustive finale. This sees Wanfei send her car crashing through the walls of the big boss’s mansion and then methodically blowing away his army of foot soldiers with her trusty shotgun, after which she sends the boss himself to hell amidst an explosion of water from his ruptured waterbed.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to the whole notion of the “guilty pleasure”. But I’ll grant that The Sexy Killer’s pleasures are inextricably entwined with its trashiness. Those who are so inclined will doubtless find within it many opportunities to experience wave after wave of masochistic shame. And if I’ve just described you, have at it! (And furthermore: Oh snap!) Given my personal threshold, I’d simply describe it as a pleasant diversion – non-essential, but definitely satisfying if you’re in the mood for something along these lines. If you don’t just feel like watching Coffy again, that is.


houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

But...but how can you make a Coffy-alike without the heroine pulling something from her afro!? That should be a mandatory requirement.

One always has to love it when a film pulls out the good old "drugs are bad, mass murder is perfectly fine" moral.

venoms5 said...

This was the original title of the film, then for its HK release, it was changed to THE DRUG CONNECTION then back to its original title for the DVD release. There was also a sequel the following year entitled THE LADY EXTERMINATOR also starring Chen Ping.

Todd, check out Chen Ping in BIG BAD SIS (1976) also directed by Sun Chung. She's also great in the sleazy wuxia/kung fu exploitation flick, THE VENGEFUL BEAUTY (1978).

Todd said...

Thanks for the tip! I've already got The Vengeful Beauty on my list. There was a trailer for it on the Celestial disc of Bloody Parrot and it looked mighty awesome.