Friday, 18 March 2011

The Kiss of Death (1973)


Directed by Ho Meng Hua

Chu Ling (Chen Ping) is a vibrant and pretty young factory worker whose life is turned upside down when she's savagely raped by five malicious men late one evening. Before being discharged from the doctor, she is informed one of the men has given her a rare venereal disease called 'Vietnam Rose', a deadly STD brought back from the war. Told that she will eventually die from this incurable sickness, Chu plots revenge on the five men who ruined her life. A crippled club owner named Wong Ta (Lo Lieh) takes pity on her and trains her in how to defend herself. Chu Ling then scours the streets for the five rapists before her time has expired.

Ho Meng Hua was one of the Shaw Brothers' most respected filmmakers. He had a prolific career peppered with choice movies most particularly during the first half of his time at the studio between the years of 1967 through 1974. After that, his career took on a level of seedy exploitation the earlier portion lacked. THE KISS OF DEATH is a precursor to where Ho would be in the coming years and also foreshadows Meir Zarchi's monumentally controversial rape-revenge flick, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978).
But while this picture has its share of sleazy elements, it never descends totally into the gutter. There's abundant nudity including a scummy scene where a group of men get two young and very beautiful girls drunk, then take turns having sex with them while another makes a porn movie out of it. There's fight scenes, but not of the typical kung fu variety. One of Chu's friends carries with her a lethal, razor edged deck of playing cards and Wong Ta's cane sheathes a blade at the end.

The film was a hit and made Chen Ping HK's resident 'Sex & Violence' Queen of exploitation for a few years before she decided to shed the tough, and or erotic image she had built up for herself retiring from the industry altogether. She managed to acrue a staggering 50 roles during her heyday between 1973 and 1981. In 1988, THE KISS OF DEATH was remade as HER VENGEANCE starring Pauline Wong and the late Lam Ching Ying. Like other countries, the 1970s opened the floodgates for a new kind of cinematic expression and the Shaw Brothers knew how to mix it up with the best of them. This Ho Meng Hua effort at least attempts something a bit more than the standard revenge motif of so many similar movies in both some of its characterizations and in its depiction of the grim nightlife of 70s Hong Kong.

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