The Sexy Killer [毒后秘史] (1976)
AKA The Drug Connection
Starring Chen Ping, Yueh Hua, Si Wai, Wang Hsieh, Angela Yu Chien, Tin Ching, Chan Shen, Lee Pang-Fei, Yeung Chak-Lam, Lam Fung, Lau Kwok-Shing, Tung Lam, Kong Yeung, Lin Wen-Wei, Mi Lan, Lam Yi-Wa
Directed by Sun Chung
Expectations: Pretty high.
Expectations can be a film’s worst enemy at times. In the case of The Sexy Killer, I went in thinking about how I had enjoyed the exploitative Shaw films I’d seen in the last few years, as well as how much I liked Sun Chung’s earlier films in my Shaw series (not to mention The Avenging Eagle). But The Sexy Killer was not strong enough to stand up to this kind of pressure. It disappointed me at nearly every turn, only redeeming itself with a great third act (but still a marginal film overall). I may like The Sexy Killer more on a re-watch, but I feel like I’d reach for The Kiss of Death or something from Kuei Chih-Hung’s filmography before I willfully sat down with this one again.
The Sexy Killer begins strong, though. We open in a rock ‘n’ roll club, where teens dance the night away to saxophone-infused atonal jams. One of these dancers is Gao Wanjing (Mi Lan), but she is really here for a more deviant reason: She’s looking to score some heroin to quiet her addictive yearnings. When the dealer comes around she agrees to “do anything” for her fix, and before we know it, the police are investigating the scene where her unconscious body has been found. Her sister, Gao Wanfei (Chen Ping), has come with the cops and she can hardly contain her rage when she sees her sister in such a sorry state. Gao Wanfei is sick of police bureaucracy and their slowness in cleaning up the city, so she vows to do some cleaning of her own.
If this sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because The Sexy Killer is basically just a Hong Kong version of the blaxploitation classic Coffy. This is definitely another factor working against the movie for me. As much as I love the Shaw studio, they’d have to concoct quite a dope movie to make me forget about ’70s action queen Pam Grier in one of her defining roles. Sun Chung made a serviceable movie, but it feels like it’s stuck between the two cultures. On the surface it’s a Hong Kong movie, but the story progression and its characters feel too American to satisfy my Shaw urges… even the action suffers from this dilution.
The film does not credit an action choreographer, or if it does, it hasn’t been translated and updated on HKMDB, HK Cinemagic or IMDB, which I find hard to believe. This is usually enough to make me discredit a film from inclusion in this series, but I’m glad that I trusted my instincts and watched it anyway. It’s not a martial arts film by any definition, but it contains its share of short scuffles and other general action scenes. It’s kind of an action drama, but without any specific focus on action or drama. Does that make sense? I’m not sure, but I do know that you shouldn’t start this one with much of any expectations. There are some fights, but they’re more structured like American hand-to-hand fights of the ’70s than anything resembling what was coming out of Hong Kong in the mid-to-late ’70s.
As I mentioned earlier, the last 20–30 minutes are pretty strong (especially when Chen Ping gets her hands on the shotgun), delivering fun action and excitement at a constant pace. Sun Chung really seems to have his heart in this section, imbuing it with lots of great handheld camerawork that enhances the tension of the action. Sun Chung’s trademark slow-motion makes a few appearances as well, although because the film was dramatically unsuccessful for me, these moments often lacked the punch they were intended to have. In my review of The Bloody Escape, I mentioned an odd camera move that would swing around characters to arrive at new, perfectly re-framed images. There is some of that here, too, but to a much lesser extent (both in amount and effect).
The Sexy Killer contains a lot of sleazy elements, but it’s also one of the more conventional Shaw Brothers exploitation films I’ve seen. It didn’t do too much for me until the finale, but maybe you will like it better. That’s the beauty of the depth of the Shaw catalog: it literally offers something for everyone, and there’s always another movie to sink your teeth into if you didn’t care for the one you just saw.
Next up in this chronological journey through the Shaw Brothers Martial Arts is the Chor Yuen wuxia that kicked off his string of popular late ’70s wuxia films: Killer Clans! Been wanting to see this one for a long time… See ya then!