“Erotic Passion” (1993)

(Dir. Lau Chan)

If “Rock on Fire” seems to deliberately explore the symbolic possibilities of Cat III themes, “Erotic Passion” may have a less intentional yet equally conspicuous symbolic quality.  The seemingly endless gratuitous sexuality seems largely lacking in either eroticism or passion, alternating between the demeaning and the merely dull.  Perhaps the most passionate and exciting presence is Nadeki herself.  She appears in a supporting role as an enforcer for the villain of the piece.

The surface plot vaguely concerns a woman seeking revenge on behalf of her father.  She is assisted by no less than Yeung Pan-pan playing a relative who eventually wades in to sort out the mess.  Pan-pan and Nadeki have exactly complementary roles – each represents the “muscle” of the respective protagonists.  The presence of these serious martial arts performers in such a torrid setting is both surprising and weirdly sensual.  The contrast between their deadpan determination, austere appearance and physical virtuosity with the other filmic vision of female gendered roles is so stark that it inevitably associates the two.  There is no middle ground here (or in “Rock on Fire”).  Women are either utter sex objects or frighteningly aggressive.  Such juxtaposition of extremes virtually fetishizes their roles – and arguably aligns the sensuality of their martial artistry with pornography as another visual pleasure.  Nadeki obliges by wearing black, from her combat boots and bomber jacket to beret.  She ruthlessly demolishes the male hero who attempts to challenge her – finishing him with a knife-hand strike to the throat (yet another instance of choking).
Unlike most Cat. III potboilers, the martial arts sequences – exclusively those of Pan-pan and Nadeki – are quite excellent.  This is clearly attributable to their physical talent.  It is an ironic commentary on the course of 1990s action cinema that a high quality martial arts confrontation between two of the industry’s most competent female martial arts action performers should be buried in such a production.  Although brief, it’s worth the wait.  When matched with the skill and timing of Pan-pan, Nadeki was seemingly able to unload her full speed and kicking ability.  Quality is unmistakable.  Although this fight is marred by a brief wirework finale, it’s of quite a high standard nevertheless.

A 2, B 4, C 1, D 2, E 2, F 1  (12)  Fight scenes

“Pink Panther” (aka “Pink Killer,” 1993)

“Pink Panther” is not distinguished on any specific index of quality or production values other than its unique plot and Nadeki’s leading character, “Wang Fu-nan.”  Apparently living completely outside the law in a sisterhood of abuse survivors, Wang Fu-nan fights a virtual guerilla war against partner violence.  The opening scene involves an exemplary genital mutilation performed very publicly in a nightclub.  Abduction, torture, and a kind of brainwashing seem all in a day’s work for Wang’s cult-like following of gun-toting motorcyclists who favor blue denim cut-offs.

The police appear to turn a blind eye to this vigilantism, and actually approach the gang to request assistance in fighting a drug-smuggling triad operation.  When Wang’s group abducts and tortures one of the triads, he reveals a drug shipment which they intercept.  This provokes a series of chases and battles culminating in a full-fledged confrontation at the ruined industrial plant that often serves as the setting for the final fight in low budget Taiwanese action films.  Prior to the finale, after Wang is abducted and beaten, her captors plan to assault her.  Although tied up she simply shows her teeth and bites the triad leader on his nose – drawing blood.  Once again, the symbolism of sexual aggression and counter-aggression seems salient.  Freed in the nick of time by her companions, Wang participates in a classic GWG finale in which Nadeki’s martial arts skills are put to good use against multiple opponents.
Co-stars include To Kwai-fa and an unidentified Taiwanese spitfire whose ingénue looks belie supple martial artistry and a waspish manner best displayed in “Guardian Angel.”  The stamp of Nadeki’s rather cold, stiff screen persona is prominent in this film – which largely dispenses with victimization to spend more time focusing on retaliation.  In this manner, “Pink Panther” represents perhaps the ultimate refinement of the vengeance formula as a virtual pre-emptive strike.  The distinction between “Final Girl” and simple perpetrator is as blurred as the gender signifiers.

A 4, B 3.5, C 4, D 2.5, E 3, F 3 (20)  Highly recommended

“Wonderful Killer” (1993)

“Wonderful Killer” pieces together cameo appearances by Dick Wei and Lin Wei as the focus of a police investigation led by “Kau Chen-mai” (Nadeki) and her partner “Shan-shan” (To Kwai-fa) with the activities of a mentally challenged serial killer (Shing Fui-on).  In this low-budget Taiwanese production the murder of a series of young women leads the police to investigate their male partners, resulting in several stimulating martial arts confrontations during which Nadeki and To Kwai-fa display their physical skills – especially tumbling and rolling.

The character “Kal” (sometimes “Kail”) played by Shing Fui-on is secretly in love with a young woman “Ah-hwa” who is his neighbor.  When her mother – a maid – is physically assaulted by a group of arrogant female partygoers, her daughter secretly seeks to avenge her – and Kal obliges.  Possessed of considerable strength, cunning and knowledge of jungle warfare, Kal demolishes the police sent to track him down, and Miss Kau has to use all her athleticism and flexibility to escape from his clutches and forest traps.
Although the film is often slow going, Nadeki’s leather jacketed detective is a pleasure to watch, particularly in moments when she must enter a booby trapped residence or single-handedly flush the killer from his hiding place in the woods.

A 2.5, B 3, C 3, D 2, E 2.5, F 2  (15)  Fight scenes