ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
emergence of AIDS as a deadly killer, in the '70s, the dreaded
sexually-transmitted disease was a form of syphilis commonly known
as Vietnam Rose (which was supposed to have been brought to Hongkong
by American sailors during the Vietnam War). For The Kiss Of Death
(Shaw, 1973), director Ho Meng-hua (who at that time was better
known for The Monkey Goes West and The King With My Face), used
the disease as a jump-off point and has Taiwanese sex bombshell,
Chen Ping, in the lead.
Chu Ling (Chen Ping) is raped one night after work by five men
and is infected with Vietnam Rose. As fate (and the script) has
it, she runs across one of the men and follows him into a bar.
While she did not get her man in the ensuing confrontation, she
manages to find work as a hostess in the bar but even get the
crippled manager (Lo Lieh) to teach her kung fu. (Seeing that
she doesn't know any kung fu, Lo Lieh tells her that the fastest
way to get her guy is to go for the man's scrotum). Eventually
she locates the men who wronged her to exact her revenge.
With a few
minor changes, the synopsis of the film could easily be applied
to a period wu xia (swordfighting) movie. But by then,
wu xia movies were on the wane and, with Chen Ping in the
cast, the story becomes secondary.
For the audience,
the newcomer was a delight. If the rape sequence is not obvious
enough, there are several scenes of Chen disrobing in the bathroom
and going under the shower. In another scene, the "elder sister"
of the night club (Lily Chen-ching) sticks her hand into Chen's
blouse to "check" the goods! And she has to strip (don't ask why)
and spread her legs so that an unscrupulous doctor can examine
her infection! As a bonus, the movie also shows - with more nudity
- how Pimp (a very young looking Hui Siu-hung, a familiar face
in many Johnny To movies) drugs young girls, gets them into bed
and blackmails them into prostitution.
of the sex and nudity involved, The Kiss Of Death can be seen
as a strong vehicle for any actress in her debut movie. From innocent
factory worker to bashed-up victim to deranged avenger (with uncontrollable
hatred), there is a range of emotions on display and Chen gives
a convincing performance. Nevermind that the trauma of rape is
easily glossed over or the plight of a person infected with a
sexually-transmitted disease is underplayed - Chen never even
goes to consult a recognised health authority - or that she masters
her fighting techniques in record time. Needless to say, the movie
propelled Chen Ping as a mainstay in Shaw's erotic films
But The Kiss Of Death is more than just a grim and gritty erotic
thriller. For a start, the director manages to get notable actors
to appear in what is nothing more than cameo roles - Simon Yuen
Siu-tin (Jackie Chan's sifu in Snake In The Eagle's Shadow and
countless '50s/''60s Cantonese films) plays a lecherous old man;
Kong Do (baddie in numerous kung fu movies) is the first rapist
to get his balls stabbed) and only Lo Lieh gets what is probably
seen as an extended supporting role.
Lieh and Chen Ping.
film is fashioned like a wu xia movie, it is also a breathtaking
actioner. First there is the Event - in this case, the rape, which
is agonising. Then there is the "training sequence," which flows
by quickly. And instead of Killer Darts, you have Killer Cards
(playing cards with blades inserted into them to give the term
gilt-edge security a whole different meaning). While the avenging
woman theme is not new in the Shaw canon, here the revenge motif
is not only relentlessly paced (there is a nicely played-out scene
in a cemetery) but the showdown itself, a protracted sequence
that starts in a gambling room and then cascades into a spiral
staircase before ending on the street below, is especially brutal
(Chen gets her face bashed in by one of her rapists wearing a
In the past, The Kiss Of Death might have been seen largely as
Chen Ping' s debut film. With this Shaw reissue, the film is seen
to be much more. It is the exploitation movie that someone like
Roger Corman wished he had made - lots of sex, lots of action
and a little topicality to be relevant to the times. And it is
to the directors credit that he kept the pessimistic and
bleak ending (probably a nod to such films as Chang Cheh's Dead
End and Chen Kuan Tai's Boxer From Shangtung) - nevermind the
takings, its balls to the floor.
Note: The Kiss Of Death DVD is not available in $ingapore.