With its sex, violence and that massive rose tattoo across her chest, all the Cleopatra Jones's of the world would not match up to one Big Bad Sis. Review by Stephen Tan.

THE ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW

Even when Shaw sex symbol Chen Ping was starting out in Kiss Of Death (1973), she already had a matured look that sort of rules her out of fresh, school-girl roles. She would later appear in more sedentary mamasan-type of roles but it is her feisty characters in Kiss Of Death and Big Bad Sis (1976) that stand out.


Chen Ping.
 

New garment factory worker Yong (Chong Lee) is accosted in the toilet by the butch Lin. But the meeting is interrupted by another factory worker, Hsiao-chu (Shaw Yin-Yin), who has an inkling that Yong was being molested. Hsiao-chu tries to take on Lin but gets beaten up herself and has to endure watching Lin putting her hand into Yong's blouse and planting a kiss on Yong's lips.

Nothing gets the juices going faster than a touch of lesbianism right at the beginning but that's not all. Enters Feng Ying (Chen Ping), who tells Lin that she'll agree to be her "friend" if she lets Chong go.

As the two are now alone in the toilet, Ying tells Lin to remove her clothes.
But before you can expect some unexpected hanky panky, Ying pulls at Lin's bra and gives her a good whacking. The vicious action sequence that follows is certainly a good way to show how a fight scene involving a topless woman (or at least someone with her breasts hanging out) should be shot - the nudity is not gratuitous, the movements fluid, there's nothing awkward here and whatever modesty there is, quickly goes out the window. The scene ends with Lin having her head dunked and repeatedly flushed in the toilet bowl.

Impressed by her skills, both Yong and Hsiao-chu try to befriend the slightly distant Ying and eventually manage to win her over.

Next is that maudlin flashback sequence. As the friendship between the three deepens, Yong talks about how her stepfather tries to rape her one night while Hsiao-chu talks about how, while hanging out with some guys, one of them tries to rape her cousin and she struck out by stabbing him.



While the exposition is melodramatic, it is an opportunity for the film to show some more nudity - for example, Yong's breasts get full exposure when her stepfather rips open her blouse. But it is Hsiao-chu's story that is eye-opening. Her flashback sequence involves her and her female friends riding their bicycles in the nude with the viewer kind of expecting BJ Thomas's Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head to make an appearance on the soundtrack!

Soon the three become sworn sisters and Ying finally reveals her past - and her big moment - to the two girls, by showing a rose tattoo that covers her entire chest. She was brought up by Big Brother (Wang Hsia) as a triad member. She was a dealer in the gambling den and had helped Big Brother cheat many people out of their money (and possibly lives) until one day she meets a gambler with a young daughter. She tried to help the two by allowing them to win but their getaway was stopped by Big Brother. Ying almost loses her life in the ensuing fight but was saved in the last minute by Brother Shing (Chen Kuan-tai).

Next comes an erotic interlude when a rich playboy picks up one of the factory girls. The two have sex in an apartment with see-through floors and the scene might have influenced Kuei Chih-hung who had one of his female actresses press her bare body against the French window during sex in The Boxer's Omen (1983).


Shaw Yin-Yin (right).
 

In the meantime, the factory owner (veteran Shaw actor, Yeung Chi Hing) is running up his debts to Big Brother and the triad wants its due.

Ying goes to Big Brother's gambling den and manages to retrieve Yeung's promissory notes before torching up the place. In retaliation, Big Brother captures Ying with the intention of burning her alive but she is rescued by her former boyfriend, Wai (Wang Chung). Outnumbered by the triad members, Ying is seriously injured before Brother Shing shows up with Yong, Hsiao-chu and the rest of the factory girls.

There is a certain by-the-numbers method to this movie but because of its pacing and crisp photography, time and events whiz past quickly. The action in this movie is choreographed by Tang Chia, who is actually better coming up with unique weapons than close-quarters combat. But his efforts here are flawless and, thanks to Sun Chang's (Sexy Killer, Human Lanterns) superb direction, the action is really first class.

Chen Kuan-tai (front).
 

There is also a certain attention to detail that might be given a miss by other directors. For instance, no one but the resourceful Chen Ping would tear her skirt to give herself more leg room in her fight and flight from the triad members. Of course, the resulting sequence shows her in her panties too!

Violence and sex make good bedfellows (at least for cinema-goers) and, in the light of Johnny To's Election movies and reports of the workings of the triads in Hong Kong, today's film viewers might balk at the way the triad is portrayed here - with Wang Hsia's people coming across more as a bunch of ruffians than actual ruthless killers.

But as adult entertainment, Big Bad Sis certainly outshines all the Cleopatra Jones and Pam Griers of the world and is one exploitation movie that is a cut above the rest.

Note: The Big Bad Sis DVD (Celestial/IVL) is banned in $ingapore.





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