Written by: Carroll Jenkins on September 26th, 2015
10Kbullets has frequently reviewed [with great fervor] many films of so-called Pinky Violence from Japan. Another similar category that followed in it’s wake was the Hong Kong Girls With Guns (GWG) genre. They both feature strong and capable women taking on formidable male and/or female opposition and experiencing both the exhilaration of victory and vicious pains of defeat; especially if captured and tortured or killed by the enemy.
The predominant Pinky Violence setup pits girl gangs against rival girl gangs and/or the local [male] yakuza and sometimes the police or other authorities and stages the conflicts in a modern milieu. Our ‘home girl’ gang is sympathetic mostly by default though they often reap what they’ve sown to some degree. Many of the films were blessed with gifted directors who went the extra mile to provide quality, sometimes highly artistic product even if it was only considered as incidental pop trash by all and sundry. That era was essentially from late 60’s to late 70’s.
The GWG genre followed and also lasted about a decade, from the mid 80’s through the mid 90’s. There are as many similarities between the two entities as there are differences; the latter marked primarily by the change of mise en scène. The women are now mostly dedicated police officers though they may bend a rule or two in the name of serving justice. There is predominantly less sex and nudity in ratio to considerably more ordinance and squibs dispensed for the benefit of the cinema audience.
Before we begin our tour, we must realize that though quite a few big budget and well regarded features have been released in high quality DVD or Blu-Ray editions with optional subtitles, the majority were released according to the standard practices of the time as non-anamorphic letterboxed images with hard-coded Chinese and English subtitles on either DVD, VCD, or VHS. VCD’s were simply movies presented on multiple CD’s and suffered a severe loss of fidelity as a result. Another important factor is that movie sequels and/or franchises in the East are must less indentured to maintain any semblance of the original premise as is predominate in Western cinema. Since many series may feature many different themes, directors, and stars they must be taken on their own merit and not merely as ‘another one of those’. There was also a pre-disposition to release the same film under numerous different titles for various regions which greatly adds to the confusion in discussing or locating a particular title.
The feature that started it all in 1985 was Yes, Madam (also known as Police Assassins or In the Line of Duty Part 2) produced by D&B and starring Michelle Yeoh (as Michelle Kahn) and Cynthia Rothrock. Michelle was a former ballerina who studied martial arts and also made the seminal Royal Warriors before marrying the boss. Following her divorce her comeback was Police Story 3: Supercops with Jackie Chan, who then produced her excellent starring solo vehicle Project S.
Cynthia Rothrock was a US native and competitive martial arts champion who became one of the few ‘gweilo’ martial arts stars in Hong Kong film. She was also in the superb Above The Law (aka Righting Wrongs) with Yuen Biao.
D&B was ready for a new female star, so they recruited former dancer Yang Li-Tsing rechristened as Cynthia Kahn. Her first significant lead was In The Line Of Duty III [Note: Royal Warriors and Yes, Madam were retitled ITLOD I and II in some regions, which then led to the retroactive establishment of an official series.] All the films in the series were high profile releases with big budgets and were are excellent. The final battle between Cynthia and Kim Maree Penn in Middle Man (#5) is absolutely brutal. Kim was another notable ‘gweilo’ martial arts champion from Australia.
Meanwhile, 1987 saw the release of Angel (aka Midnight Angels, Iron Angels, Angels, Fighting Madam). Essentially a rip on Charlie’s Angels, David Chiang filled the Charlie role while the angels were comprised of Saijo Hideki (a guy), Moon Lee, and Elaine Lui. Alex Fong was there as love interest and general dude-in-distress. Moon Lee was a former fashion model who would get better with a little more experience; but the real star of this show was champion martial artist Oshima Yukari as the ruthless villainess [she would later modify her moniker to Cynthia Luster]. Here again, the final showdown between Moon Lee and Oshima Yukari will leave you breathless.
A sequel followed (Angels 2 aka Iron Angels 2) that dropped David Chiang for Alex Fong as the hands-on leader of the squad, again featuring Moon Lee and Elaine Lui. This installment was even better that the original and the huge success of the franchise lead to furious production of low budget copycats with a very many featuring ‘Angel’ somewhere in the title (just as happened with ‘Django’ with westerns in Europe). Angel 3 was the last of the original series and featured Fong and Lee but not Lui.
Joyce Godenzi was the new babe on the block and starred in the exceptional She Shoots Straight, but retired to became Mrs. Sammo Hung.
When D&B need a new diva once again they turned to Jade Leung, a former beauty queen. Her first role was as the deglamorized and dehumanized anti-social photocopy of Nikita in the excellent Black Cat. But D&B were running out of steam and the sequel was as bad as it’s name: Black Cat II : The Assassination of President Yeltsin.
By 1990 the glut of product was so severe that Angel Terminators was shelved until eventually released in 1992. It’s sequel featured Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima with the added delight of Sophia Crawford who popped up in many GWG features. [Her permanent claim to fame is as the dedicated stunt double for Sarah Michelle Gellar in the first four seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.]
With the glut of product came a decline in quality, and the only credible release of 1992 was A Serious Shock! Yes Madam! with Cynthia Khan, Moon Lee, and Yukari Oshima. There was a last gasp of quality features in ’93 with Angel Terminators 2, Beauty Investigator, Madam City Hunter, and Project S. Some of the later GWG features were CAT III releases, usually for violence with a bit of nudity (as in Beauty Investigator). Lethal Panther is an example of LOTS of sex scenes haphazardly mixed with action sequences – but hey, it’s Godfrey Ho’s best release [best to avoid any others].
An unexpected pleasure [or pleasurable shock] came in 1995 when Fox Hunter with Jade Leung was released to general apathy, but it is certainly the last GREAT Girls With Guns feature from the first wave.
Suggested Viewing List
85 Yes Madam – Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Rothrock
86 Righting Wrongs – Cynthia Rothrock
86 Royal Warriors – Michelle Yeoh
87 Angel – Moon Lee, Elaine Lui, Yukari Oshima
87 Magnificent Warriors – Michelle Yeoh
88 Angel 2 – Moon Lee, Elaine Lui
88 In the Line of Duty 3 – Cynthia Khan
88 On the Run – Pat Ha
88 The Inspector Wears Skirts – Sibelle Hu, Cynthia Rothrock. Wei Ying Hung, Sandra Ng
89 Angel Enforcers – Sharon Yeung, Pauline Wong
89 In the Line of Duty 4 – Cynthia Khan
89 Killer Angels – Moon Lee
90 Middle Man – Cynthia Khan
90 Outlaw Brothers – Yukari Oshima
90 Queen’s High – Cynthia Khan
90 She Shoots Straight – Joyce Godenzi, Carina Lau, Sandra Ng
91 Angel Force – Moon Lee
91 Black Cat – Jade Leung
91 CAT III Lethal Panther – Maria Jo (Yuen Chi Wai), Sibelle Hu
91 Dreaming the Reality – Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Sibelle Hu
91 Forbidden Arsenal – Cynthia Khan, Loletta Lee
91 Mission Kill/Mission of Condor – Moon Lee
91 Sea Wolves – Cynthia Khan
91 Stone Age Warriors – Elaine Lui, Nina Li Chi
92 Angel Terminators – Sharon Yeung, Wei Ying Hung, Carrie Ng, Michiko Nishiwaki
92 A Serious Shock! Yes Madam! – Cynthia Khan, Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima
92 CAT III Naked Killer – Chingmy Yau, Carrie Ng
93 Angel Terminators 2 – Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Sibelle Hu, Sophia Crawford
93 CAT III Beauty Investigator – Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Sophia Crawford
93 Madam City Hunter – Cynthia Khan, Sheila Chan, Wei Ying Hung
93 Project S – Michelle Yeoh
95 Fox Hunter – Jade Leung
96 Street Angels – Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Sibelle Hu
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