Wednesday, 28 July 2010
LETHAL PANTHER (aka DEADLY CHINA DOLLS) (1990)
Directed by: Godfrey Ho
Written by: Simon Fong & Charles Ng
Starring: Sibelle Hu, Maria Jo, Yoko Miyamoto
Girls with guns, babes and bullets, floozies with oozies: whatever you want to call this less than high brow genre, Lethal Panther (Deadly China Dolls as it's known here in the UK) features a trio of the female species brandishing weapons and taking justice into their own hands in this fun but very violent actioner. Churned out by Hong Kong B-movie godfather, Godfrey Ho, this film gets down to business quick and rarely (if in fact, at all) lets ups. A low-fi mix of action and sleaze, the film serves up one or the other at increasingly regular intervals, as three fighting ladies (Sibelle Hu, Maria Jo, and Yoko Miyamoto) take on the slimy nephew of a crime boss who is attempting to take over the criminal empire for himself. Story rarely matters, or makes much sense for that matter, as Lethal Panther is just a showcase for some seriously dangerous looking late 80s Hong Kong stunts and action.
The action is thick and fast and heavy on the bloody squibs. A sort of low rent John Woo movie, Lethal Panther is filled with gunplay and shootouts, all relentlessly staged but without any of the flair of a Woo flick. But this is a schlocky low budget film so a certain amount of scrappiness is expected. To be fair the action is often mounted well and as mentioned, full of squibs and dangerous looking stunts. The female leads acquit themselves well, jumping into the action with aplomb and one is rarely a few minutes away from the next action scene. There is some tight kung fu thrown in as well, breaking up all the gunplay, and Ho even manages to work in a pretty cool sequence where he inter-cuts two shootouts happening simultaneously. It almost elevates the flick from its exploitation roots. Well, not really, this is still Hong Kong action trash after all. The sleaze is copious too, many fairly graphic sex scenes intermingled with all the action and violence and there is rarely a likeable character to be found. Still, this flick moves fast, knows what it is and is a pretty decent example of female orientated action from Hong Kong in the late 80s.
For extra trash and cheesiness this flick makes no bones about ripping off the soundtracks from other (more famous) films. Not least in one "brilliant" scene where two of the protagonists are having a conversation on a beach while the Halloween theme is playing in the background. Not only is it totally inappropriate to the scene but it's actually John Carpenter's original theme. Brilliant. When the film couldn't get any barmier and B-movie, it throws in the Halloween theme (one of the most recognizable pieces of cinematic music) just for good measure. A true B-movie through and through, which is a lot better than you would expect (at least in action terms) and if they had just managed to squeeze in a car chase as well, then Lethal Panther would have been B-movie nirvana.