Strike of the Tortured Angels (1982, Hong Kong)

The embedded subtitles on this dubbed-into-English film (at least the version on YouTube) would seem to be a mixture of Danish and Finnish or other Scandinavian languages, which doesn’t seem to make much sense. But then, nor does much else in the film.

First, the plot: Susan arrives in a reform school. You might think it’s a juvenile reform school, as there are no older detainees, but there don’t appear to be any very young inmates. She is desperate to escape as she wants to kill the doctor whom she holds responsible for the death of her sister and the financial and reputational ruination of her mother. The doctor, you see, was having simultaneous affairs with both the elder sister (another doctor, it seems), and her infatuated mother (the hospital administrator), at the same time as her physician father is bedridden after ‘an accident’. Her sister kills herself when the doctor (Dr Qwark in Finnish) breaks up with her after making her pregnant, and breaks up with the mother to marry into a family where he has better career advancement opportunities. Downcast, Susan goes to a nightclub where a young man tries to pour beer down her throat to cheer her up; she hits him over the head with a bottle. Hence, reform school.

Amongst the other prisoners are the dormitory’s top dog, Kate, who oversees the hazing ritual for the newly arrived prisoners and then is barely seen again; Julie (as per the English dubbing, or Judy in Danish); and Ginger, who would be totally nondescript if it were not for the piglet that she takes with her everywhere. Susan, Julie and Ginger (and the piglet) manage to escape together by stowing away on a boat and swimming to shore, and then spend half the film evading the reform school’s guard, Mr Lee (Mr Li in Finnish), beating up (successively) three schoolgirls and three hoodlums, and tracking down and confronting Dr Quoc. Qwark. Kwok. And kidnapping his new fiancée. All leading to a grand finale.

Some minor issues:

  1. The first is Julie. There is no nice way to say this, but it is apparent that the actress (listed in some places as Stella Jone) who plays her is an Asian woman in blackface and an Afro wig. When Kate uses a racially-pejorative term to describe her, she says, “Yes, I do have a dark skin. That’s quite true. And I also have a head of curly hair. But I’m a human being and no-one insults me… understand that?” It sort of undermines the message when spoken by a person in blackface, and her image dominates the film.
  2. Julie is sick; she has “4th stage TB” and “(will) be dead very soon.” Mr Lee stumbles across this when her boyfriend attends for a visit and leaves her some medication for her tuberculosis. Julie resists treatment and is briefly isolated, but nothing is put in place to stop her association with others and the spread of infection. The other women don’t seem to be troubled about the risks to their own health, either.
  3. Susan tries to escape several times, and is thwarted on each occasion. When she finally does escape, with the others, they are part of a line of young women taking potted plants to be placed onto the boat and then leaving, all under supervision. That they manage to return, unsighted, with piglet, and secrete themselves onto the boat is a little extraordinary. But then, who could reasonably have been awake to that possibility?
  4. Mr Lee attends Susan’s home and waits for her to return there. No Police, just Mr Lee. And they let him in, rather than shoo him away, and when he comes back, they let him in again. Odd.
  5. But maybe the biggest silliness, the sort of thing that tips a bad film into the level of ridiculousness that makes it worthwhile, is the speech of Dr Quoc to Susan when, at the very end, he is pleading for his life to be spared: “Please try to forgive me. I’m like I am because of other people’s troubles… (My parents) were unable to give me the attention I needed. Susan, you must forgive me. We must be friends. Wouldn’t you like that?”

All highly amusing, but nonsense.





Posted on June 30th, 2019 at 5:42 pm. Updated on July 7th, 2019 at 1:01 pm.

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