Friday, March 9, 2012

Strike of the Tortured Angels

Directed by Roy Rosenburg.
1982. Not Rated, 80 minutes.
Susan Lee
Stella Jone
Laura Sode-Matteson
George Bill
Larry Moore
Jim Man

From time to time I go trolling for movies that I think might be so bad, they’re awesome. As you might imagine, I’m also up late a couple times a week watching movies. Sometimes this leads me to scour my own DVD collection for titles that I either haven’t seen in a long time, or never at all and looking for the shortest runtime. These are the reasons I found myself on the couch watching Strike of the Tortured Angels. I happened to pick up one of those DVD sets of grindhouse type movies (20 of them!) and there it was, listed at 80 minutes. With no idea what I was getting into, I popped it in and pressed play. Oops.

Of course, it’s true I could’ve turned it off and went to bed at any time. However, once I’ve decided on a movie I’m watching it all the way through. Occasionally, this means I’ll discover that I really like a movie that didn’t start so hot. Often enough, I’ll find it to be at least a decent watch. Every now and again, this will happen.

Things start off promisingly enough. By promising, I mean SotTA seems well on its way to so bad its awesome status. Everything about the first five minutes screams unintentional humor. We open with a bunch of girls on a prison bus. Yes! We’re going to a get a Women in Prison (WIP) flick! In the world of god-awful films that people love, these are a gold mine. The next sign this should be wonderfully terrible is we’re hearing English despite the fact we’re witnessing a scene obviously not in America and featuring only Asians. I know that’s not impossible but definitely unexpected. Sure enough, the movements of their mouths don’t quite match the words I hear. And sure enough, this was made in Hong Kong. The most surreal part of this whole experience is that the whole time there are Swedish, or perhaps German, subtitles going that you can’t turn off. The fun here is seeing how close some of the words are to English.

Let’s get back to the prison bus. Susan (Lee, I think – credits don’t tell who is who), one of our soon-to-be heroines tries a daring escape while the guards tend to a flat tire. Cutting to the chase, her and one of the guards wind up wrestling in the mud lake right off to the side of the road. They actually do more sloshing around than wrestling. Hey, I told you we get off to a good start.

Things get even better when the absolute bizarre is thrown into the mix. It turns out our other heroine, Julie, is black. What’s so strange about that, you ask? I’ll tell you. Our black heroine is played by an Asian woman in blackface and wearing a nappy Afro wig. OMG, as my kids would say. Yes, I literally said this as soon as I saw her. Who thought this was a good idea? Is there any reason we have to have a black character in a movie set on the outskirts of Hong Kong? Why of course, there is. A few minutes after the girls arrive at the prison, actually a reform school we find out, she gets into it with one of the veteran inmates that picks a fight with her. After beating the girl senseless, she spouts off this little gem: “My skin may be black, but I’m a human being!” Who says China has human rights issues? By the way, it should be noted that we soon discover she’s dying of tuberculosis and has special “medicine” for it. Okay, whatever.

Despite such an auspicious start, things fall apart quickly. The first sign we’re circling the drain comes right after the ladies get to prison. At this point in most WIP flicks we get the gratuitous mass disrobing and/or showering scene as the inmates are introduced into the prison population. That happens here, as well. The major difference between this and most others of its ilk is in SotTA we only get a succession of bare shoulders or naked calves. See, there was a reason I chose that pic at the top. Before you blast me for lamenting the lack of nudity, hear me out. WIP flicks in general are lazily written b-moves about rebellion and/or revenge. By the way, this chooses the latter. Let me pause here for a sec to give you a little more plot info. Susan vows revenge on the doctor responsible for her sister’s suicide after getting the girl pregnant and telling her to have an abortion. Now, he’s banging her mom because she’s one of the head honchos at the hospital where he works and can help advance his career. What a guy! Oh, wait…what a mom!

Anyhoo, WIP flicks aren’t going to be big special fx extravaganzas to draw in big crowds, either. Their only value is in the entertainment they provide for their target audience by being exploitive and tasteless. The botched shower scene lets me know this will offer up very tame versions of both, not nearly enough of either to justify the fifty bucks or so it probably cost to make. Indeed, nearly everything that follows is a meeker version of other WIP movies. There are a few unintentional laughs to be had, but it’s mostly a dull 80 minutes.

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