Friday, May 18, 2018

Official Exterminator: Kill for Love (1987)

... aka: Kill for Love
... aka: Ninja Brothers of Blood
... aka: Ninja Killer
... aka: Ninja Knight: Brothers of Blood
... aka: Ninja Knight 2: Blood Brothers

Directed by:
Richard Chen (uncredited)
"Raymond Woo" (possibly Godfrey Ho)

Here's another IFD Films & Arts Ltd. production following their usual pattern of taking an obscure Asian film, cutting it to ribbons, re-dubbing all the dialogue and then occasionally splicing in new scenes of whities and a few new action scenes and attempting to tie it all together. The victim of the pillaging this time out is a 1982 Taiwanese thriller called Chi qing qi nu zi, or Kill for Love, directed by Richard Chen. As was typically the case, that film was never released in its original form in English, so this is the best look many of us are ever going to get at it. This new IFD version became the first entry in a series of releases that also included Official Exterminator 2: Heaven's Hell, Official Exterminator 3: Joy for Living Dead, Official Exterminator 4: Goddess Mission and Official Exterminator 5: Enter the Victory. Most of these have "Official Exterminator" title screens and original posters bearing that name but were distributed under a host of other titles on home video. For instance, this first one was released on VHS as Kill for Love, Ninja Brothers of Blood, Ninja Killer, Ninja Knight - Brothers of Blood and possibly even more titles I'm unaware of.

I'd imagine this was a huge disappointment to basically anyone who saw it back in the day. I can see ninja-loving 80s kids eyeing the enticing video box above, slapping down a few dollars to rent it, excitedly rushing home, popping it in their VCR and then boring themselves silly slogging through a talky, poorly-dubbed, melodramatic love triangle patiently waiting for their beloved ninjas to finally make an appearance. The good news? A ninja does eventually show up. The bad news? There's only one, it doesn't appear until 70 minutes into this 85 minute movie and it's only featured in one scene that lasts about a minute total. Poor 80s kids.

Things begin with a hilariously awkward board meeting featuring amazingly stilted line-reading and deer-in-headlights "acting" from all involved. The members of an unnamed company are scrambling to stay afloat as they're being crushed by competitor The Pacific Corporation. In an effort to hobble the rival organization, one of the men suggests they have a lower-level employee get a job with Pacific Corp. plus get in the good graces of the president's daughter as a means to accomplish their task. They all decide on new guy Charlie Fong ("Sidney Chao" / Shu-Hoi Chiu) because he's good-looking, charming, intelligent and a hard worker. Company boss Blake (IFD regular Mike Abbott) nods, "If he can get into the family, I have it made!" It's just that easy, folks!

We're then introduced to a couple of small town girls; the meek and naive Fonda Chan ("Fonda Lynn" / Hsiao-Fen Lu) and her outgoing best friend Mary Wong (Viola Ku), who've been lured to the big city by an ad promising tour guide jobs. Instead, they've been tricked into working as strippers / prostitutes at a sleazy bar. While Mary complies for the easy money, Fonda fights off the guys with a broken bottle and then runs off and finds work in a factory. She then runs into poor college student Charlie, who rents her a spare bedroom in his tiny apartment. Fonda goes beyond the call of duty as a housemate; cleaning, doing his laundry and picking up the slack so Charlie has more time to concentrate on his studies and excel in school. The two soon get romantically involved and plan to marry as soon as he graduates. Things start looking even better for the couple when Charlie gets promoted to manager at work.

Little does Fonda realize, but the reason Charlie's climbing the corporate ladder so fast is because he's agreed to seduce artist Sophie Dao ("Lona Chang" / Fu-Mei Chang), daughter of the Pacific Corp. president, so he can get the goods on their company. But then Charlie finds himself falling in love with the sophisticated, educated, wealthy Sophie and wanting to pursue an actual relationship with her. Seeing how she's supported him all this time, even going so far as to have an abortion so it wouldn't ruin his reputation and thus threaten his job, Fonda's now (more than justifiably!) feeling the sting of being used and then discarded. When her desperate pleas fall on deaf ears ("You can tell me, even hit me, it's OK, just come back!") she ends up going the irate / unhinged stalker route. And yet this is somehow completely understandable considering what a self-serving asshole Charlie turns out to be. After all the crap he puts her through, you want nothing more than to see Fonda fuck his world up.

The original unaltered film is a companion piece to another film from the same year called Leng yan sha ji, or EXPOSED TO DANGER. It also features a love triangle plot with an obsessive, mentally-unstable woman and even stars the same two main actresses seen here, except they've swapped roles. Exposed was itself acquired, dubbed and distributed by IFD, though they didn't bother to add any new scenes or random ninjas to it. They also gave it the new title Breakout from Oppression, which caused a lot of confusion over the years as that title had already been used for an earlier martial arts film starring Gordon Liu. I also need to point out that Exposed is far more of a horror film than this one. Outside of three or four scenes (including the bloody, slow-motion wedding finale inspired by Ms. 45), Kill for Love is mostly a drama.

Cut between the main story line are IFD scenes featuring a cop named Greg (Mark Watson), who's investigating Blake's company. Greg barely manages to survive an assassination attempt by samurai swordsmen on bicycles (!) but his partner Tim (Pedro Ernyes) isn't so lucky. He then decides to quit the force and go rogue after discovering his superior has been paid off to close the investigation. Blake not only orders his men to try to kill Greg but he also sends them after Fonda so "that bitch gets taught a lesson" for causing Charlie problems. After his men fail, Blake then calls up Charlie and demands he murder her. And, surprise, surprise, Charlie actually goes through with it by taking her canoeing and attempting to drown her. Told you he was an asshole.

The one and only ninja scene here is when Blake sends his "best man" Dragon after Greg. Dragon is a ninja. We know this because he wears a headband that says "Ninja" on it lest we be confused. He and Greg get into a swordfight that lasts a whopping 30 seconds and ends with Dragon easily being defeated after getting knocked off a mound and crashing through some flimsy bamboo scaffolding.

By IFD standards, this is surprisingly coherent. The new scenes and the recycled footage never butt heads to the point where this stops making sense. That by itself is something of an accomplishment for them, I guess. As usual, Joseph Lai and his wife Betty Chan proudly claim producer credit, but the identity of director "Raymond Woo" is pretty much up for grabs. It's probably Godfrey Ho because he's credited here for the screenplay as "Benny Ho;" an acknowledged alias of his.

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