Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Da se (1980)

... aka: 打蛇
... aka: Da she
... aka: Frauen im Foltercamp (Women in Torture Camp)
... aka: Im Foltercamp der geschändeten Frauen (In the Torture Camp of Abused Women)
... aka: Lost Souls

Directed by:
Tun Fei Mou

As long as there's greed, poverty, government corruption, war, disease, natural disasters, religious suppression / persecution, racism and any number of other economic, political or social injustices, there will be refugees fleeing their country in hopes of creating a better life somewhere else. In a perfect world, this wouldn't even be an issue. In a perfect world, everyone would be safe, everyone would have opportunities, everyone would be allowed to live with dignity and everyone's basic needs would be met right where they are so that relocating to another country would be an issue of choice, not of necessity. People could then afford to wait and go through proper channels / vetting to do so. But that's not the world we live in, and likely never going to be the world we live in, so chances are there's going to be no end in sight when it comes to trying to find a way to deal with refugees and undocumented immigrants.

Though no amount of barriers or gestapo tactics or laws or threats or wannabe citizen enforcers is ever going to fix an issue that's a symptom of a much larger socioeconomic problem, most countries still have their own sets of band aid rules and regulations. While high level corruption typically creates an environment where people feel forced to flee their country, refugees often get abused all over again in their new sanctuary by corrupt individuals waiting in the wings to either take advantage of, or punish, the destitute and vulnerable. Lost Souls is a film that alleges to comment on all this but, let's get real, any "message" this thinks it's making is completely buried under a heaping helping of exploitation and sleaze.

A narrator informs us about a policy in Hong Kong that will allow those who've already entered illegally from the more restrictive Mainland China and made it to the urban area to get a green card and be on their way to becoming citizens. (This is referring to the Touch Base Policy that ended up being abolished one month before Lost Souls was even released.) However, the ones waiting in line to take advantage of the new law represent only a small fraction of those who've attempted to safely cross the border. They're the lucky ones and this film purports to give us a taste of things that could happen to the "unfortunate majority" that didn't make it.

We loosely follow three refugees; Ah Chuan (Yu Fen Woo), her brother Da Jung (Ming Chen) and another young man I don't think is ever named (we will call him "Brother 2" even if he isn't) as they and half-a-dozen other refugees make the dangerous nighttime journey from China to Hong Kong. They have to cross water and a barbed wire fence, get separated from the others and then hitch a ride on a boat filled with fellow refugees. Armed border patrol guards intercept the boat and capture most, but the three, lagging a bit behind, are able to flee. An old man (Ching-Ho Wang) catches them walking through the woods the following day and offers to hide them at his place. They give him a phone number of Ah Chuan's uncle, Mr. Lu (Lao Shen), and ask him to call so he can pick them up and smuggle them into the city. Instead, the old man calls and tries to extort 15,000 dollars for them; 5K apiece. Mr. Lu is only able to get 10K, which results in a fight between the refugees and the old man's thugs. More trouble follows when word gets around to sadistic slaver Hok (Shen Chan), who shows up with his men to steal them. Seems there's a little war going on between the slave dealers.

While trying to escape, the three refugees are separated, with Da Jung ending up with the old man slaver in a tent with dozens of others and Ah Chuan and Brother #2 stuck with the far more brutal Hok. The latter meet two other captives; the much-abused Ah Ming (Jenny Liang), who's first seen getting hot candle wax dribbled on her naked body before being gang raped and tossed around like a doll, and a crude older guy called Snake (Feng Hung), who has tried and failed to sneak into Hong Kong seven times already. Snake has been prisoner at Hok's for four months and, due to having a grenade in his possession, is able to keep the thugs at bay and get small perks like soda and newspapers. He suggests to Ah Chuan that she smear herself with horse manure to keep the thugs from raping her. However, that doesn't work as they simply strip off her clothes and rape her, anyway.

Hok's thugs eventually go to the other camp to steal the tent refugees. They kill off the guards and then start beating on the refugees with shovels and sticks; knocking most out but killing a few others, whom they cover with gasoline and set ablaze. At Hok's camp, the three refugees we've been following from the beginning are reunited but the horrors are just starting. Everyone's stripped naked, are regularly beaten and hosed down and are forced to sleep under, and fashion clothes out of, old newspaper scraps. Some are raped (including one of the guys) and others get killed. A woman is burned alive and a guy is hung by one leg and left to die. At an auction, a pot-bellied perv bids on sex slaves while prices are written directly on asses with lipstick. The main objective of the slavers is to try to get phone numbers from their captives so they can extort money from their relatives. If they refuse to give out the number, or simply have forgotten it, the torture they receive is more frequent.

With how obviously exploitative, sleazy and over-the-top this is, plus how campy the bad guys are and how they use loud and inappropriate kung fu sound effects for all the fight scenes, it's impossible to take this all that seriously. So don't go in expecting a deep, penetrating and plausible look at either human enslavement or the immigration crisis. Instead, you get a nasty, gritty film that merely touches on those topics so it can exploit the hypotheticals. If you can adjust your expectations accordingly and accept this as simply a piece of mean-spirited exploitation, it delivers the goods. There's plenty of violence, nudity and sadism and it's competently made, nicely shot and well-produced, as one would expect from Shaw Brothers.

This is also a chance to see director Mou getting warmed up for his later, far more potent shockers Men Behind the Sun (1988) and Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre (1995; aka Men Behind the Sun 4), both of which also deal with real life atrocities; specifically war crimes committed by the Japanese.

This Shaw Brothers release also features Han Chiang as main guard Shark, Kin Ping Chow as the traitor Long-Toe, Stephen Chan Yung as one of the refugees and Fei Ai as a border guard. Though there's an English-dubbed version, I'm not aware of any U.S. release until the 2009 DVD from Image Entertainment. It appears to have been pretty popular in Germany, though, as it was a theatrical release there and has been released numerous times on home video under several different titles.



kontoculai said...

Just watched this recently.I liked the story,the ending...but I think the sexual tortures are unnecessary.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I usually go back and forth on that in a lot of these movies. I think in certain movies (like Men Behind the Sun for instance) it's actually important that the director go the extreme / graphic route. Not so sure about this one though. Seems more like they merely used a topical theme as an excuse to make a nasty movie.

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