Monday, January 28, 2019

Shao nu ji zhong ying (1983)

... aka: 少女集中營
... aka: Aufstand im Frauenlager (Uprising in the Women's Camp)
... aka: Can ku nu zi jiz hong ying (Brutal Women's Concentration Camp)
... aka: Commando Fury
... aka: Female Concentration Camp
... aka: La prison des tortures (Torture Prison)
... aka: Prison de femmes (Women's Prison)
... aka: Training Camp
... aka: Women Prison 1991

Directed by:
"Chester Wang" (Chung-Kuang Wang)

Trying to look up information on this title online will lead to a variety of different results and probably also give you a headache. HK Cinemagic lists it as a 1981 release directed by one-time director Chester Yang, the Hong Kong Movie Database lists it as a 1983 release directed by Chester Wong Chung-Gwong and IMDb currently lists this same film THREE separate times; once as a 1984 release under the title Shao nu ji zhong ying / Training Camp, another time as a 1986 release under the title Commando Fury and then again as a 1991 release as Nu zi jian yu yi jiu jiu yi! HKMB is the one with the more accurate info even though they also list this twice as two separate films. The original release title appears to have been 少女集中營 / Shao nu jiz hong ying / Female Concentration Camp and HKMB at least gets the cast and director right. Listed running times will differ depending on where you look but are usually either 81 or 90 minutes, though the one I watched ran 85 minutes and I also found a Mandarin language version that runs a little over 88 minutes.

The 1986 year most websites use is likely the year of the English release under the Commando Fury title, which was handled through Joseph Lai's IFD Films & Arts Ltd. Instead of adding new footage, the original was left almost entirely intact. The major changes were the new (terrible) dubbing, a more action-oriented music score to replace the more dramatic original score and Anglicized credits. Godfrey Ho, who is listed as the director on one of the IMDb entries, didn't direct anything, though he's credited as the writer (using the alias "Benny Ho") on the IFD print.

Holy (and wholly) misleading artwork, Batman!

It's wartime and a bunch of females arrive at a secluded prison known only as "Training Camp." One girl who tries to run away is immediately shot dead. Arrogant, sadistic camp director Long ("Bernard" / Shou-Ping Tsui) then offers the new detainees a "welcoming gift" that involves branding them on the chest. Another vehicle arrives, this time with political prisoner Donna Yang ("Celia Kong" / Cheng Yin Chiang) on board. Donna's father was a diplomat and spy and, since he's now dead, they've kidnapped her in order to locate some microfilm they want... and they plan on torturing the hell out of her until she tells them where it's at! She's kept in solitary away from the other prisoners where she's regularly slapped, punched, doped up and whipped unconscious while being called things like "rude little cow!" Still, Donna's not talking. She even attempts to kill herself by refusing to eat at one point, prompting them to start forcing rice down her throat.

The Mandarin version is a nicer widescreen print; unfortunately no English subs.

Having it just as bad as Donna is tough new inmate Terry Yu ("Juliet Chan" / Li-Yun Chen, also the star of several other IFD butcher jobs like SCORPION THUNDERBOLT). Unlike Donna, Terry seems to bring all of her problems onto herself by never knowing when to keep her mouth shut. Attempting to step in to stop the guards from abusing fellow inmates and constantly arguing with them results in her being severely punished on a regular basis. When she mouths off to top guard Vulture ("Keith Yang" / Hsiung Yang), he knocks her down and then stomps on her throat! She's smacked, kicked and pistol-whipped, tied up on the beach near the ocean where the waves almost down her and then tied to the back of a motorcycle and dragged over rocks. Somehow through all of that, Terry's gums never stop flapping.

The girls are forced to work daily in the sweltering heat of a rock quarry, where they're beat, pass out, beat for passing out, indiscriminately shot or accidentally killed by dynamite. Helping to oversee the prisoners is a sadistic bitch named Helen ("Catherine Lau" / Chia-Fen Liu) who marches around in boots slapping prisoners around with her riding crop. Anyone who tries to escape is killed in gruesome fashion. One woman is covered in gasoline and burned alive. Others are shot, have their throats slit and are tortured by various means, like starvation, forcing them to stand for 24 hours straight, sleep deprivation and locking them in tiny cages for days at a time so their muscles stiffen up. The guards entertain themselves by abusing them, making them bark for food and setting up cat fights and then placing bets on the winner.

Of course there comes a time when the tables must be turned. Terry, who's been sent there undercover by revolutionary Tiger Chan ("Harold" / Hsieh Wang) to help Donna escape, ends up staging a successful breakout by killing a few guards and stealing a truck. However, much of the dangerous trip out of enemy territory must be done by foot and the ladies have to survive booby traps, being hunted down by armed guards and the elements. There's a leap down a waterfall, an almost-crocodile attack, gory impromptu bullet removal surgery, a face smashed in with a rock and, during the film's most head-scratching moment, a random attack by killer trees (!?)

Say what you will and this movie probably deserves it, but one thing it can never be accused of is being slow. There's near-constant blood, violence, fighting, action, screaming and torture. While that all gets to be a bit much after awhile it's at least finally broken up after about an hour during the entertainingly silly escape portion of the film, which concludes in a hilarious fight on the beach that includes lots of gunfire, slashings, karate and bodies being blown up with grenades. The English language dialogue ("No one can die without my permission!") and editing are both terrible but that's how these things usually go.

One noteworthy difference between this and basically every other women-in-prison exploitation flick from the 70s and 80s is that there's no nudity. Yeah, you heard me right. The prisoners aren't a group of inexplicably hot women running around in flimsy tank tops and cut off shorts. Instead, they wear dingy blue uniforms consisting of pants and long sleeved shirts! There's no sex, no on-screen rape and not even any butch lesbian guards or prisoners. These ladies also don't have to take a shower every five minutes like in the other films of this type. Even a moment where an inmate is having her clothes ripped off by a guard quickly cuts away. That scene looked like it was censored but when I checked the longer version I noticed the same exact cut is there as well.

The cast also includes Pauline Yu-Huan Wang (billed as "Yvonne Wang"), who'd go on to make a name for herself playing ghosts, elves and hopping vampires in various HK fantasy and horror movies. The director started as an assistant to Taiwan's most famous / prolific horror director Feng-Pan Yao before making his own films. None of these - Living Soul in a Dead Body (1981), Woman from Hell (1981), Butcher (1984), The Vampire Dominator (1984) - were ever released here in America and are very difficult to find, unlike Commando Fury which seemed to get a VHS release everywhere.

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