A woman takes revenge on a gang of Japanese thugs in this early 1980s Taiwan exploitationer…
Although when thinking of crazed exploitation cinema Taiwan might not be the first place that springs to mind, the territory was responsible for an impressive number of genre films during the late 1970s and early 80s. Often focusing on vengeful female protagonists striking back against an oppressive patriarchy, these films saw directors dealing with subjects of crime and corruption, throwing in plenty of sex and brutal violence as a way of addressing the turbulence of Taiwanese society at the time. Referred to as ‘Taiwan Black Movies’, a collection of these hard to find B-Movies has been made available by the Anthology Film Archives, in partnership with the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute (TFAI) and Taiwan Cinema Toolkit, including Woman Revenger, a 1981 shocker from director Ouyang Chun.
The film follows Elsa Yeung as Ling, a dance teacher living in Hong Kong, who heads to Japan to investigate when her childhood friend Meihua is murdered by a vicious bunch of gangsters, leading her to Meihua’s sister Meifeng and a batch of stolen cocaine. After the gangsters kidnap Meifeng and force her into prostitution, Ling tries to free her, only to lose her eye in the process. This doesn’t stop her, and she gathers together a group of other girls who have suffered at the hands of the mob patriarchy, and after some martial arts training they head out to take violent revenge.
Woman Revenger, which also apparently goes by the not entirely inaccurate title The Nude Body Case in Tokyo, was directed by Ouyang Chun, who in turn also goes by Tsai Yang-Ming, is a classic grindhouse revenge flick, very much reminiscent of the Shaw Brothers films of the time. The plot certainly follows the usual template, with Elsa Yeung’s Ling falling foul of the uniformly nasty male characters before taking her revenge, and though while the film does have an anti-authoritarian streak which can be read into, it’s generally played for unpretentious exploitation thrills. It’s fair to say that there’s nothing really new here, with the film recalling the iconic Japanese Lady Snowblood and Female Prisoner Scorpion series in particular, though Ouyang Chun manages to tick all the right boxes and to give the proceedings a sense of gritty, old school fun. While the film doesn’t get as graphic or far-out as its Hong Kong counterparts of the time, there’s still a fair amount of nudity and violence, including some shocking eye-stabbings and some inventively unpleasant use of ants and snakes.
At the same time though, Woman Revenger does undeniably feel a little dated and unfocused, with little happening during the first hour aside from Ling wandering around Japan in what’s a fairly random investigation. While the film’s running time is admirably short, Ouyang Chun spends a bit too much time on filler material, with the middle third of the film basically consisting of tourist footage, with Ling going to some sumo wrestling and visiting Mount Fuji, and this does slow things down. This probably won’t matter too much to dedicated exploitation fans used to films meandering between the money shots, though a bit more action and consistency of pace would have helped.
Elsa Yeung is great in the lead role though, and Woman Revenger does pick up during the final third, with a few fun fight and training scenes as Ling and her cohorts take their revenge against the entertaining despicable bad buys. There’s enough here to keep exploitation fans happy, and the film is also well worth checking out for anyone interested in Taiwanese Black Movie cinema, if with suitably adjusted expectations.