Of the many Bruceploitation movies that proliferated throughout the Seventies, this ranks among the most brazen. It doesn’t even bother to cast a Bruce Lee look-alike, just shoves his name in the title! Nevertheless what lifts Bruce, Kung Fu Girls to the front rank is a stellar turn from one of the greatest kung fu stars of all time: Polly Shang Kwan. Her shiny leather boots and hot-pants ensemble doesn’t hurt either.
Hong Kong is rocked by a series of robberies committed by the Invisible Thief. Money just flies away before his victims’ astonished eyes. With the HKPD under close scrutiny from the international press, the Chief Superintendent is pressured by his boss to crack this bizarre case. Meanwhile, triad tough guys chase a handsome but weedy scientist into a women’s only indoor pool. These wrongdoers get their asses kicked by five bikini-clad kung fu girls, whose feisty leader (Polly Shang Kwan) is immediately smitten with the science guy. Turns out Polly is the superintendent’s niece. Fresh from San Francisco, she and her gal pals frequent the local fitness centre for young ladies and are all lethally skilled at kung fu.
Featuring a fabulously funky fuzz guitar soundtrack, Bruce, Kung Fu Girls - or Five Pretty Young Ladies as its known in Hong Kong - takes a while to get going. Though the girls are clearly capable, Polly’s uncle is reluctant to let them in on the action. “You girls shouldn’t act so tough, or else nobody will want to marry you”, he chortles, earning the enmity of feminists everywhere. There are weird detours such as when all the girls make separate dates with the scientist, only to daydream about enacting violent revenge when he seemingly stands them up. A lengthy musical interlude where they go hiking across picturesque mountains seems to have strayed from a Bollywood movie. Polly even strums guitar for a campfire sing-along. The film seemingly exists in part to extol the virtues of clean-living. Our gang of happy-go-lucky heroines indulge in such healthy activities as camping, playing Frisbee in the park and of course, practicing kung fu.
Eventually, the girls don their matching studded leather fetish outfits to prove themselves by saving an old businessman, then trap the Invisible Thief while he’s in the midst of stealing the priceless “moon rock” on loan from the Americans. Whereupon the thief is unmasked and poor Polly gets an unfortunate surprise. Not the audience though, since we’ve already seen her scientist boyfriend step inside his high-tech invisible machine. While the science fiction tinged plot is largely a throwback to Sixties spy movies, the tone is disarmingly feminine with an emphasis on comic book romance to match the floral fashions and pastel-shaded production design. How many action movies end with the heroines being tearfully bestowed with flower garlands?
The film was directed by Shut Dik whose other notable work includes the Bruce Lee biopic Dragon Story (1974) and the bizarrely titled The Guy!! The Guy!! (1974). His camerawork is fluid and inventive enough to make one lament the cropped Cinemascope frame available on most fuzzy bootleg prints. The film isn’t free of those characteristic HK movie eccentricities. At one point Chiao Ping (Elsa Yeung Wai-San) breaks the fourth wall and blows a kiss at the audience. While the engaging, attractive cast acquit themselves well as a whole, Polly Shang Kwan’s fiery spin-kicks are truly something to behold. No wires, no stunt doubles. Polly was legit.