From the neon lights of Hong Kong we segue to disco dancers grooving to a funk-tastic score courtesy of actor-director-composer Frankie Chan. Upstairs, hedonistic hipsters puff weed and nuzzle naked women. A young woman named Wanjing (Mai Laan) trades sexual favours for a shot of heroin. Moments later, Wanjing’s distraught sister Gao Wanfei (Chen Ping) bursts into the room along with crusading cop, Deng Weipin (Yueh Hua), only to find her naked in bed, reduced to a drug-addled zombie. “Drugs!” scowls Wanfei, hugging her sister in tearful dismay. “I hate them so much!” So what does she do? Pose as a hooker in white hot-pants and red boots so she can sneak into an underground drug lab to kick all kinds of ass in the first step in her war on drug kingpin Boss Wu (Wang Hsieh). Cue super-stylish credit sequence with Wanfei striking cool kung fu poses, naked save for her shotgun and gun-belt.
Not to be confused with the like-named Spanish comedy-horror Sexy Killer (2008), this Shaw Brothers actioner, also known as The Drug Connection and Death Lady - presumably riffing on Death Wish (1974) - is an uncredited remake of Coffy (1973), Jack Hill’s blaxploitation classic that made an icon out of Pam Grier. Hence, just like Pam, Gao Wanfei is a working nurse with a sister hooked on drugs, and dons an array of wild wigs to infiltrate the underworld. Although derivative, the screenplay penned by veteran Ni Kuang is well-paced and benefits from the zesty direction of Sun Chung, one of the most technically gifted of all Shaw’s filmmakers.
Chung uses the simplistic plot as a showcase for his virtuoso editing and audacious steadicam shots, which were very advanced for Hong Kong cinema at the time. He also packs in all the prerequisite, grindhouse crowd-pleasing action and sleaze he can: catfights, car chases, shootouts and kinky sex including a villain who, after a hard day pushing dope (“I’ll make the whole world addicted to drugs! Ha-ha-ha!”), likes to unwind whipping naked women in his medieval torture dungeon or pleasuring them with his walking stick. And no that’s not a euphemism. Best of all is the film’s showstopping finale wherein Wanfei ploughs her car straight through the villains' lair, then goes shotgun crazy in grand Sam Peckinpah style.
Actress Chen Ping started out in Taiwanese cinema at age sixteen before she signed with Shaw Brothers in 1972. Despite her predominantly sultry image, she exhibited a unique versatility, shifting deftly from grindhouse style roles such as in Kiss of Death (1973) and Mini-Skirt Gang (1974), period martial art films, lowbrow sex comedies and classy erotica such as The Golden Lotus (1974), among several films she made with feted auteur Li Han-hsiang.
Shaw Brothers had a long tradition of strong fighting women in period fare, but for some reason when it came to contemporary action films often hobbled their heroines with psychological weaknesses. Wanfei proves a poor judge of character and falls for He Jingye (Si Wai), a upright crusader against drugs who turns out to be not only a womanising sleazebag but a political pawn in Boss Wu’s pocket. Jingye talks just like a politician, but the script insistently refers to him as a “celebrity”, continuing a curious trend in Shaw Brothers’ modern day films for depicting show business as a moral sewer. Which is bizarre given how many celebrities they launched onto enduring careers.
Evidently He Jingye’s moral rectitude proves a turn-on for Gao Wanfei given they soon slip between the sheets for numerous steamy sex scenes that are the film’s other raison d’etre. It’s not called The Sexy Killer for nothing. This annoys Deng Weipin to no end, though his outrage seemingly stems as much from romantic jealousy as his late discovery that Jingye is no good. Hong Kong cinema was rather more conservative in its moral outlook during the Seventies. So whilst the film revels in Wanfei’s vigilante actions, it also hypocritically condemns them. Deng Weipin’s heavy-handed hectoring spoils some of the fun, but the film stays on track thanks to Sun Cheng’s steady hand. Through it all, he exibits a good eye for locations, staging a foiled sexual assault atop a vast underground pipe and the night-time grand guignol lynching of one minor character from a construction site shot from a vertiginous height. The studio reteamed Sun Chung, Chen Ping and Yueh Hua for the sequel: Lady Exterminator (1977), that for the moment remains frustratingly obscure.