Thursday, May 17, 2012
Movie Review: THE DEADLY AND THE BEAUTIFUL
THE DEADLY AND THE BEAUTIFUL
aka CHINESE PUZZLE, THE WOMEN OF TRANSPLANT ISLAND, WONDER WOMEN
1973, Media #M193 (Beta/VHS), OP, 89m 46s
By John Charles
Originally published in slightly different form in Video Watchdog #58
Made back in the days when a PG rating allowed exploitation producers to get away with topless nudity, see-through lingerie, and slow motion cockfight footage, this US/Philippines co-production boasts a solid exploitation cast and a plot that plays out like a bizarre combination of TWILIGHT PEOPLE and SUPERARGO AND THE FACELESS GIANTS. Deep in her secret lab on an island off Manila, the evil Dr. Tsu (Nancy Kwan) is conducting transplant experiments on the world's greatest athletes, which are being procured by her five woman abduction squad (whose ranks include THE BIG DOLL HOUSE's Roberta Collins). When a top Jai Alai player goes missing, former CIA agent Mike Harber (producer Ross Hagen, now a familiar face in Fred Olen Ray's repertory company) is enlisted by Lloyds of London to track him down, so that the company will not have to make good on their half million dollar insurance policy. Aided by congenial cabbie Lapu Lapu (the ubiquitous Vic Diaz), Harber fends off various attempts on his life and finally makes his way to the island, where he is soon captured. Taken on the obligatory tour of the doctor's lab prior to his demise, Harber barely survives a session with the good doctor's "Brain Sex" machine. However, he is in for unexpected help, courtesy of some disgruntled employees and Tsu's basement full of botched experimental subjects.
Directed by Robert O'Neil (of BLOOD MANIA infamy and New World's teen hooker opus, ANGEL), THE DEADLY AND THE BEAUTIFUL is prime fodder for Filipino exploitation fans, with its laughable attempts at martial arts, obvious stunt doubles (as is almost always the case with Filipino productions, local males stand in for the caucasian females), ridiculous make-up, surgical outfits that look like clear plastic raincoats, and all manner of tacky, sub-Strickfadden electrical equipment. The highlight is an extended car chase that seems to cover about half of Manila and features some of the silliest and most gratuitous stuntwork in memory. Nice scenery and a funky, trés-'70s score are extra pluses, as is Sid Haig, in a meaty supporting role as Gregorious, Dr. Tsu's affable middleman. The cast also includes the star's wife, Claire Hagen, as one of the doctor's more obliging henchwomen.
Released in 1982, Media's tape still looks reasonably good. The image is fairly sharp, and colors are deep, if not particularly accurate (fleshtones are all over the map, sometimes in the same scene). Contrasts tend to be weak and the framing on the unmatted presentation reveals a lot of dead space on the upper portion of the screen. The sound is okay, though the on-set recording is such that it is not easy to make out some of the dialogue. The box lists an incorrect running time of 82m.