Thursday, August 26, 2010

Strike of the Tortured Angels (1982)

Film: “Tortured Angels” (a.k.a Strike of the Tortured Angels)
Release Date: 1982
Producer: Kenneth Holl
Writers: Dick O'Nell & Gary Capra
Director: Roy Rosenberg
Part of the Box Set: Film from the Grindhouse Experience 20 Film Feature Collection
Price of the Box Set: $25.00
Price of the Individual DVD (Amazon): $7.48

Brief Synopsis: Set in Hong Kong, “Susan” (the female protagonist) seeks to escape from a grueling women’s prison in order to gain revenge on a doctor who caused her sister’s suicide. Aided by her two of her prison friends (Julie and another woman), and pursued by a seemingly well intentioned prison guard (Mr. Lee), Susan attempts various revenge schemes against the doctor. Oh, and I neglected to add that this unnamed doctor also knocked up her sister, instructed her not the have an abortion, and broke up with her (all in one scene); he did while nearly simultaneously having an affair with her mother to further his career. Needless to say the film’s plot was so convoluted, and random that it was quite difficult to write a synopsis for this film.

Review: Dear god where do I start! Tortured Angels (a.k.a Strike of the Tortured Angels) is a film that certainly falls within the “Women in Prison” (WIP) genre. Although keep in mind that if you’re looking for a prototypically large amount of: nudity, lesbian scenes, and violence, this film seems to have a persistent shortage of all three. It’s a clusterfuck of a movie, which has the added benefit of being overshadowed by irremovable Danish subtitles “burned” into nearly every frame in the film.
This poorly dubbed story begins with a prison truck, driving down a dirt road (somewhere in Hong Kong) which is transporting a group of female prisoners. The truck soon becomes stuck in a pothole. One of the guards (classically named “Mr. Lee”) riding in the back with the prisoners, opens door, and attempts to push the truck out of the mud. He insists that the complaining prisoners “be good” (as if this was a good reason to not try and escape) while he blatantly leaves the back door open.
Naturally right as he exists, a passing truck drives by. Susan immediately makes a run for it, and tries to hitch a ride on the back of the passing truck. Mr. Lee realizes this and pursues her. Susan then attempts to flee on foot. For some “unknown” reason the entire surrounding area is a shallow mud-put. A drawn out cat-and-mouse chase quickly emerges the entirety of which is an excuse for Mr. Lee to mud-wrestle with the sexy escapee, and tear items of her clothing off in the process, until she is finally captured.

The prisoners are then shown being transported by boat. Susan (still completely covered in mud) has cold water thrown on her by a guard who laughs. Another prisoner (Julie) enters the scene. Julie is a “Black” Asian woman (the actor is clearly Asian). Her face is so poorly colored black that you can see white blotches through her makeup in several scenes. Incidentally she is also wearing a cheap afro wig that appears to have come from a second hand store. It’s one of those moments where you have to rewind the DVD a few times to confirm that crazy shit your just witnessed.
The film itself attempts themes of racial tolerance, but is nevertheless mildly racist in spite of itself; you just have to appreciate the irony here.

Anyway, the absurdity of these scene then culminates with Julie saying one of most terrible puns in all of movie history to Susan: “… we’re all in the same boat as you, just the same boat;” said as they’re on a boat…. Bravo…. Just… bravo…
The lot of prisoners then find themselves led into a women’s jail on an Island. They are lined up into rows, as the residential prisoners pile on-top of each other in an attempt to peer at the new blood from their prison window.

It is then revealed that Mr. Lee has taken an interest in Susan and has a seemingly benevolent desire to help her. Although as you might expect, in the fashion of a true WIP film, all the newly arrived prisoners (caricature Asian black woman included) are then made to strip completely naked and shower. They seem solemn and downtrodden at first, but soon comically start to giggle for no apparent reason.
Later, the women are re-dressed “prison attire” of: blue short shorts and a scarcely fitting tank top and lead to their cells. One of the female prison guards then smokes a cigarette and directs the women onwards; as she sets it down, our favorite Negrasian female snags it. The guard is alerted when she sees her tobacco missing, but when she forcefully examines the prisoners, she sees no trace of it. Fearless Julie, (ever the cool customer) had hid it inside her mouth with tongue twisting action, puffing out plumes of smoke when out of sight.

As the women enter their new cells Mr. Lee reappears and instructs “Jane” (the leader and long term resident of the prison) to look after the new girls. Then, in the “authentic” spirit of a true prison, the women giggle and flirt with Mr. Lee as he departs. The moment he does, Jane signals the residential prisoners (who’re standing on-top of their bunk beds) to descend on the new blood, smothering them with their blankets, kicking them on the ground while they laugh hysterically in some bizarre hazing ritual.
After the ritual is partially complete, a random girl turns her attention towards Julie (whom she pushes and tells to pay attention). Julie then touts her “humanity” and her unique “blackness” as a reason why she should be treated fairly. They “fight,” which is another way of saying: roll around on each other in skimpy attire. However badass black Julie prevails as the victor.
The hazing continues and all new arrivals (except Julie) are forced to crawl in a highly exaggerated and painful way on wooden floors, as the other prisoners then tear off items of their clothing. After the ritual is over, "matriarchal Jane" commands the battered prison newbie’s obey a series of “rules” (which they’re then made to kneel down and repeat after her):
1) Eat whatever is given to them
2) Be Jane’s servant for as long as she wants
3) Be hit by Jane whenever Jane sees fit to do so
4) Never make excuses to Jane

Of course Susan act defiantly and remains kneeled as the whole group of women are told to rise. This angers Jane who with one hand grabs Susan’s hair (and forcibly stands her up), and with the other grabs a nearby wooden block (that just "happens" to be available). Jane shoves the block in Susan's mouth, telling her to “eat it.” Next (with borderline comic authoritarianism) Jane makes the other girls repeat rule #1 and 3#, and then smacks Susan with the bit of wood.
Afterward, to break her “pride” Jane drags Susan by her hair around in a circle for an ungodly amount of time, as she struggles and screams and the other girls chant. During the commotion, a guard was altered, peered, into the cell, and (in the manor of a slapstick cartoon) all the girls begin humming innocently, whistling, looking about at nothing in particular, until he departed. Whoever wrote the script for this film apparently has the dramatic story depth of a Looney Tunes artist.
Soon after, the whole group of prisoners (now in a greenhouse) are forced to tend a crop of flowers; all except for Julie who had apparently been assigned to tend to a pig pen nearby. To rebel against the matriarchical hierarchy, Julie released the pigs into the greenhouse. The other "girls" (in a grand spectacle) decide to flee in absolute terror as Julie chases them riding on a pig.
Later on, the guards nonsensically decide that the prisoners should go “sunbathing” in a dusty field with no vegetation. Julie refuses to comply with the activity and remains in her cell. She is subsequently informed by Mr. Lee that a man in his office wants to see her, but she declines to see him. It is then revealed by the man (who is actually Julie’s boyfriend) that she has tuberculosis (but for some reason is too “proud” to admit it). For those of you who like sensical plot elements: abandon all hope ye who watch this film.
Julie’s boyfriend it seems brought medicine to treat her illness. He asks Mr. Lee to give it to Julie, and to inform her that his band is going on tour. Mr. Lee then invites Julie into his office, and tries to deceive her into drinking a cup full of the medicine (which she spits out due to the horrible taste). Mr. Lee causally insists that Julie take her medicine and then informs her of her boyfriend’s activities (which she appears to be saddened by upon hearing).

Another fun fact, the medicine given to Julie isn’t even modern, its 16th century ground up Chinese herbs, in an urn because…. fuck you modern medicine!

It’s worth mentioning that Mr. Lee has an apparent callous lack of concern for the fact that Julie has a DEADLY INFECTIOUS DISEASE, which could theoretically contaminate the entire prison population causing a pandemic. The film however conveniently ignores this prospect entirely.

Julie then wanders outside and is emotionally distraught. She has the medicine box in hand, and looks at the moon. Cheesy “heartfelt” 70’s music plays in the background, and in some attempt to create an atmosphere of dramatic bravado Julie heaves the medicine box into the night. I mean, who would want to be healthy or stop the spread of disease to the other prisoners so long as you could have you diseased PRIDE…Wait, what??
Anyway, during this little escapade Julie (by chance) witnessed Susan making an escape attempt. In a puzzling burst of aggression, she attempted to drag Susan back to the prison complex. Susan resists, and Julie smacks her in the back of the head knocking her unconscious, and drags her limp body back to the complex.
Both Susan and Julie are next seen at midday in a storage room filled entirely with chairs and desks. Julie chases Susan around the room, attempting to throw chairs at her, until she is overcome by a coughing fit from her tuberculosis. After the fit is over, Susan begins talking to Julie and Julie reveals that she needed Susan to escape…. and THAT is why she attacked her TWICE (what you think movie's are suppose to make sense?). Susan then reveals to Julie her desire to kill “the doctor” and starts reminiscing about events prior to her imprisonment.
For the sake of time, I will briefly summarize the majority the last half of the movie (much of which is strange, boring and repetitive).

1) Susan recalls the “the doctor” having an affair with her sister, and walking in on them.
2) Susan recalls herself retreating to a bar and hitting a guy over the head with a beer bottle for hitting on her.
3) Susan lastly remembers hearing news of her sister committing suicide.
4) Susan, Julie, and Julie’s friend successfully escape off the island to mainland Hong Kong on a supply boat.
5) The “posse” then decides to rob a passing group of schoolgirls by stripping them of their schoolgirl uniforms and bikes.
6) Bikers appears come to try to kidnap them
7) Blacasian Julie defeats bikers
8) Susan confronts her mother and learns of her affair with the doctor. She also learns that the doctor manipulated and abandoned her mother and as a result the hospital she runs will suffer.
9) Mr. Lee visits Susan’s mother’s home with the intention of finding Susan and returning her to the prison to reduce her punishment.
10) The “Doctor” decides to both marry a woman and change jobs for advancement; it is also revealed that this “doctor” doesn’t yet have his doctorate?? (Logic for the win)
11) The Doctor has dinner with his rich future father-in-law who has a horribly dubbed winy Asian super-villain voice.
12) Susan receives a copy of her sister’s will which has details of sister’s sexual history with doctor.
13) Susan uses those details to blackmails doctor for half a million dollars, and tells him to meet her at a specified location.
14) Susan attacks the doctor with knife when he shows up
15) The Doctor escapes
16) Susan’s “posse” smashes the doctor’s home windows with stones, and flees afterwards.
17) Julie’s boyfriend says he wants to marry her.
18)  Julie responds by saying: “do you really want someone who looks like this *steaches face* I’m dying and there’s nothing you can do about that (ignoring the fact that tuberculosis is actually a curable disease); I’m ugly.”
19) Susan and her posse then kidnap the Doctor’s prospective wife

The finale unfolds on a suspension bridge stretched across two peaks on a mountain. Susan (who has a gun), her posse, and their hostage are on one side of the bridge, and the Doctor, Mr. Lee, and his hired thugs are on the opposing side.
The doctor approaches Susan on the suspension bridge and tries to persuade her to release his future bride. Words are exchanged, a struggle breaks out and the doctor wrestles the gun away from Susan. The doctor then points the rifle in Susan’s general direction. 

Julie insults the doctor and aggressively approaches him. The doctor responds by shooting Julie in the side. What follows is one of the most hilarious death-faces of all time. It’s like Julie contorted her face so as to appear horribly stupid while at the same time transforming into a zombie as her eyes rolled back into her head. As you can see, it is quite odd.
Enraged, Susan next goes after the doctor and manages to get the gun away from him; shooting him in the leg as he tries to escape. When Susan confronts the doctor, he tries to justify his actions by apologizing and giving a pathetic sob-story about how his parents died and didn’t give him the attention he needed. Maybe it was just me but he seems to almost make a subtle series of passes at Susan, before promptly making a move for Susan’s gun. The doctor loses his balance, and falls gracefully to his doom.

Conclusion: The film has a number of “it’s so bad its good” moments (which do amuse) however, the film drags on too long and is monotonous and repetitive at times.
Grindhouse Rating: 5 out of 10