Naked Killer (Chiklo gouyeung) (1992)

Jennifer D. Wesley

Man-hating lesbian assassins take center stage in this exploitation joint.

Naked Killer (chiklo Gouyeung)

Director: Clarence Fok Yiu-leung
Cast: Chingmy Yau, Simon Yam, Carrie Ng, Kelly Yiu, Svenwara Madoka
Distributor: Fortune Star
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Wong Jing's Workshop
First date: 1992
US DVD Release Date: 2003-07-22

The cat-suited women in Clarence Fok Yiu-leung's Naked Killer (Chiklo Gouyeung) are extremely dangerous. Man-hating lesbian assassins take center stage in this exploitation joint, which showcases much of what the Hong Kong style action film does so well: flamboyant fight sequences, quick cuts, reversals, ingenious weaponry, and sex.

But Naked Killer is different from similarly conceived action flicks in its complexly rendered gender politics, which oscillate between empowering and exploiting its female centers. Men who routinely victimize women -- here, "playboys" and "rapists" -- are punished for their sins by avenging female assassins. Accordingly, sexual relationships excluding men (say, lesbians) are portrayed as "man-hating," deviant, and dangerous. Just as wicked men are disciplined, so too are women who violate sexual conventions.

The disjointed plot revolves around Kitty (Chingmy Yau), who takes up assassination after the brutal murder of her father. Seeking revenge, she finds herself in over her head and seeks training from killer-for-hire Sister Cindy (Svenwara Madoka). Kitty crosses paths with Tinam (Simon Yam), who's investigating a string of gruesome murders marked by the complete dismemberment of the male victims. Predictably, Tinam develops a crush on Kitty, who turns out to be one of the killers he's pursuing. Then things really get complicated.

After Kitty and Sister Cindy kill a Triad boss, unseen Japanese businessmen take out a contract on their lives. The assassins paid to do the job? Cindy's former student Princess (deliciously played by Carrie Ng) and her lover, Baby (Kelly Yiu). All this leads to a showdown among the four assassins, which frankly looks like softcore porn.

Fok flings stereotypes as proficiently as his characters fling knives on strings. The women form a continuum of female identities: Princess hates men and kills with a kiss; Baby is pert, infantile, and sexually submissive; Sister Cindy straddles the line between mentor and lover with both Kitty and Princess; and Kitty is at once docile and unpredictable, prone to lapping milk and purring on command, but also lashing out sporadically.

In lining up such images, Naked Killer is an old-fashioned exploitation film, extolling male mastery of sexy female bodies. But it also invokes the specter of that mastery's failure, usually by some kind of castration. Tinam has been rendered impotent after the accidental shooting of his brother and vomits every time he pulls his weapon. The lesbian assassins are always sure to remove their victims' "manhood," and repeated scenes feature reverse-rape-type penetrations: men are impaled, stabbed, and eviscerated in a variety of gory ways.

The story is a cautionary one: women who abandon sexual and social convention will suffer, and men who allow women to control them will be killed, or worse, castrated. Kitty finds redemption in Tinam, who garners power from her -- sexual and investigative -- as he "turns" her from lesbianism. By embracing her heterosexual love for Tinam, Kitty gains her own brief reprieve. And by controlling her, Tinam regains at least part of his masculine authority.

Fortune Star's recent DVD release of Naked Killer includes features that underline the film's charm and complexity. The well edited and composed "Hong Kong beauty stars photo gallery" highlights Hong Kong actresses in a variety of films, drawing attention -- however obliquely -- to the film's representations of women.

In addition, the package includes both the original trailer for the 1992 theatrical release and the updated version. The 1992 trailer features the original theme song over a montage of sex and violence, while the updated version uses a clichéd guitar-driven rock and a very different montage that oversimplifies the plot and focuses more firmly on Kitty as the film's driving force. The difference between the two reflects cultural changes over the past 10 years, particularly as women have become action movie leads.

Fortune Star's marketing of the film takes advantage of the growing popularity of Asian film in Western (particularly American) markets. Rather than retranslating or updating for the DVD release, this package keeps the often inadvertently humorous language features: the dubbing is badly timed and acted, and the English subtitles (which is the better way to view the film) are strangely translated -- such as when one man calls another an "arse thief" -- only enhancing the film's eccentric appeal.

Naked Killer never mistakes itself for art; rather, it is artful camp. Fok's direction is visually dynamic, with odd camera angles, quick cuts, and the occasional surprisingly artistic touch, such as the James Bond-style opening sequence that features all four female assassins draped in blood-red fabric. The fantastic sets and vivid colors combine with the outlandishly entertaining action sequences to create a fully realized comic book world. And the over-the-top performances -- Princess chomping on a cigar as she taunts Cindy, Tinam writhing on the ground as he endures flashbacks of his brother's murder -- accentuate the film's campy exaggeration. Naked Killer is definitely not politically correct, but it is surprisingly political.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.

8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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