There was more to the Shaw Brothers studio than the martial arts movies seen by Americans in the '70s-'80s. A run-down of Shaw's complete motion picture output will show they also released dramas, romances, musicals, horror, comedies and exploitation for Aisan audiences, too; "The Kiss Of Death" (directed by Ho Meng-Hua) falls into the latter category. True, some martial arts fighting is found here, but it does not take up the WHOLE scenario. This is a REVENGE picture in the "Death Wish" vein with more than a few twists.
One night, a woman factory worker (Chen Ping, in her first Shaw film) is gang-raped on her way home from work, contracts an STD (the aforementioned "Vietnam Rose"), and decides to get back at all the perpetrators before the disease claims her life. She learns how to be on the offensive from her new employer--and eventual lover--a club owner (Lo Lieh) and a fellow employee (Hui Siu-Hung).
As most exploitation films go, one may guess at how this will all turn out without having seen even a few flickers, but I say that's not necessarily so; the viewer will be entertained, regardless (no spoilers)! While there is a plot, the story is applied in such broad brushstrokes, it's up to the actors (to be precise, the ones who are the "heroes") to fill in the gaps with emotions that explain the motivations of the characters; the movie goes relatively quick, so details are scarce.
The Mandarin dub (with subtitles) works better than the English dub, but BOTH still have laughable moments of dialogue, which means it fits in well with other exploitation movies of the '70s! Still, the movie caught my attention with how the subject matter was handled from a point of view that differs from Hollywood's; after that, the only true difference between this and "Death Wish" is the look of the latter is slick and slightly sanitized. The gritty visuals of the location filming (in Hong Kong, I presume) conveys what an unpleasant place this city is to live--and die--in. (The apartment building Ping's character lives at looks so grey, so forboding, it adds to the cold nastiness when the assault occurs on her. It's an inspired use of the locale, filmed from positions high above to add to the sensation she IS living in a "concrete jungle".)
The acting is about par with "B"-level exploitation, though it is is a touch disappointing to see great character actors like Kong Do and Fan Mei Sheng (as two of the rapists) deliver one-note performances, even if they are heavies. As usual, this Shaw reissue is "unrated"; just the same, keep the kids (and the squeamish) away from this for all the adult themes, nudity and gore within. These voyeuristic "interruptions" are laid on thick; it aids in setting the mood, but the story suffers from the excess.
If a viewer wants a break from the usual Shaw period piece/martial arts "programmer", this contemporary (for 1973) production may catch their attention. Others may want to steer away because of the "R"-rated material, which makes the whole presentation seem NASTIER than some of Chang Cheh's "bloodiest" classics! Of course, many will buy "The Kiss Of Death" because it is notable as one of many Shaw films that inspired parts of Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" movies; a few minutes into this Image DVD will show the viewer why! Here's hoping Image takes the plunge at some point and decides to put out some more non-martial-art Shaw titles; they won't sell as many as they will of, say, "House Of Traps", but it's not the first time they have taken chances, as their putting out of "The Kiss Of Death" shows!
All the best, Brother Fang.