Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dragon Lady (1971)

Shot under the title Wit’s End, then given the lurid moniker Dragon Lady for broader release, this exploitation picture was made in Singapore with a cast mixing Americans and Asians. Adding to its dubious pedigree, the flick was retitled yet again as The G.I. Executioner when the shlockmeisters at Troma Entertainment put the movie back into theaters and on home video in the mid-’80s. By any name, however, this is a poorly made compendium of fetishistic violence and leering nude scenes, strung together with a powerful but out-of-place acid-rock score. There’s a germ of an interesting story buried under the muck, because protagonist Dave Dearborn (Tom Keena) is an opportunistic American stitching together a living in a foreign land by taking disreputable odd jobs for hoodlums; a few years after this turkey hatched, director Peter Bogdanovich tackled a similar storyline in his world-class drama Saint Jack (1979). Yet while Saint Jack is a sly character study, Dragon Lady is only a few steps removed from a grungy porn film: Dearborn is constantly in and out of bed with anonymous women, and the climax of the picture features a naked, silicone-enhanced actress racing around a boat while she shoots villains and gets stabbed. The story has something to do with a Chinese scientist trying to deliver military secrets to the West, but the plot is really just a thin excuse for Dearborn to get embroiled with assorted sleazy characters. In a typically crude scene, he gets drugged and chained while wearing a spangled pink vest and harem paints, because, apparently, even the men of Singapore can’t keep their hands off him. In another scene, Dearborn hides under a bed while a prostitute services a john several inches above his face, and then Dearborn chokes a snake that’s crawled under the bed with him; the implied masturbation metaphor is as close as the movie once titled Wit’s End gets to wit.

Dragon Lady: LAME

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