A Hong Kong crime syndicate use naïve showgirls to smuggle heroin around the world, then murder the women before they learn too much. When the gang branch into diamond robbery, ace policewoman Yen Nan-See (Nancy Yen Nan-See) discovers her boyfriend Li (Liu Yung) lost his father in a hail of bullets. Miss Eve (Evelyn Kraft), a top cop from Scotland Yard, recruits a vengeful Nan-See to form a “special action squad” together with sultry slingshot wielding Lu Ping (Dana) and Korean crossbow expert Kim Ching Lang (Gam Ching-Lan). Hoping to draw out the drug smugglers, Eve has her girls go undercover at a triad-run nightclub: Nan-See shakes it as a scantily clad dancer, Lu Ping becomes a masseuse and is soon fending off groping crime boss Mr. Shaw, while Ching Lang puts her musical talents to use as a nightclub singer. However, when Li recognises his girl shimmying onstage he almost blows the whole operation.
The globe-spanning TV phenomenon that was Charlie’s Angels spawned a fair few foreign imitators, notably across Asia where feisty female fighters were less of a novelty than a longstanding tradition. Deadly Angels was Shaw Brothers’ big screen answer to the hit American show. Strangely, in spite of its international cast (notably Swiss born Evelyn Kraft, whose other Shaw hit was the much loved, by me anyway, The Mighty Peking Man (1977)) and success on the grindhouse circuit, this remains among the more obscure Shaw movies and was not among those titles chosen for digital restoration. Which means a grainy, washed-out bootleg print is the only way to see it.
That is a shame because Deadly Angels is quite a slick production by Seventies Hong Kong exploitation standards with some audacious camerawork and lighting setups. The first twenty minutes or so are unnecessarily vague, dawdling through random killings and other criminal activities as though the filmmakers set out to imitate William Friedkin’s bewildering intro to Sorcerer (1977). Although the undercover intrigue is never quite as exciting as it should be, things do perk up once our glamorous heroines swing into action and Pao Hsueh-li stages a number of suspenseful, even unsettling sequences. He cranks up the gore and nudity to levels Aaron Spelling could never get away with. Our girls endure a fair amount of sadistic violence and degradation before they crack this case, though winningly they give as good as they get.
A charismatic Nancy Yen Nan-See handles the most substantial portion of the plot, but the whole cast acquit themselves well in the peppy fight scenes choreographed by Shaw veteran Tang Chia. Hitherto unknown for their fighting abilities, an athletic Evelyn Kraft (who throughout her brawls maintains impeccable makeup and coiffed blonde locks) and sexploitation favourite Dana make surprisingly convincing badasses, while Korean starlet Gam Ching-Lam (who twice co-starred with Jackie Chan in the underrated Half a Loaf of Kung Fu (1978) and Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin (1978)) takes on thugs led by a crippled kung fu master, and Nancy Yen Nan-See ups the glam factor as she wipes out a small army of hitmen while dressed in a fetching spangly silver bikini with matching eye-shadow. The girls also employ a unique array of death-dealing fashion accessories including explosive earrings, killer high heels and Nancy’s oddly chic spiked golden ball and chain. Not to be outdone, the bad guys have their own femme fatale in the boss’ girlfriend Yu Chi (Yum Yum Shaw), who sneaks inside the hospital disguised as a nurse to finish off Li’s father.
By far the most memorable set-piece is the final assault on the villains lair that works in a jaw-dropping motorcycle stunt, an exploding building, exhausting array of injuries for our heroines and Evelyn Kraft crashing through a window dressed in a skimpy top and skin-tight denim hot pants wielding a mean rocket-launcher. Honestly, what’s not to love?