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  Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold You Go Girl
Year: 1975
Director: Chuck Bail
Stars: Tamara Dobson, Stella Stevens, Tanny, Norman Fell, Albert Popwell, Caro Kenyatta, Shen Chan, Christopher Hunt
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Two Americans, Matthew (Albert Popwell) and Melvin (Caro Kenyatta) are in Hong Kong to organise a million dollar drug deal with the local gangsters. They are met by their contact who takes them to a boat in the harbour where the heroin is being manufactured, and the man in charge of the deal, Chen (Shen Chan) is anxious to get the money. However, Matthew and Melvin have only supplied half a million dollars cut in half in their briefcase to make sure they don't get ripped off, and it looks as if Chen is going to turn nasty when suddenly the boat is attacked by the henchmen of his boss, the Dragon Lady (Stella Stevens) and undercover Matthew and Melvin are kidnapped by her. There's only one person to save them now: Special Agent Cleopatra Jones (Tamara Dobson).

The first Cleopatra Jones film had a big problem in that Cleo was too larger than life glamorous for the everyday L.A. streets she was fighting crime in. This, the sequel, wisely relocated her to an exotic location like Macao and Hong Kong where she fits in resembling a female James Bond, causing mayhem for Stevens' gang boss. Stevens may not be as over the top as Shelley Winters was in the first film, but she's an icy cold villain to be reckoned with and we know there's going to be a hell of a cat fight when Cleo gets her hands on her. A co-production with Run Run Shaw, The Casino of Gold was scripted by the producer William Tennant, and has an appropriately international flavour.

Another drawback to the first instalment was that Dobson's martial arts skills were somewhat underhwhelming, to say the least. Here, apparently realising this, they have her throwing punches and firing guns instead and the kung fu is left to her new sidekick, Mi Ling (Tanny), who she meets after leaving the airport. Not interested in the assistance of her boss, Stanley (Norman Fell), she strikes out on her own, which looks pretty naive as being over six feet tall and obviously not a native to Hong Kong, she tends not to be inconspicuous, especially in those extravagant clothes. Still, she welcomes the help of Mi Ling, who persuades a taxi driver to take the agent to the Walled City, much against his wishes.

Cleo thinks that simply showing up in the heart of the city will lead her to Chen and then to the Dragon Lady, so it's little wonder that she is ambushed when she tries this line of enquiry. Fortunately Mi Ling has been following her (why didn't she just warn her not to go there in the first place?) and the duo make swift work of the heavies. Meanwhile, Matthew and Melvin are being roughed up by the Dragon Lady's hoods, but she relents and allows them a taste of luxury when it looks like they will cooperate - they still need rescuing, though. In fact, the adventures of Cleo and the brothers appear to be two different films on the same theme running concurrently for the most part, until they meet for the explosive climax.

This being the era of women's liberation, Cleo and Mi Ling are as strong as their adversary, both self assured and quick witted. When Mi Ling leaves her apartment door open for Cleo to get in, then goes to take a shower, we think, uh-oh, typical sidekick behaviour, she's doomed, but when the gangsters enter and attempt to tie her down, she manages to beat them all up in record time. Dragon Lady, on the other hand, likes to deal with her main problems herself, even going as far as getting into a swordfight with Chen on a platform ringed with blades. To finish, the shootout in the casino of the title is one of the most destructive on film, completely destroying the interior and leaving a pile of dead bodies. Action packed and benefitting from the humorous performances of Dobson and Tanny, this sequel isn't the greatest of the blaxploitation movies, but it has the edge over its predecessor. Music by Dominic Frontiere.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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