Kill Butterfly Kill
directed by Godfrey Ho
starring Juliet Chan, Mike Abbot
Neon Eagle Video
In the late ’70s and early ’80s as martial arts movies were starting to lose momentum, so called “Black Movies” rose up to fill the void and push the boundaries of sex, violence, and good taste in the island nation of Taiwan. In 1983, Godfrey Ho, Taiwan/Hong Kong director/producer unleashed Kill Butterfly Kill, a sleazy rape-revenge film that, although tamer than the same type of film being made in Japan or Hong Kong, was still effective. Intentional and accidental moments of surrealism certainly help the film along as it tells the unlikely story of Mei-Ling (Juliet Chan) who is randomly gang raped by a group of mobsters. Some years later she is set up as a mob boss’s mistress and massage parlor madam, but still has vengeance on her mind. A chance encounter with the man who saved her from suicide gives Mei-Ling the ally she needs to take on the mob and get her revenge.
Kill Butterfly Kill is cheap, sleazy, and violent, which are all the film’s strong suits. There’s very little plot to get in the way of the story as Mei-Ling executes various scenarios to ensnare and kill her various attackers. With each new setup, the audience is treated to more detailed flashbacks of her rape, just in case we weren’t certain of her motivations. In the end, Ho’s movie is an often entertaining if disposable bit of exploitation cinema, but like its titular butterfly, this film was destined to take on a new form and have a second life.
Roger Corman, always one for saving a buck, had a talent for finding Eastern European science fiction movies, mining the special effects out of them, then filming new scenes with American actors and creating a whole new movie, fast and cheap. Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women were both culled from the same Soviet film, Planeta Bur. Years later Godfrey Ho, who shared a lot of the same penchant for cheap exploitation, like Corman, made numerous films by cutting western actors into existing Asian films to create quick cheap films for the American home video market. Ho wasn’t afraid to cannibalize his own films in this process as he did when he cobbled Kill Butterfly Kill into the joyfully bizarro American Commando 6: Kill Butterfly Kill in 1987.
Already an odd little film, once Kill Butterfly Kill and its dark, shadowy noir-scape were smashed into the Miami Vice wannabe sun-baked world of the American Commando series, it became one of the weirdest films ever unleashed on an unsuspecting public. The young wise-cracking, Bugle-Boy clad secret agents played by Mike Abbot and Mark Miller are out to get a mafioso don who eluded them years earlier. To aid them, they need the help of another agent, Donna, to help then take down the mob. So with a couple of totally un-convincing telephone call splices, the American Commando story (which is basically people running around a rented mansion shooting guns) is part of the same plot as Kill Butterfly Kill. None of the footage is even close to matching in tone, either visually or thematically, and the finished product must have been like a fever dream trying to make sense of what was going on.
Neon Eagle Video has restored a release of Kill Butterfly Kill on Blu-ray in both the film’s original cut and the bonkers American Commando splice job. For good measure, they also included a third version of the retitled Underground Wife. To help make sense of all of it, there is a cracking audio commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Paul Fox of the Podcast on Fire Network rounding out an unlikely, but welcome, Blu-ray release.