20 February 2008 | BrianDanaCamp
THE ANGEL STRIKES AGAIN Lily Ho returns as Agent 009 in Hong Kong Bond imitation
THE ANGEL STRIKES AGAIN (1968) is a sequel to ANGEL WITH THE IRON FISTS (1966, also reviewed here) and is another Shaw Bros. rip-off of James Bond. The lovely Lily Ho returns as Interpol agent 009 and gets to fight more here, although her daintily choreographed karate chops and kicks don't look like they'd cause much pain or discomfort. She's first seen dancing alone at poolside in a silver lamé bikini. She's on vacation but is ordered to Interpol HQ in 20 min. so she hops into her red convertible, still in bikini and with towel wrapped around her wet hair, and shows up on time, impeccably coiffed, fully made up and adorned in an eye-catching new dress. (If she did all that while driving, I'd love to have seen it!) The sexy receptionist (a cameo by Essie Lin Chia) greets her as "our best agent."
Lily's soon headed to Hong Kong to stop the Bomb Gang, which is extorting money from businesses by setting off bombs in stores and airplanes (as seen in a pre-credits sequence). For some reason, much of the action takes place in a nightclub where Lily drinks and smokes a lot and meets her various contacts quite openly. One of the contacts is the female nightclub owner, who even sings a very nice torch song at one point, clearly the musical highlight of a soundtrack laden with pseudo-John Barry musical cues. Another nightclub act is one "Tan Hercules" (Chao Hsiung), a strongman who's part of the Bomb Gang and has a fight with the male hero, Deng Lei (Tang Ching, who played a different role in the first ANGEL film). Deng Lei is a suave playboy type who comes to the aid of Lily, although his purpose for being there is never actually explained.
The lead villain is "the Specialist," a woman who dresses in a gold lamé jump suit with gold boots, but has odd-looking makeup (including a single buck tooth) to disguise her appearance. She presides over a council of lieutenants in a garish Ken Adam-style set modeled on the SPECTRE conference room in the fourth Bond film, THUNDERBALL (1965). Most of the sets in the film are candy-colored and brightly lit, including the Hong Kong streets recreated on a Shaw Bros. soundstage.
For the sketchiest of reasons, Lily is dressed as a man for the middle third of the film, only not in the traveling garb of a kung fu fighter like she'd wear when dressed as a man in films like THE JADE FACED ASSASSIN (1970, also reviewed here), but instead in a light-gray double-breasted suit and tie. She looks no more "manly" than she does in her kung fu films, which would be all right if there was an interesting plot here or some well-staged fight scenes. But there aren't. Given all the fight choreographer talent at Shaw Bros. and given all the great kung fu regulars in the cast hereTang Ching, Ku Feng, Wu Ma, Han Ying Chieh, Fan Mei-sheng, etc.and given director Lo Wei's subsequent credentials as a martial arts director (including Bruce Lee's first two starring movies), the failure to make even one decently choreographed fight scene is appalling. Most of the action sequences are ordinary fistfights like you'd see in a Hollywood B-movie and aren't even modeled on the spectacular fight staging found in Bond films. One or two exciting, imaginatively-designed martial arts sequences would have markedly increased the film's entertainment value. I don't get it.
Furthermore, this was made the same year (1968) that Shaw Bros. made TEMPTRESS OF A THOUSAND FACES, another female-centered contemporary thriller, but with more of a police/caper theme than a secret agent one. TEMPTRESS is much more inspired and vastly more entertaining, so the talent, resources and vision were clearly available to make the kind of film I'm talking about. Why they couldn't have been marshaled for the higher-profile ANGEL films, I don't know.