Revenge of Lady Fighter (Review)
Revenge of Lady Fighter
“Only a hurricane can freeze the fury of her fist!”
Revenge of Lady Fighter is really well done once the fight sequences get going. In fact, the fight scenes and quality are so good the film actually made me angry. Not at the film, but because the team behind Revenge of Lady Fighter was also the team behind Batwoman and Robin and Batwoman and Robin Meet the Queen of the Vampires, two films considered holy grail lost films of Filipino cinema (though Tony Cayado directed Meet the Queen of the Vampires). Before watching Lady Fighter, I assumed these would be dumb comedies with little to no action sequences, along the lines of Alyas Batman en Robin. Instead, now I am picturing them as a fun-filled action romps, making the fact I will probably never see them stinging even more.
Director Jun Aristorenas was born Juanito Aristorenas in 1933 in the Philippines. By the late 1950s he was a regular on the Filipino vaudeville circuit (known as Bodabil), which lead to a few walk-on roles in films. By 1965, he was a headliner, starring in flicks such as Dugong Tigre. In 1967, he started his own production company – Junar Productions – Junar being his nickname and the name he is credited as director of this flick.
Jun Aristorenas was nominated as best actor for his performance in Elias, Basilio at Sisa (1972) by the Film Academy of Movie Arts & Sciences (FAMAS). His 1970 film Dimasalang scored him the Rajah Soliman award for Best Director at the 1970 Manila Film Festival. He became a regular in western films such as Johnny West (1966) and Dimasalang, but also starred in other action genres such as war or even samurai films like Samurai Master (1969) and The Samurai Fighters (1969). Cult movie fans might recognize him from She Devils in Chains (1976) Jun Aristorenas continued to act in films up to his death in 2000, his last appearance being 2000’s Pag Oras Mo, Oras Mo Na.
Aristorenas married female action star Virginia (aka Virginia Gaerlan then Virginia Aristorenas) who then starred in several of his films. By the 1970s, Virginia had assumed the mantle of the Action Queen of Filipino Cinema, the successor of 1950’s action queen Celia Fuentes. Virginia debuted in 1971’s Ang Mababangis and started out doing dangerous stunts from the start. She appeared in films such as Bandolera (1972), Apat na Bagwis (1972) – “Three men and a woman, undercover agents, blast the hell out of Devil’s Island”, Kumander Erlinda (1972), and The Panther (1973). Two of their sons, Robin and Junar, also appeared in some of the films. In fact, Robin Aristorenas played Robin in Batwoman and Robin and Batwoman and Robin Meet the Queen of the Vampires along with a long career as a child actor. Virginia has passed on, but I have been unable to find out when and why.
Lady Fighter suffers from being a film of the 1970s and thus has some of the flaws of the era, including long drawn out scenes that would be cut much tighter now. Is someone walking up to a village? Well, we’re gonna see every single step he takes. Yay!!! Uh…
Lady Fighter is kicking the butt of some jerk in the forest. She also punches a tree! Hey, Lady Fighter, how’d you like it if someone grabbed your apples??? Come to think of it, maybe that’s what this guy did that made Lady Fighter so mad…
So he’s beaten and Lady Fighter collects a medallion from the guy, she’s collected several so far and tells a grave that she needs to get four more for whoever is buried there to be at peace. But since this takes place way later in the film we’ll have to go back to the beginning of the story first to fine out what the frak is going on…
But before that we get the credits, including the new English titles used for foreign distribution that jars horribly with the original title graphics with broken glass on black. Why you would instead throw in white text on red I will never know. Don’t worry, they do it again after the end of the credits, this time changing the name to The Revenge of The Lady Fighter. In fifteen minutes the title will soon be The The The Revenge The The The of The The The The The Lady The The The Fighter The The.
Bandits are coming! Even the 1970’s funky soundtrack and ridiculous comic relief characters cannot save the village from the evil bandits, who proceed to bandit the frak out of the village as the good people run for cover. The town manages to hide the women, and the bandits are ticked off. Their leader has one of those old timey prospector hats that turn up in the front, so we’ll call him Stinky Pete.
Oops, someone forgot to hide their teenage daughter, but no one can save her now and she is savaged by the bandits. Later, a trio of bandits come across our Rosa, not yet a Lady Fighter, and try to have their way with her. But a mystery dude shows up to stop them! He is Ming, the local kung fu guy who wanders around, and he kung fus the crap out of them and they run off.
The village gives Ming’s back story in random sentence fragments as they discuss Ming and Rosa approaching. Ming is the protector of the area and a legend, but most people haven’t seen him for 25 years. What has Ming been doing? I don’t know, maybe he was touring with Green Day.
Ming tells them not to have vengeance in their heart, because he thinks it isn’t polite. Some of the village scoffs until Ming beats up seven of them as a demonstration. Kung Fu Miss Manners! Ming will train them to defend themselves despite the fact the whole town is full of jerks like Nardo. He wants them to only use it for a just cause, if they break the oath, Ming says he’ll kill them. Dead.
The training sequence involves a slot of dudes shirtless who shouldn’t be shirtless moving their necks around. Everyone is training. Nardo the jerk, Lewel the non-jerk, Curien the comic relief, the bald comic relief guy whose name I didn’t catch, but not Rosa as she is a girl. Girls are only for making babies and being convinced by snakes to eat apples!
Eight graduate to the level to defend the village, and are given a medallion (those medallions from the beginning) Chewbacca still doesn’t get a medal, though. Poor Chewbacca.
The baddies are sending another raiding party! They laugh and try to kidnap Rosa, but get beat up by the townspeople. One escapes to report back to the bandit leader Stinky Pete, who then has his whole crew rush the town. During the big battle, the bandits forget most of them have guns. Rosa must watch on the sidelines as fighting is men’s work. Even the comic relief guys get to fight! But soon Nardo and his buddies kill the bandits, making Ming and Rosa outraged!
That night, Nardo and his gang are drunk and he tries to assault Rosa. Ming shows up to admonish them, but they won’t go home and attack Ming. Ming defeats them easily, until Nardo slashes Ming across the back as he’s walking away. With his dying breath, Ming begs Rosa to stop them and get back the medallions or his soul won’t rest. Way to give out a huge burden with your dying breath, dude.
Now Rosa must train herself!
Curian watches and helps, not doing any pratfalls at the moment except a few grimaces. His comic relief buddy ran off with the medallion gang. Montage montage montage. See Rosa montage. Train train train. Watch Rosa train.
Rosa breaks already broken rocks. Nardo doesn’t stand a chance!
Meanwhile Nardo and his thugs are robbing houses that have armed guards and are dressing all in black. They rob schoolbuses, probably for all that sweet lunch money cash.
Lewel is now a police officer, and he and Rudy (Rudy??) meet Rosa and Curian. Who is Rudy, you ask? Another cop the film believes you already know about. Lewel tells Rosa that Nardo now controls an even bigger gang after taking over and is terrorizing the countryside. They are…The Black Band! It’s Lewel’s job to track them down, because giant terrorizing gangs get assigned only two cops in the Philippines. Lewel doesn’t want Rosa to come with them, but she gets her kung fu gear and follows them in secret.
Lewel and Rudy stumble across a training squad of the gang in the forest. Lewel threatens them “If ever I don’t get out of here alive, I’ll take you along!” That will make them think twice. Or once. Or not at all. Especially since they easily beat up both of them and shoot Lewel. Rosa steps in to fight them now. The bad guy actually remembers he has a gun, but it does him no use as he can’t remember to aim. Rosa defeats the thugs and the main baddie of this squad, who has one of the medallions. But before Rosa beats him to death Lewel reminds her not to kill. Wouldn’t Rosa training into a killing frenzy sort of go against the master who dying wishes she is trying to respect? Oh, nevermind.
Rosa yanks the bad guy’s medallion off instead – the medallions represent their manhood, for those of you who need explanation of the underlying subtext. Rosa gets info on where more baddies are, and beats up another group of them in a house. These fight scenes are nice and long, making up for the long time it took to get to them. One small quibble is they sped up film during parts of them.
At the conclusion of this battle Rosa has to be reminded again not to kill her opponent. Seriously, does no one know how to not kill their opponent without reminders?
Oh, during this time Lewel hasn’t bothered to get his gunshot wound looked at at all and is still bleeding, while Rudy has disappeared again! That’s our Rudy, fading in and out of reality at will. Lewel mentions he went to go fight some other group of the gang, spoiling my fantasy of Rudy being a reality shifter. Damn you, film!
We’re at five medallions left of the 8….Um, the guy in the beginning of the film hasn’t happened yet, so that’s only two gotten unless one of the random goons had a medallion. So let’s just say he did. Lewel takes Rosa to see the police chief, Colonel David Imperial – Chief Special Operations Service. He says “What is amazing is…that you’re a woman!” Thanks, Chief! He drafts her into the police force – “I am clothing your person with the authority of the law”
The baddies report to Nardo about Rosa, who doesn’t believe them at first. Rosa is later lassoed by baddies who loop both her hands. She must fight while tied up, but starts turning the tables on her captors. Soon she’s fighting the guy with the medallion from the beginning of the film and we all know how that turns out.
One cool moment of choreography (or skipping choreography) involves closeups of Rosa and the bad guy punching at the camera to simulate their fast and furious fighting. Curian is captured by bad dudes, so Rosa leads some villagers towards the bad guy’s hideout, but soon all of them are killed in a gun ambush. That Rosa, leading many men to death. There is a longer fight sequence as Rosa beats up the guys responsible.
But Nardo is there, and now she can fight him and all his goons at the same time. Convenient! It’s like a warehouse bargain shopping center of butt-kicking time. One continual feature of the fight sequences in Revenge of Lady Fighter is Rosa almost being overpowered by the strength of her enemies, but overcoming them in the last second to push off whatever they’re crushing her with. It happens in almost every fight.
The comic relief bad guy who went with the bad guys partially out of fear manages to free Curian, and brings him along with the cops Rudy and Lewel. So now the fight sequence with all the bad guys is even bigger! It better be since it is the last one.
Rosa defeats all the goons, and then yanks off the medallion from Nardo, who then falls and falls and falls down a hill they are suddenly on. Is he dead, what is going on? You’ll never know, as the film instantly ends! Complete with a “the end” card with the film’s original title on it!
So did Rosa’s vengeance go to far? Or did Nardo fall just enough to only break an ankle, despite the fact he seemed to be falling far more than three stories, the general benchmark for survivable falls. Maybe he landed on a haystack.
In any event, Revenge of Lady Fighter is damn awesome.
Rated 9/10 (bloody medallion, rocky training, bus punch, laughing goon, reality-shifting Joey, the Chief, goon, non-lethal deadly punches, snatching away some manhood)