Lady in Black Cracks the Gate of Hell
aka The Hell’s Gate aka The Black Musketeer (part 3) aka 女黑俠威震地獄門
Directed by Law Chi
Lady in Black Cracks the Gate of Hell is different than the other two Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa films, because there is less Muk Lan-Fa in it. Sister Muk Sau-Jan takes much of the spotlight for the first half of the film. I don’t know if actress Suet Nei was busy (she had several other films out that year), or if the studio decided it wanted to focus more on Law Oi-Seung and try to make her a bigger star as well. If so, it didn’t quite work, as her film output never reached star levels and she faded away to obscurity, to be only mentioned by guys with websites.
Lady in Black Cracks the Gate of Hell is also different because it looks more low-rent. The scale seems smaller, the plot more confusing, the stakes are less severe, and the villain dies in one of the lamest (but realistic) ways ever. But it’s still some good Jane Bond. And worth tracking down if you’re into this sort of stuff. Once again, the only available formats is unsubtitled vcd or DVD. And as we all know, at TarsTarkas.net, we don’t need no stinking subtitles!
We open with confuse-o-vision! Actually, it’s like the opening sequences of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, where we get an infodump of like fifteen things happening and someone ends up dead. A guy is hit by a car and declared dead and taken to the morgue. Someone was very interested in the dead guy and tries to take a card from his pocket, but is chased off by the police. Meanwhile, Muk Sau-Jan is hanging out with a creepy guy who is badly hitting on her and ticking her off. He hides a card at her place and leaves. At the morgue, there is a hunchback with a bad eye (!) who is the night watchman (!!), but he’s beaten by a guy in a monster mask (!!!), who was the guy hitting on Muk Sau-Jan, and he’s stabbed by the dead guy who wasn’t really dead (!!!!). Good things the credits start rolling before I hit double digit exclamation points between parentheses!
Ko Cheung and the rest of the cops are on the case. This story is big enough of a deal to make it to the papers, and thus the Muk sisters read about it. Muk Sau-Jan finds the card the dead guy left at their place, and goes to investigate a note that was written on it. She ends up at a dentist office, which features Lydia Shum as a nurse! There’s a one-eyed dentist behind the curtain, the same guy who was in the prior two films and lost an eye in the last one! They capture Muk Sau-Jan thanks to Lydia Shum’s super-strength, and tie her to a dentist chair. This is like a dentist visit from my nightmares – aka one of my normal dentist visits!
They set up a bomb to blow up the dentist office with Muk Sau-Jan still tied to the chair. At least they ain’t drilling, so this is still better than one of my dentist visits! Luckily, Muk Sau-Jan can defy the laws of physics and get out of the chair and jump out the window with an umbrella and floats down the 25 stories to the street as the office explodes. Mary Poppins, eat your heart out!
But Muk Sau-Jan’s instantly kidnapped again when yelling at a car before she even leaves the parking lot she fell into. This girl gets kidnapped so much she has a frequent kidnapping card that’s punched each time. Two more and she gets a free foot-long sub!
By now, Muk Lan-fa has noticed her sister is missing. She gets help from Ko Cheung, and they sneak around the burnt out dentist office. The one-eyed dentist and a thug are there, the dentist escapes while the thug suicide pills after he’s beaten by the pair. They investigate further and find another hideout, complete with a secret door. The hideout is filled with another gang, this one’s costume seems to be just jean jackets. Muk Lan-Fa and Ko Cheung are captured and tied up in a freezer. This is the same gang that has kidnapped Muk Sau-Jan, as we see her drugged to the point she can’t move in another room, and she’s interrogated by the gang leader, a Fat Guy named Sing Sam Long. A sympathizer in the gang gives her an antidote before Fat Guy does things that hadn’t hit exploitation cinema yet to Muk Sau-Jan, and she sneaks around the hideout. She knocks out a geisha server and takes her clothes, and takes the Fat Guy hostage to buy her escape.
But once Muk Sau-Jan gets home, her sister isn’t there (because she’s kidnapped) and she goes to bed. Gang members sneak into her house and try to grab her while she sleeps, but thanks to her spring-loaded bed (?!?!) she’s tossed to safety and beats up the two guys and finds out where they’re holding her sister. She rescues her and Ko Cheung. In retaliation, the gang plants a bomb in the police chief’s office, but no one is hurt.
After 15 minutes or so of the gang talking to various people, finally they’re ready to do something. We find out later they’re after some sort of hidden treasure, and are now going to claim it. A whole swarm of cops get in boats and head to sea, bringing the Muk sisters with them. As gang members are also on boats, we now have a boat gunfight. Luckily for the cops, the Muk sisters are experts at storming boats and beating up the crew. They do that for fun on Wednesdays.
The Muk sisters, Ko Cheung, and another cop guy who wasn’t important enough for me to bother to find out his name change into diving swimsuits and swim towards the underground cave system that the evil gang is working their way through. It’s like Tomb Raider, as several gang members stand outside a secret underground door that has a giant skull crossbones on it. Above the gate is an inscription that reads “The Gates of Hell” in Chinese. The gate is boobytrapped, one guy falls down a pit. The rest of the gang runs through the open door as it shoots fireworks everywhere. Good thing these fireworks are still good years later in this dank cave! Another gang member is crushed by spikes for moving a dead body’s arm the wrong way. Okay, this is like the Goonies, except we’re focusing only on the Fratellis! They make it to the treasure, which is a huge stack of bills in two metal trunks. This treasure can’t be that old if it is paper money, who takes the time to set up all these elaborate traps when you can just deposit it in a bank and earn interest?
The good guy divers have made it to the cave, and because they were diving, they only have knives, so it’s knifefight time! I guess no one learned the “keep a gun in a plastic bag” trick yet. The Muk sisters are knifetacular at combat knives, and slice and dice their way through the gang goons. Soon, they and the two cops face off against the Fat Guy boss Sing Sam Long. Who runs with money outside the cave, but then falls near the shore and is gunned down by cops on a boat and dies. Yes, the major villain was gunned down by some random extras while running from the heroines. Somehow I think he won’t be trading this story with fellow evil masterminds in the afterlife!
Well, with that immediate end, the Dark Heroine saga came to a close in the movie theaters. But Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa continued to live on in pulp books and was revived for a television series 25 years later. With everyone updating everything these days, will we see a Dark Heroine reboot? Only time will tell.
The Dark Heroine Series:
The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa
The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa Shattered the Black Dragon Gang
Lady in Black Cracks the Gate of Hell
Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa Pulp Covers
Rated 8/10 (Lydia, David Chow Wing-Kwong, bomb time, escape!, Hitler, dive time, firecracker trap, many arms)