Official Exterminator : Kill For Love (1988)

Official Exterminator : Kill For Love is an IFD-helmed re-edit of a Taiwanese Black Film from 1982 called Kill For Love, originally directed by Richard Chen. For the recut, Joseph Lai and Betty Chan are the producers but other responsible parties are less clear. “Benny Ho”, “Owen Lam” and the ever-present “AAV Creative Unit” are credited as writing it, with “Raymond Woo” in the director’s seat but these are probably pseudonyms and Godfrey Ho is likely to have had a hand in this somewhere. Still, whoever’s involved on IFD’s side had an easier ride than usual as there’s probably only about 10 minutes of new footage in here (WARNING: an appallingly low percentage of this features ninjas) and much of the run time comes from the redubbed source film.

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Everyone’s favourite Cornish ninja Mike Abbott plays Blake, head of an unnamed company that are being trounced by their competition, The Pacific Corporation. Blake decides they need a spy on the inside so sends young executive Charlie Fong (Chiu Shu-Hoi) to get a job at Pacific and seduce the boss’s daughter Sophie so he can rise to the top quickly. This is of course a nonsense layer of plot inserted purely so that the IFD footage can integrate with the source film but it’s perhaps more interesting than usual in that it gives Charlie, the original film’s male lead, a completely different motivation for every single one of his otherwise unforgivable actions…

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The 1982 source film is typical of the Black Film style that was popular in Taiwan at the time with its mix high melodrama, social realism and exploitation tropes. In this, Charlie – an ambitious worker – falls in love with a factory girl called Fonda (Luk Siu-Fan). They move in together, initially as friends, but he ends up proposing to her. Although their romance starts out as a picture of domestic bliss – all sex and housework – Fonda finds herself becoming jealous as Charlie starts getting closer to his boss’s artsy daughter Sophie (Chang Fu-Mei) and spending less time at home. Sophie dreams of going to Rome (“a traditional centre of western art”!) and Charlie is only too happy to flirt with her and indulge these dreams, especially since the closer he gets to Sophie, the further up her father’s company ladder he climbs…

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Fonda’s jealousy turns to outright rage and it’s kind of understandable since Charlie starts going out with Sophie all the time (on dates where even the restaurant piano player stops what he’s doing to shout “Sir, I’m jealous! You have a beautiful girlfriend!”) and acts like more and more of a dick, even after Fonda becomes pregnant. Twice. The first time she gets an abortion so as to save Charlie face at work (he doesn’t even thank her!). The second time, he decides he’s going to leave her for a few weeks before coming back and then… (wait for it)… trying to drown her in the boating lake! If anything, this makes more sense in the IFD narrative, since he’s being ordered by Blake to get Fonda out the way so she stops interfering with the mission (of seducing Sophie). In the original film, Charlie is just the absolute worst man ever. I really felt sorry for poor Fonda.

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[CAUTION : SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH]
Kill For Love culminates in a sequence that’s melodramatic even by Black Film standards, as Charlie and Sophie stand at the altar about to be married. Fonda (who somehow didn’t drown in the boating lake) storms in to interrupt the ceremony. As the soundtrack clatters with chaotic synthesiser squawls littered with samples of wedding bells, Fonda screams “HE TRIED TO KILL ME! AND I’M PREGNANT WITH HIS CHILD!” while waving a knife around. The guests all run away, leaving Fonda to stab Charlie in the heart and then (in maybe the most brutal, prolonged suicide sequence I’ve ever seen) stab herself something like twenty times in the stomach, right in front of the altar. The police run in when she’s finished and handcuff her, just to add insult to (fatal) injury.

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Then, of course, we get the inevitable conclusion to the IFD strand as well. Throughout all this drama, we’ve seen footage of a rogue cop called Greg (Mark Watson) trying to stop Blake from achieving his goals. Greg beats up loads of hired goons and eventually Blake calls in a guy called “Dragon” who wears a bright yellow ninja suit and fights like a chump. Greg kills him in literally under a minute and that’s all the ninja footage we get in this film. Ninjologists beware! Dragon must’ve been the work experience ninja.

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Instead of the usual ninjoid madness for our climax we just get Mike Abbott – wearing a catastrophic pairing of a red jacket and neon yellow trousers – and some guys with machine guns having a shootout.

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The worst thing about non-ninja fighting in IFD films is how obvious it is when they swap out Abbott for the (Chinese) stuntman. Abbott’s own fighting skills are limited so, when we’re not getting an obvious stand-in being flung about, we see him just (literally) kicking Mark Watson up the backside for about 30 seconds before Watson flips things around and the film ends abruptly on the following coup de grâce:

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Yup. So there’s no getting around the fact that, to normal people, Official Exterminator : Kill For Love is not a “good” film. Yet there are a few redeeming factors and things to like if you’re attuned. For one, it’s never boring. It possesses some of the IFD spirit of fun, most notably in the church scene where a Chinese gospel choir are redubbed by the IFD team. You can hear the dulcet tones of Mike Abbott, Stuart Smith et al deliver a spirited mangling of Amazing Grace way off-tempo as they attempt to sync it to the lip movements of the choir and this is seriously funny. I laughed until it hurt. There is also, more seriously, the opportunity to see the majority of a rare Taiwanese Black Film and quite a well-made one at that. If you like exploitative, tasteless melodrama, there’s some treats here and Luk Siu-Fan’s mad performance as Fonda is truly fantastic.

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