Directed by: Chester Wang
Written by: ?
Starring: Chan Lai-Wan, Cho Boon-Feng, Pauline Wong, Richard Cui, Mo Man-Sau, Liu Chia-Fen & Man Naam-Sai
Continuing the examination of IFD Films & Arts catalogue that included horror, action, thrillers and fantasy of the late 70s/early 80s coming out of Taiwan, for a breakdown of the basic history of IFD, please visit the series debut review of Wolfen Ninja in addition to visiting the other highlighted movies Deadly Darling and Fury In Red. The Women In Prison genre of course was always good fodder for exploitation filmmakers and distributors so no wonder Joseph Lai eyed this Taiwan movie whose original title is a bit harder to nail down compared to the other movies in the series. Based on the directing credit of Chester Wang, Commando Fury MIGHT be the 1982 movie Visiting Prison that Joseph Lai brought in, dubbed and released as Commando Fury in 1986 (EDIT: Since writing this review, staff at HKMDB has identified the movie as 1983's Training Camp). We do know of its subsequent home video life though as it was re-released and poorly dubbed into Cantonese in Hong Kong as Woman Prison 1991 (aka Girls In The Tiger Cage on other international releases). Part of the above is speculation that doesn't need full clarification in order for the movie to thrive. In IFD's hands, it's possibly in the best hands that ever touched it. As with the Hong Kong new wave of late 70s/early 80s, there's a grit and intensity available that was only possible at this time in Taiwan cinema and IFD are to be commended for making sure it's captured and more widespread than it ever was destined to be. Despite the trees coming to life...
Set in a prison/labour camp presumably during World War II, it's an operation keeping women hostages. Women related to or affiliated with wealthy families that willingly pay the huge ransom required for release. A group of women are planning their escape though and a microfilm exposing the camp is on the minds of the chiefs of the prison...
As with the likes of Deadly Darling, the directing credit of Chester Wang seemingly is our Taiwanese director Wong Chung-Gwong (My Life's On The Line and credited as co-director along with Chu Yen-Ping on Fantasy Mission Force) getting as much proper credit as possible given IFD's need and requirement to Westernize (and make up) the opening credits. A sign of respect from Joseph Lai towards the movie, genre and era talked of here, Commando Fury really shows (again) Taiwan was a little exploitation engine that could. Not that it's a superb technical, logical or politically correct achievement. No, Commando Fury is more a showcase of what is wrong that is at the same time right. As displayed in the half that is the cruel prison movie and the other that represents a few reels of bizarre jungle warfare.
Preferably showcased in full widescreen, director Wang makes no excuses here when it comes to the full on evil and cruelty the camp represents. It seems the operation has gone way beyond just the blackmail intention and the heads and guards enjoy taking out their sadistic/murderous urges on the women instead. So their arrival involves permanent branding naturally and on it goes with force feeding, whipping, a few women are burned alive, put into tight cages and in general dehumanized by in particular the bald, brute force represented by actor Cho Boon-Feng. Lines like "I enjoy mindfucking" and "No one dies without my permission" pretty much sets this tone and stance as well. Nothing that is pleasant or titillating but to be admired for its attention to keeping the movie energetic, snappy. All while saying nothing important and that is a good non-pretentious stance. Why not let cruelty, sadism, violence and living trees BE that?
As the jungle action takes over, so does the majority of the budget. Although overall Commando Fury has only invested in a couple of squibs and bloodpacks (plus 3-4 locations), it's put to good use here as the violence takes on that furious impact the battling back by the women SHOULD represent. In particular Liu Chia-Fen as a woman actually working for the camp is gorgeous and iconic while also bringing the requisite intensity and fury needed. Commando Fury breaks the political correct rules like many movies did before and also brings a set of rules of this world that actually at one random point involves the trees of the jungle coming to life. So add wrong upon wrong and you get unique genre awesomeness that is to be applauded for its balls to not hold back while also not acting all important. Again, exploitation represent market strength. IFD and Joseph Lai knew that... again!
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson