Blu-ray Review: Kill Butterfly Kill

Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story

The female revenge film was a big genre in the ’70s and ’80s. The movies had women who were attacked by men in the opening realizing the authorities aren’t going to protect them. They had to get their own brand of justice. It was the anti-Law and Order: SVU. They were a drive-in staple that continued to be popular with the arrival of VHS. How many times did you walk into a videostore in the mid-80s and notice that I Spit On Your Grave and Ms. 45 were once more checked out? Turns out American indie directors weren’t the only ones making Female Revenge films. Kill Butterfly Kill was made in Tawain in 1983 and takes the genre to an extreme in both the attack and the revenge.

During a nasty storm, Juliet Chan seeks shelter inside a warehouse. What she doesn’t realize is that there’s five men who have been drinking all night inside. Instead of treating her with dignity and respect as she waits for the clouds to pass, the five guys attack her. It’s a nasty scene and she barely survives the night. The pain of that evening builds up and a few years later, Juliet decides to take her life by jumping off a bridge. Before she can drown, “Tattooer Ma” Sha dives in after her. Her pulls her to safety. She tells him what drove her to jump. Turns out that Sha is a recently retired hitman. He suggests to her that she doesn’t need to die. She needs to get revenge. The two come up with a scheme to lure the five men into their various traps. Part of this includes setting up a health spa that offers massages. She even finds another woman eager to help her track down these horrible men. Can her and Sha pull off their brand of justice on her attackers?

Kill Butterfly Kill is an intense film. What’s interesting is how her five attackers became powerful men in the community after the assault. It’s almost like that night, the five were performing a ritual to give them success and she was a sacrifice that gave them power. Juliet Chan gives a superb performance in a role that has her being overwhelmed and turned into a stone-cold killer.

The boxset contains three different versions of the film. The Blu-ray transfer is of the English language version called Kill Butterfly Kill. On the same disc is a standard definition version of the original Taiwanese cut called Underground Wife (85:42). This appears to have been transferred off the VHS tape and features the Mandarin soundtrack including the theme song during the opening storm. The movie has English subtitles. There were plenty of changes for the English cut. The biggest difference is the attacking the warehouse scene. This cut has footage all once. The English language cuts the scene down and uses the intense footage later in the film as flashbacks before she gets her revenge. Normally we talk about the American distributor butchering the original cut of the film. But creating flashbacks makes the narrative a bit clearer and makes sure the viewer feels no sympathy for the men that must finally pay the price for that night. There’s also a lot more songs in the original version.

The third version of the film is the strangest of all. In 1988 someone decided that Female Revenge movies were out of vogue, but undercover cop films were hot. Instead of making a new movie, IDF Films semi-remade the movie as American Commando 6 – Kill Butterly Kill (88:19) with writer/director Charles Lee (who is Godfrey Ho) joining up the two films. Mark Miller and Mike Abbott star in the fresh scenes that don’t have them going near Juliet Chan. Think of how they put Raymond Burr into Godzilla. In this case a US undercover agent shows up in Hong Kong (which looks like Tawain) under orders to bust a gangster. The top man on the island is going to team him up with Juliet Chan who has been attacked by many of the gangster’s main men. We flashback to the warehouse scene. It’s pretty easy to spot the new footage since Miller, Abbott and the new cast are extreme ’80s in their wardrobe and haircuts. They redo the English dub to make the old scenes work with the new narrative. I do appreciate that they don’t try to turn this into an outright comedy (the laughs are unintentional) like other movies that reuse an older existing film. This is one of the few times when you can watch both versions of the film as a double feature without quite feeling you’re watching the same movie twice. There really are a previous five American Commando movies (and a few afterward) that reused other Asian films that IFD had distributed.

Kill Butterfly Kill is an intense film all on its own. Juliet Chan dishes out her revenge. Getting to see the other two versions shows how one film can be transformed by distributors.

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The Video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 4K transfer was taken off IFD print. Most of the film looks great. You’ll get a sense how director Yu-Lung Hsu really liked camera flares in the film. The Audio is DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono. This is the English dub track. All the songs have been removed. The movie has subtitles.

Audio Commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Paul Fox of The Podcast on Fire Network gives a lot of background on the film and Tawain cinema in the early ’80s. They discuss all three cuts of the film featured here.

Kill Butterfly Kill Trailer (2:35) opens with the attack followed by the revenge. They pump up the martial arts action. We’re promised “sweet revenge.” This is primo grindhouse allure.

Image Gallery (3:12) includes poster, video box, press kit, press photos, lobby cards, photos from American Commando semi-remake and a newspaper ad.

IFD Trailer Compilation (31:28) includes several of the other American Commando pictures: American Commando 2 – Hunting Express, American Commando 3 – Savage Temptation, American Commando 4 – Dressed to Fire, American Commando 5 – Fury In Red, America Commando 7 – Sweet Inferno, American Commando 8 – Naked Revenge, American Commando 9 – Guns to Heaven, Angel’s Blood Mission, Final Mission Final, Die To Love, Guns to Heaven and Sweet Inferno (with Juliet Chan). It looks like they shot all the American Commando scenes in the same weekend.

American Commando 6 Trailer (2:14) gives us a lot of new fire power scenes with the old fights from Kill Butterfly Kill clips.

Neon Eagle Video presents Kill Butterfly Kill. Directed by Yu-Lung Hsu. Screenplay by Ching-Kang Yao. Starring Juliet Chan and “Tattooer Ma” Sha. Running Time: 87 minutes. Rating: Unrated. Release Date: December 12, 2023.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.