Kill Butterfly Kill [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Neon Eagle Video
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (2nd February 2024).
The Film

Throughout the mid-to-late eighties, filmmakers/distributors Joseph Lai and Godfrey Ho kept the Grindhouse alive by taking little-seen Taiwanese genre films they had either unsuccessfully distributed or ones that failed to find a distributor in the earlier half of the decade and turning them into martial arts flicks with brand new footage headlining their stable of American and British martial artists and stuntmen interacting with characters in the old footage by way of redubbing and re-editing. Although these composites played theatrically, many of them became known to fans as they glutted the video shelves with such bizarrely irresistible titles like Ninja Terminator, Golden Ninja Warrior, Zombie vs. Ninja, and Scorpion Thunderbolt among many others.

What Lai and Ho released in 1988 as American Commando 6: Kill Butterfly Kill began life as the 1982 Taiwanese thriller Underground Wife in which Mei-ling (Commando Fury's Juliet Chen) bides her time and harnesses her resources for six years after her brutal gang rape with the plan of taking revenge on the five men who violated her. She finds help and romantic interest in Shue-ping (The Ninja Showdown's Ma Sha), a brooding young hit man cheated by a gangster who happened to be one of her rapists. With the help and intel of a pair of two young women who have also been victimized, Mei-ling and Shue-ping systematically track down and kill the other men, running into trouble when the last two on the list catch on and team up with Mei-Ling's lover Tai-ping who turns possessive and violent when Mei-ling tires of being his "underground wife" (mistress).

Underground Wife saw initial release stateside in an English-dubbed version from Lai's IFD as "Kill Butterfly Kill" in which Mei-ling became Donna, Shue-ping became Richard, what little nudity was in the original Taiwanese version was trimmed while reinstating a few instances of extra bloodshed elided in the original cut, and the lengthy rape scene during the opening was cut up and used as flashbacks each time Donna confronts one of her rapists. The latter change is ultimately for the better as it better delineates their participation in the act as well as adds to the sense of retribution in a manner only originally shown in the almost hallucinatory supernatural taunting by Mei-ling to the abortionist and Shue-ping's stocking-masked stalking of the stolen car dealer. Deleted entirely was a five minute expository sequence detailing the troubled backgrounds of both leads as well instances of the film's vocal theme in favor of library music (although both versions used a recurring loop of Klaus Schulze's "Death of an Analog" which had also been used the same year in the Australian Gothic slasher Next of Kin).

We have no information on the release of this version, but circa 1988, "Kill Butterfly Kill" became American Commando 6: Kill Butterfly Kill as commando Aaron Nolan (The Siege of Firebase Gloria's Mark Miller) is summoned to Hong Kong by superior Burton who reveals that they have finally tracked down Leroy Garvino (A Better Tomorrow II's Mike Abbott), the lone survivor of the Garvino crime syndicate that had otherwise been wiped out single-handed by Nolan two years before. Burton tasks him with killing off Garvino and the key members of his new Asian syndicate in such a way that he will not suspect who is behind it until it is too late. Fortunately, the six men just happen to have all participated in the gang rape of Donna Ho seven years before and she is eager to take revenge with the help of her hit man lover and informants while Aaron and partner Rick Hewitt hide out to ambush those trying to claim the price Garvino has put on Nolan's head.

The new footage accounts for more than a half hour starting with an action opening around the dullest scenario of Nolan retrieving the wallet of an annoying American tourist from a local pickpocket while the remainder of the gun play and martial arts sequences usually set in anonymous forest and roadside locations are at least entertaining even if the American actors do not have the excuse of bad redubbing for their laughable line readings (take a drink every time Miller grits "You motherfucker!" through his clenched teeth). The main cast of the original film become supporting players with most of their scenes cut to the bone, giving a most ruthless interpretation to the trailer's hyperbole that the heroes "channeled blind rage in order to finish the mob" as the tragic ending given to the original characters cuts away quickly and abruptly to the new standoff between Nolan, Hewitt, and the American mobsters as the actual climax. On its own, American Commando 6: Kill Butterfly Kill is disposable; however, in the context of the film(s) from which it sprang and the overall IFD practice of augmenting such films, it is an irresistible grindhouse treasure.
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Video

Previously released as a limited edition directly from Cauldron Films, the standard edition of Kill Butterfly Kill is still a two-disc set, dropping only the booklet and slipcover. The main presentation on disc one is a 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen presentation of the "Kill Butterfly Kill" export version from rare 35mm materials that are generally bright and colorful with sharpness and black levels varying, sometimes diluted by star filters and other lens flare while there are instances of damage including green mold (the presence of which in the later composite version suggests that it was inherent in the original materials when IFD acquired the film).

The Taiwanese "Underground Wife" cut is also included on disc one from the only available source: a PAL-converted Taiwanese VHS rental tape master that has been brutally center-cropped. Unlike some cropped scope Hong Kong films, it appears as though the credits and the burnt-in English and Chinese (traditional) subtitles were redone for video as they are never cut off and perfectly readable compared to optical print subtitles against various bright backgrounds. A few freeze-frames at first seemed like bizarre stylistic touches but this is apparently the way the digitizing equipment for the analog tape handled tracking damage.
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The "Kill Butterfly Kill" materials look pretty much the same on the second disc's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer of American Commando 6: Kill Butterfly Kill; however, in comparison to the sharper, crisper, more colorful new footage the old footage looks softer and coarser. Even the new footage can look variable, with a few excessively noisy close-ups suggesting that there were no supplemental lights for the exterior scenes and a few shots just got brightened in post when twilight came to the location shoot.

Audio

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track for "Kill Butterfly Kill" fares best with the post-dubbed dialogue always clear while the music and effects are more uneven. The Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track for "Underground Wife" is also post-dubbed so voices are always clear and the mix of original and library scoring and foley effects sounds more evenly mixed but subject to the tape damage and hiss. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track of "American Commando 6: Kill Butterfly Kill" sounds best during the sync-sound recording of the American actors while the footage from the original film is partially redubbed and suffers more in the voice casting with "Donna" sounding inappropriately passive and girly even at her most angry and emotional. The two English versions have optional SDH subtitle tracks.
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Extras

"Kill Butterfly Kill" on disc one is accompanied by an audio commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Paul Fox of the "Podcast on Fire Network" in which they note that the film is an example of the Taiwanese "Black Genre" run of socially-conscious exploitation films started by The First Error Step, a supposedly biographical account of Ma Sha's youth and life of crime. They discuss the cultural and social changes in Taiwan that brought about this shift from lighter cinematic fare as well as the careers of Ma Sha and Juliet Chen as well as the differences between the three versions of the film included in this set.

The first disc also has a photo gallery (3:12) and the English export trailer (2:35).

Disc two supplements the "American Commando 6: Kill Butterfly Kill" with its theatrical trailer (2:14) as well as a bonus IFD trailer compilation (31:28) that includes the aforementioned trailer as well as the other seven "American Commando" sequels but not the original film they gave that title along with "Angel's Blood Mission" which also starred Ma Sha and "Final Mission Final" with Chen, as well as the pre-"American Commando" version trailers for "Guns to Heaven' and "Sweet Inferno". The writing and delivery of the trailer narration for these films makes one wonder if the same post-production company that worked on Troma's films during this period also worked on these.
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Overall

On its own, American Commando 6: Kill Butterfly Kill is disposable; however, in the context of the film(s) from which it sprang and the overall IFD practice of augmenting such films, it is an irresistible grindhouse treasure.
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