Cleopatra Jones And The Casino Of Gold (1975)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 6/28/13
Cast: Tamara Dobson, Tanny (Ni Tien), Stella Stevens

"Relax, brother, we're on CPT: colored people time!"

Cashing in on the kung fu craze of the 1970's, this sequel to "Cleopatra Jones" (1973) takes place in Hong Kong and pairs Tamara Dobson with Chinese kung fu cutie Ni Tien. Two undercover narcotics agents are kidnapped by the sinister Dragon Lady (Stella Stevens), and Cleopatra Jones (Tamara Dobson) goes to Hong Kong to track them down. A local detective named Mi Ling Fong (Ni Tien) and her gang decide to help out, which ultimately leads to a violent raid on the Dragon Lady's casino in Macao, featuring guns, swords, fists, and motorcycles.

It's a fun and competently made action film with a touch of Hong Kong flair, but the stunt work is rather poor as none of the leads are particularly convincing. Ni Tien's stunt driver and stunt doubles are clearly male, which unfortunately spoils the impact of her action scenes. Tamara Dobson delivers a strong performance full of swagger and cheeky jive dialog, but her wardrobe is laughably awful and her makeup is downright HIDEOUS. Seriously. Like freakish nightmare clown horrific. Adding insult to injury, she is credited with doing her own makeup, which was a serious mistake that someone should have challenged. Stella Stevens makes an excellent villain, with a commanding presence, a touch of wicked sensuality, and a taste for sadistic violence. She's far more potent than Shelley Winters was in the original, and as one character puts it, "that chick would bite Count Dracula's neck, and make him like it!"

Even though it's Dobson's movie, the real star is the cute and feisty Ni Tien. While her English delivery is a bit stiff, it's authentic and endearing. She's the level-headed one who keeps Cleo out of trouble, and has much better fashion sense. She also gets some choice lines, like "next time, I'll be the Lone Ranger and you be Tonto." The action packed finale goes all out and becomes increasingly absurd, but it fits in with the style of the film and the time period. It's also refreshing to see some realistically dangerous looking motorcycle stunts. With modest production values and mainstream sensibilities, it's definitely a step above similar Filipino exploitation fare. Good stuff.