Skip to content

Plot: druglord avenges his associate’s death. The LETHAL ladies are on the case.

For Picasso Trigger Hawaiian action mogul Andy Sidaris went big. The  guns are bigger, the explosions are bigger and the breasts were pretty big to begin with. Not deterred in the slightest by trivial things such as the absence of budget, talent, or plot, Picasso Trigger bursts at the seams with unparallelled enthusiasm and gusto. Peroxide blondes Dona Speir and Hope Marie Carlton return as ditzy federal agents Donna Hamilton and (still surname-less) Taryn from The Agency (the details of which won't be forthcoming until, at least, 7 episodes from now) and frequently threaten to burst out of their candy-colored bikinis at any given moment. Donna and Taryn are still clothing-averse and prone to breaking out the big guns (both literal and figurative) whenever Moloka’i or Hawaii at large is threatened by the criminal element. Andy Sidaris, like any redblooded male, categorically loves beautiful women, big guns, explosions and bare breasts. His Girls, Guns, and G-Strings series combined everything he loved into one. Picasso Trigger and the Sidaris canon is entertaining when it remains lighthearted and fun. If you enjoyed Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) this will be right up your alley.

After the events of Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) Donna and Taryn are out snorkeling on a well-deserved vacation. Meanwhile in Paris, France – complete with stock footage from the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe – Salazar (John Aprea) is donating a multi-million Picasso Trigger painting to the Musée des beaux-arts de la ville de Paris as a token of gratitude. On the steps outside of the museum he is gunned down. The assassination is part of an elaborate retaliatory scheme masterminded by druglord Miguel Ortiz (Rodrigo Obregón) to avenge the death of his associate Seth Romero in the preceding movie. LETHAL senior operative L.G. Abilene (Guich Koock) sets up an investigation acquiring the services of Donna and Taryn, Edy Stark (Cynthia Brimhall), his son Travis Abilene (Steve Bond), and trusted The Agency associate Jade (Harold Diamond), who works at Sea Life Park.

Assisting the LETHAL team is the Professor (Patrick LePore) who, just like in Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987), comes bearing gadgets: a boomerang and a remote controlled racing car both, of course, set with explosives. In tow are Playboy Playmates Liv Lindeland (January 1971), and Roberta Vasquez (November 1984) as Inga and Paris liaison Pantera, respectively. At one point Inga asks the Professor, “do you want a Danish?” after which the Professor starts to untangle her bikini top, apparently oblivious (together with director Andy Sidaris, no doubt) to the fact that Lindeland hails from Norway, not Denmark, after which the famous pastry is named. It's the Professor who utters “killing is an art form”, the movie’s tagline.

Caught up in their own little action-filled subplot, one worthy of a 1970s Jess Franco production, are Playboy Playmates Kym Malin (May 1982) and Patty Duffek (May 1984) as a burlesque line dancing duo Kym & Patticakes. The routine is, of course, part of a deep undercover operation to apprehend a number of local gangsters, their ringleader Charles Patterson (Roy Summersett) and his second-in-command Schiavo (Nicholas Georgiade, as Nick Georgiade). Patterson and Schiavo promise the duo fame and fortune, but Kym and Patticakes remain focused on their mission objective. Upon completion of their mission, the girls relax and take their tops off… or frequently much earlier than that. Not that anybody in particular is complaining.

Perhaps more than any other episode before or since Picasso Trigger takes plenty of time fleshing out (which in Andy Sidaris tradition should be taken quite literally) the various amorous liaisons. Abilene the younger is initially courted by Spanish vixen Pantera, while he's still pursuing Donna. Feelings that Hamilton is all too eager to reciprocitate. In accordance with Abilene family tradition Travis can’t shoot straight no matter how close, or far, he is to his target. He doesn’t drive a red 1981 De Lorean DMC 12, but a 1981 Ferrari 308 GTSi, while he carries his firearm in a cow-skinned briefcase. Travis too lives on a Malibu Express (1985) houseboat. Travis is apparently okay, or unaware, that Donna hooked up with that other Abilene beefcake Rowdy earlier. “I don't have a jealous bone in my body,” Donna says when Travis explains his liaisons with Pantera, “check it out” as she drops her gown.

Taryn shares the jacuzzi with Hondo (Bruce Penhall) who asks her to stay over the weekend. An offer she declines because she’s a professional and she’s “on assignment.” A few scenes later Taryn is seen hooking up with golf-loving Jimmy-John (Wolf Larson). Jade and an agent become an item during the mission. The only relation to carry any emotional-narrative weight is the Pantera-Donna-Travis triangle. Donna quite comically solves the problem by shooting a harpoon at Pantera - who in the interim has revealed to be an enemy operative - the exit wound of which ends up, of course, right between her oversized breasts. Both Bruce Penhall and Roberta Vasquez would become regulars in the franchise in the following  years. Vasquez remains modest through out much of Picasso Trigger, offering plenty of deep cleavage, or the occassional sideboob. It wouldn’t be until Do or Die (1991), Hard Hunted (1993), and Fit to Kill (1993) that she showed off her considerable assets, albeit as a different, more benevolent character. The criminally underused Liv Lindeland would return as a different character in Guns (1990). Lindeland unfortunately never quite made it to the regular main cast.

Steve Bond was a television actor mostly remembered for his parts in General Hospital (1983-1986) and Santa Barbara (1989-1990). Bond would famously cross paths with sometime Tinto Brass muse Debora Caprioglio, or Paprika (1991) herself, in the Sergio Martino erotic thriller The Smile of the Fox (1992). Martial artist Keith Cooke (who appears as Keith Hirabayashi) - who would go on to portray Reptile in Mortal Kombat (1995), Chance O'Brien in Albert Pyun's Heatseeker (1995), and Sub-Zero in the famously disastrous Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)  – makes a serviceable turn as a wise-cracking goon, especially when he tries to kill Donna and Taryn with a model airplane, and is, quite literally, blown to pieces with a rocket launcher for his trouble. After Picasso Trigger Kym Malin went on to play a bit part as a hostage in the Bruce Willis action hit Die Hard (1988) and that of a party girl in the Patrick Swayze action flick Road House (1989).

Bruce Penhall was in the Ruggero Deodato slasher BodyCount (1986) prior to becoming part of Andy-verse. John Aprea was in Bullitt (1968) with Steve McQueen, The Godfather: Part II (1974) with Al Pacino, and The Game (1997) with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, among other credits. Harold Diamond would portray the stick fighter in the Sylvester Stallone epic Rambo III (1988). Dennis Alexio played a bit part in the Jean-Claude van Damme martial arts romp Kickboxer (1989). Hope Marie Carlton went on to play a dialog – and clothing-free bit part in A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) alongside a young Jennifer Rubin, and in the Albert Pyun martial arts stinker Bloodmatch (1991) with Thom Mathews. Still pooling talent from Playboy, and Penthouse centerfolds unfortunately Sidaris never saw it fit to offer Angelfist (1993) star Melissa Moore a role. Clearly Sidaris had a very specific beauty standard upon which he based his casting choices.

Hope Marie Carlton, Cynthia Brimhall, Liv Lindeland, and Roberta Vasquez show some semblance of acting skill, while Dona Speir, Patty Duffek, and Kym Malin stand out for all the wrong reasons. John Aprea, Rodrigo Obregón, Keith Cooke, and Nicholas Georgiade act better than what you’d usually expect in an Andy Sidaris production. Helping slightly in differentiating between Speir and Carlton is that Sidaris has now conveniently color-coded them, with Speir and Carlton wearing pink and green outfits respectively. Steve Bond is less of a leading man than Darby Hinton and Ronn Moss were, but to compensate he gets to roll in the hay with Dona Speir and Roberta Vasquez. The minimal plot is merely pretext for a series of tangentially related setpieces mostly revolving around scandily-clad women, big guns, and bigger explosions. Picasso Trigger knows what it is, and never professes to be anything else. An Andy Sidaris production is free from the usual rules that apply to low budget action movies of this kind - and, as would become clear the farther the franchise, well, not progressed so much as continued to exist - sometimes even old Andy didn't know how to make sense of the rules he set. In the Andy-verse there are usually two solutions to whatever problem the protagonists happen to face. One involves disproportionate guns, funny quips/one-liners and stuff blowing up in the most ridiculous way possible. The other is naked breasts, preferably a multitude of them and from a variety of Playboy and Penthouse models.

As with any early installment from the Girls, Guns, and G-Strings series it's clear that everybody was out to have a good time. From the bright, sunny beach locations, to the skimpy candy-colored bikinis, the ridiculous spy gadgets, and the abundance of bodacious babes in minimal fabric – Andy Sidaris aims for fun. One has to be completely heartless not to crack a smile at the sheer preposterousness of the affair. The explosions match the breasts in size, and when the girls fail to say their lines believably, Sidaris has them taking their tops off, often repeatedly. As history would come to show, bigger is always better in the Andy-verse. While the breasts might grow in size disproportionately as sequels followed, none of them would be quite the fun-filled romps that were Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) and Picasso Trigger. There may be many producers and directors that are better writers, better technicians, just better overall – but it remains debatable whether they are able to provide the same amount of fun per capita as Andy Sidaris and his team.

Plot: lesbian hitwomen face off against each other. A cop is caught in the crossfire.

Every director needs a muse. Roger Vadim had Brigitte Bardot and Jane Fonda. Mario Imperoli and Silvio Amadio shared a muse in Gloria Guida. Luciano Ercoli had Nieves Navarro. Sergio Martino had Edwige Fenech. Lucio Fulci had Catriona MacColl. Jess Franco had Soledad Miranda and later Lina Romay. Joe D’Amato had Laura Gemser. Hong Kong exploitation mogul Jing Wong on the other hand had Chingmy Yau, who was not only his muse but also his mistress. Yau had been starring in various capacity in Wong movies since 1988 but it wasn’t until Naked Killer that she was given her own production. While it never quite reaches the pomp of God Of Gambers (1989) and its sequel nor channeling the sheer derivative efficacy of High Risk (1996), Naked Killer is every bit as much a valentine to Yau as it is a preamble to have Chingmy entangled in various risqué positions and flattering outfits. Naked Killer might not be Jing Wong’s best offering, but in the English-speaking world it’s certainly his most remembered.

Allegedly made in response to Yukio Noda’s Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (1974) with Miki Sugimoto, Jing Wong conceived Naked Killer as a Hong Kong action take on the Paul Verhoeven erotic thriller Basic Instinct (1992) while director Clarence Ford aimed for a contemporary take on Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (1972), itself a HK variant of The French Sex Murders (1972). What Naked Killer actually looks like, at least most of the time, is a stylish erotic take on Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita (1990). If Jess Franco’s psychtronic sleaze epic Vampyros Lesbos (1971) was reimagined as a ‘90s HK action movie it would probably look something like this. Naked Killer ostensibly spawned an unrelated parallel franchise with Raped By An Angel (1993) (passed off as Naked Killer 2 in some territories, despite having no connections to the original) carrying over various cast and crew, and becoming a lucrative franchise of its own, spawning 5 installments from 1993 to 2003. Wong, ever the philistine, would revisit the lesbian hitwomen concept to increasing diminishing returns again in Naked Weapon (2002) with Maggie Q and Naked Soldier (2012) with Jenn Tse but neither came close to the enduring cult appeal of Naked Killer. For better or worse Naked Killer brought Category III to Europe and North America at large.

Up, front, and center of Naked Killer is Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching, the fairer half of one of HK cinema’s most recognizable power couples, who competed in the 1987 Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant, but withdrew under the guise of health issues after controversial allegations of plastic surgery on her chin arose. The veracity of the allegations seem to have never been substantiated. Yau was one of the leading ladies of Hong Kong cinema in the 1980s and early 1990s. She frequently worked with exploitation mogul Jing Wong. Having played good girl roles prior to her excursion into trash with Wong, Yau became one of the Hong Kong’s biggest sex symbols of the decade. There’s something strangely poetic (or romantic) about Wong, then a married man, casting his mistress in many of his productions of the time. Yau might have been the decade’s HK sex symbol but she refused, like her contemporary Amy Yip, to do full nudity as to not limit her career options. Wong on his part goes to ridiculous lengths to show as much of Yau as possible but also goes out on a limb to never fully expose her. Over the course of a decade-long career, spanning 55 movies, Yau was nominated three times for Best Actress at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Not just for respectable fare as I'm Your Birthday Cake (1995) and Hold You Tight (1998), but also for Naked Killer. In 1999 Chingmy Yau retired from acting and married Hong Kong fashion designer Shum Ka Wai, founder of fashion manufacturer I.T, with whom she has three children. Yau has been known for her charitable work and her eldest daughter Shen Yue recently modeled for UNICEF and has expressed no interest in entering showbusiness.

A recent string of random castration murders has the Hong Kong Police Force puzzled and detective Tinam (Simon Yam Tat-Wah) is assigned the latest of such cases. With results not forthcoming and Tinam still prone to projectile vomiting after accidently killing his police officer brother and unable to handle a gun, his commanding officer (Louis Roth) orders him to get a haircut. In the salon the HKPF detective witnesses a violent altercation between a particularly aggressive hairdresser and a flirty, scandily clad female client who identifies herself as Kitty (Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching) that ends with the hairdresser being repeatedly stabbed in the groin with a pair of shears. Kitty is able to flee the premises and Tinam gives chase. Kitty uses her ample womanly charms (and the detective’s gun) to convince him to let her go without questioning or making an arrest. A courtship between the two ensues as Kitty uses his pager to remain in contact. One day Kitty comes home to find her father (Chang Tseng), a food stand owner, killed by his wife’s lover Bee (Ken Lo Wai-Kwong). Kitty retaliates by infiltrating Bee’s Triad offices and killing absolutely everybody in sight before finally putting her crosshairs on the man she chose as target all along. On her way out she takes an older businesswoman hostage to facilitate her escape. As Bee’s henchmen close in on Kitty her hostage reveals herself to be Sister Cindy (Yiu Wai, as Kelly Yao), a retired special operative, and in the 70 second shoot-out that follows both women lay waste to all of the enemy agents as well as pretty much the entirety of the parking garage.

Recognizing Kitty’s penchant for casual mass slaughter and her appetite for wanton destruction Sister Cindy offers the young woman a deal. Either she will kill her or she can hand her over to law enforcement authorities which in no uncertain terms will mean life imprisonment. Kitty reluctantly agrees to become her disciple and before long she’s knee-deep into a regiment of martial arts - and special weapons training. On the side Sister Cindy instructs Kitty in the ways of seduction and destruction. Upon completion of her training she’s given a new identity and ordered to kill a high-ranking Yakuza target in a seedy nightclub. In retribution the Yakuza hire a pair of lesbian hitwomen Princess (Carrie Ng Ka-Lai) and Baby (Sugawara Madoka). Princess and Baby are revealed to be former disciples of Sister Cindy and will kill absolutely anybody for the right price, be they family or former mentors. Princess and Baby also happen to be lovers who don’t take kind to Sister Cindy having a new disciple. As the passion between Kitty and Tinam intensifies, the heat of the affair starts to spill over into their professional lives. In fact Kitty not only offers a solution of Tinam’s gun trauma but also solves his erectile problems at the same time. Princess and Baby are not amused by the male interloper as they secretly lust after Kitty. In the explosive finale Princess and Baby engage Kitty in battle to prove who gets to call herself the Naked Killer.

Unlike installments from the following decades Naked Killer has style to spare and will take every opportunity to relish in it. Its pop-art deco excesses easily match Jess Franco’s The Girl From Rio (1969) and The Devil Came From Akasava (1971) and Chingmy Yau gets to wear, and take off, some high-end fashion. The palette is vibrant and lively in its smattering pastel colors. During the final confrontation the rival hitwomen even don Phantom Of the Opera masks. The action direction by Lau Shung-Fung is up to par but it never reaches the creativity of the best work from Yuen Wo-Ping or Corey Yuen Kwai. 1992 was a particularly important year for Chingmy Yau as she would star in both Naked Killer and the manga adaptation City Hunter alongside Jackie Chan and Joey Wong. Yau had played a number of romantic and comedic roles by this point but Naked Killer was her first venture into something more erotic. Jing Wong was the subject of some controversy as he was engaged in a tryst with Yau while he was married. Hower, Wong always had a talent for spotting new talent and brought the world everybody from Sharla Cheung, Joey Wong, and Chingmy Yau to more recent belles as Valerie Chow, Charlie Yeung, Maggie Q, Jenn Tse and Candy Yuen Ka-Man.

The cast is as attractive as they come. Chingmy Yau is the obvious showstealer as the titular sexy assassin. Leading man Simon Yam, a model and Yau’s on-screen partner for much of the decade, is a strapping hunk. Sugawara Madoka, the only of the female cast to actually do any nudity, was Playmate Japan 1992. In fact if Naked Killer has a signature pose it is the crossing of one arm covering the chest. A pose that Chingmy Yau immortalized and etched in the memory of Hong Kong cinema fans worldwide, but that Sugawara Madoka also can be seen doing. Kelly Yao was both a singer and an actress but in recent years has found faith and now is an evangelical Christian. Carrie Ng on the other hand remains clothed through out while Sugawara does not. Ng had been acting for a decade by that point, while Sugawara acted in only a grand total of two movies in 1992-93. Wong’s juvenile humor is in full swing with Tinam’s partner (a cameo by Wong) mistaking a severed manhood for a sausage and T!nam’s tendency to projectile vomit. As always is Wong’s idea of humor far from sophisticated, crass, and wildly hit-and-miss. Category III movies had been around since the 1980s but it wasn’t until the explicit war atrocity expose Men Behind The Sun (1988) that directors and producers sought to capitalize on the taboo-prohibiliting rating. As far as Category III movies and the genre goes, Naked Killer is an extremely mild example of the form.

While Chingmy Yau has played a variety of roles for Wong over the years she remains the most identified with Naked Killer. Clearly it’s Wong’s valentine to his beloved mistress. Yau would make appearances in plenty of other Wong productions in the following years, including Future Cops (1993), City Hunter (1993), God of Gamblers Return (1994), and High Risk (1995). Jing Wong has returned to the lesbian hitwomen concept once every decade since Naked Killer. The episodes since have no connections to the original and as the productions became slicker much, if not all, of the mad frenetic energy that was present here has been increasingly sapped from the series. Naked Killer realizes just how ridiculous it is and continues to pile on until the entire thing threatens to collapse. That thankfully never happens, and whenever it does Wong throws in another shot of Chingmy Yau or Sugawara Madoka leering seductively at the camera. The Naked franchise has lost a lot of its luster over the ensuing two decades and Naked Killer remains by far the best of the bunch. Not only because it was the first but because it brims with style, oozes with excess and never takes itself too seriously. Perhaps God Of Gamblers (1989) is a much better title to get acquainted with Jing Wong’s deranged, mass audience antics – but there’s something about Naked Killer that he was never quite able to harness again. Naked Killer embodies the best of HK action cinema, although you shouldn’t take it too seriously. It certainly never does.