Exposed to Danger (1982)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2008-01-30
There are an astonishingly high number of things wrong with “Exposed to Danger” which looks like it was shot on video but before discussing them it makes sense to point out why one might want to watch this movie. The reasons to do so are simple: every second that Luk Siu-Fan is on the screen. She is a talented and strikingly beautiful actress who might have become much more famous if she had worked more just across the Taiwan Straights in Hong Kong.

When a film like “Exposed to Danger” (although there aren’t many with this level of incompetence and apathy by the directors and screenwriters) is released viewers often ask “didn’t they know how bad this was?” The answer is always no. Filmmaking is a labor intensive process carried out by disparate teams of skilled artists and craftsmen who have little contact with each other. Therefore it is possible to have some obvious hits, the hair and makeup for Luk Siu-Fan, for example, in a sea of misses. The only people with an overall view of the process are the director and producer. If they are lazy, sloppy, distracted or just unskilled then any vision is lost.

It is a very basic, by the numbers thriller that gives away the most important secret half way through. While a revelation like this is almost always a red herring to fool the audience into thinking it has figured things out only to shock us later on, it is not the case here. The only important question and the key to everything—who is Sheena and why does she hate Fonda so much—(I am using the character names from the dubbed Mill Creek DVD)—is answered after 45 minutes leaving very little other than tidying up loose ends for the second half.

We begin with difficulties faced by a felon recently released from prison having served eight years for murder--a murder, of course, that she didn't commit Luk Siu Fan is standing on the wind-blown deck of a ferry boat thinking back on her days in prison, a prison where guards throw new convicts onto the stone floor and veteran convicts abuse her. She arrives with a letter from the chairman of a newspaper offering her a job but the chairman suddenly left town with no word of her. She has no newspaper experience, no ID papers and essentially no history. She is hired immediately and rented an apartment by a friendly landlord all on the basis of her letter.

However her situation will not remain so easy to deal with. Her apartment, a huge place at the end of an isolated road that comes furnished with a parrot in a cage and a monkey on a leash, is not a place of refuge. In her first hours there an everyday object becomes something strange and terrifying. This is a common trope in the genre and some very scary movies have been built around telephones, videotapes or televisions that take on a life of their own. In this unfortunate case, however, the household item is a bar of soap. Luk Siu Fan is in the shower. She picks up the soap and immediately panics, having a flashback to a time in prison when she was given soap is some type of blade in it. Unaware of its deadly alteration she cut herself with it and then was beaten up by the other inmates. The beating went on until guards intervened with a high pressure fire hose.

The next day she wearing tight shorts, a white shirt tied at the waist and high heels while perched on a ladder cleaning a chandelier—the director or at least the DP clearly knew what his strengths were at this point in the film. This is also the high point of the film. The next part of the scene is the low point, a collapse from which “Exposed to Danger” never recovers. While our heroine is on the very top of the ladder scrubbing the ceiling around the chandelier a bar of soap comes skidding across the suddenly and inexplicably wet floor. The soap wedges itself under one of the feet of the ladder (I am not making this up) and the ladder tips over. She drops about nine feet and lands with a thud on her back. She isn't injured but is terrified once again by the unexpected intervention of a cleaning agent.

Undaunted by a fall which should have killed her, Luk is scrubbing the floor—if you fall off a ladder when washing the ceiling, then start on the floor, using the “if life gives you lemons then make lemonade view of the world--when her lecherous boss shows up. He has already made a clumsy pass at her during her first day at work. This time he gives her a bottle of perfume as a gift and invites her to go fishing. (I wish I were making this up.)

This is stupefyingly bad filmmaking, making it impossible—not difficult but completely futile—to concentrate on the work on the screen. Even the huge holes in the screenplay: everyone but the boss knows that Luk is a woman with a past; the evil secretary is clearly crazy as a loon, has a very important position and is seventeen years old; people disappear for weeks before they are missed, are overshadowed. We are so distracted by the sheer ineptitude the directors and screenwriters that the movie itself becomes secondary.

There are a few moments of coherence. The crime for which Luk was sentenced, the murder of her lover, was reenacted convincingly in flashback, once with the audience knowing only what the police saw, a woman holding the knife that killed the man at her feet and covered with his blood. The second time we saw the crime itself committed with the perpetrator revealed, but only those who had been asleep for the twenty minutes before this scene would have been surprised at or even interested in the identity of the killer by then. The dead guy certainly deserved to have his life blood seep into the gutter on a rainy night. Luk was having an affair with him even though she knew he was married with kids. At their last meeting at a hotel he not only told her that he wouldn't be leaving his family to marry her but even tried to convince her that the current arrangement was the best for both of them. Obviously the worst kind of cad.

I plan to seek out more movies with Luk Siu-Fan, especially since just about anything will be an improvement over “Exposed to Danger”. She did a good bit of scenery chewing—going from desperate to angry to fearful to crazy—and carries herself like a real movie star.

It is impossible to rate the quality of this movie. If someone is not a fan of the star—which I became after about five seconds of her first appearing on the screen—it would be in negative numbers.