The Jade Pussycat (1977)
China Cat (1978)
The Jade Pussycat and its sequel, China Cat, find private investigator Johnny Wadd drawn into the world of illicit artifact trade by way of the mysterious and valuable Jade Pussycat. The statue is of great value as it was made of a piece of jade imbued with power...or something. In the first film, the statue is coveted by a German collector, in the second, by a Japanese man who was in possession of the statue until it was stolen from him during World War II. In order to recover the statue, the man enlists the aid of a group of beautiful women (the Devils) instructed by a faceless man named Charlie. (So, "Charlie's Devils" for those not particularly quick on the uptake.)
The interesting thing about watching the Wadd films more or less in order is seeing the artistic development of Bob Chinn. The progress between Tropic of Passion and Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here is nothing compared to the technical leap between TTJWiH and The Jade Pussycat (which, in turn, is surpassed by the skill of China Cat; in full disclosure, I haven't yet seen Liquid Lips, the bridge between Tell Them and Jade, although with LL apparently made immediately after Tell Them, I'd imagine they are pretty similar, formally).
Voiceovers are a staple of the Wadd series, but while in earlier films the exist largely as expository development between scenes, in China Cat, they're placed within the scenes and flesh out the story in a much more organic fashion. Additionally, China Cat featured a sex scene that was cut against the scheming Devils lending the hardcore scenes a degree of integration far beyond those earlier in the series.
The Jade Pussycat successfully created the feel of the seedy "Oriental" underbelly of San Francisco - in my opinion, a better use of location shooting than Tropic of Passion's Hawaii or Tell Them's Mexico - and utilized the crossing and double-crossing you'd expect from a genre picture of its era. China Cat built on the cliffhanger nature of its predecessor's ending, foregoing the sense of place and balancing a simpler narrative (Wadd vs. the Devils) with a higher degree of technical craftsmanship.
The grading of the films brings up an interesting challenge. Viewed together, I'd give the first a B+, the second an A-, however the second's grade is largely based on having had the first as a narrative lead in, so.... Ah, fuck it, B+ and A-.
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