Friday, April 03, 2009

LIAO ZHAI YAN TAN aka EROTIC GHOST STORY is a Hong Kong film which takes the "adult" Category III rating and runs with it! Willy nilly! This is the story of a trio of Chinese "fox spirits" who have meditated for a thousand years in order to shed their animal natures and take permanent human form and immortality. The final month of the 1000 years they spend in a Chinese village where the female population worships the god of "sex and fertility" Wu Tang. That's right, they're all members of the Wu Tang Clan; now you know where that's from. Wu Tang is a randy sorta fellow who will basically mount anything that moves. Unfortunately for our three fox spirit sisters, they must banish all lust from their thoughts and remain pure for this final month before they can achieve their goal of permanent humanity. It surely must come as no surprise to you that that Wu Tang decides to do his level best to deflower all three of the fox spirit ladies before the month is out.

The film opens as one of the fox spirits is accosted in a restaurant by a couple of sexist thugs who accuse her of stealing their pork buns -- they point to her ample cleavage as evidence of the pork buns. (Hey, Noel Coward didn't write this stuff, you know). She promptly beats the crap out of them with her umbrella. Another sister is accosted by a gang of thugs in the forest who want to "gang-appreciate" her. The fox spirit plays along encouragingly and even calls for several other women who suddenly appear from out of the woods. Each thug has a willing woman and they all commence boffing; however they soon realize that the women are not what they appear as they suddenly morph into rotting corpses. The third fox spirit wanders around a temple to the "god of sex and fertility" Wu Tang; she has lustful thoughts. Outside a wise old magician (Chia Ling Ha) stops her and warns her that she cannot have lust in her heart or she will never gain humanity. The foxes meet up later that night at their abode and toss and turn in bed unable to banish their lustful thoughts. So unable to banish them, in fact, that two of them engage in a nude girl-on-girl lesbian romp in the indoor pool/fountain. This is the first of many scenes which give the Category III film fans their money's worth. The next day a gang of toughs are beating up a mild mannered young scholar named Wu Ming (Lap-Man Sin). Wu Ming is such a milquetoast he apologizes profusely for barely touching the hand of one of the sisters as she hands him a cup of tea. Now, I'm sure I'm not providing any spoilers here when I tell you that Wu Ming is actually the horny Wu Tang in disguise and he beds each of the three fox sisters in short order. Ultimately the sisters discover that their lustful activities are turning them back into foxes: the special effects department five them hairy cleavage at one point and they see themselves in a mirror with (charmingly pantomime) fox heads. The ladies decide (a little too late, I'd say) to send Wu Ming away. He agrees to go but not before they eat some fruit -- which they do. In a scene lifted from THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, all the fruit and pits Wu Ming eats are vomited up by next-door neighbour Mrs. Wang. Wu Ming takes his leave and the three sisters, realizing Wu Ming is really Wu Tang, magically attack him from afar. This ticks off the old devil who causes huge black clouds and lightning to roll in as he morphs into his real scary visage -- or visages since he has three faces on his gnarly head -- as he goes to confront the three fox spirits. This leads to a knockdown drag-out magical battle between them. Disappointingly, the fox spirits fail and succumb to Wu Tang's magical allure and end up shedding all their clothes yet again. It takes the deux ex machina appearance of the old wise magician to destroy Wu Tang (who is revealed to be a demon in disguise). I for one would've preferred for the three sisters to have kicked Wu Tang's bony butt on their own. . .but there you are.

EROTIC GHOST STORY was apparently made in 1987 but not released in Hong Kong until 1990. Director Ngai Kai Lam (who was also a cinematographer) populates the film with all the feminine pulchritude he can muster; which happens to be quite a lot since the film stars the breastacular Amy Yip (star of the influential 1991 "SEX AND ZEN"). Much ink has been spilled in the Hong Kong press over the years as to whether Amy Yip's substantial bust was natural or augmented by "the lights of perverted science" -- i.e. implants. Well, you'll get a good chance to examine the evidence in this film since Ms. Yip (and her two other fox spirits sisters (Hitomi Kudรด and So Man) spend a great deal of the movie sans their kit -- in fact, they are full frontal a good deal of the running time. Now, far be it from me to turn up my nose at the unclothed female form but around about the one hour mark (or probably even before) it all gets a little bit tiresome and we're ready for some magical action to start. Thankfully, right about that time the plot kicks in once again and we get to see the fox spirits' confrontation with the demon. As special effects go, some of them (specifically Wu Tang's werewolf-like transformation scene utilizing prosthetics and air bladders) are of the quality of a direct-to-video zombie movie from 1981; but this actually lends a bit of charm to the film. Other sfx are more successful: the black clouds rolling in and the fight between the sisters and Wu Tang are rather nicely done if not spectacularly ground-breaking. Sadly for me, the print of the film I screened is dubbed into English and not subtitled; therefore the dopey English voices are a distraction. However we're not talking Kurosawa here so it doesn't really matter that much as to the enjoyment of the picture. My said enjoyment of the film is muted, of course, since it's main raison d'etre is to watch Amy Yip and co. frolicking stark naked. This is all well and good but, as I said, it tends to go on too long; the entire middle of the film consists almost entirely of simulated soft core sex scenes. Thus the film, even at 90 minutes, goes on too long; especially if you're a hetero female who doesn't find the exposed charms of Amy Yip all that riveting. Granted, all this sex is integral to the plot of the film -- after all, the whole point is that the three fox spirits have to remain chaste for a month and Wu Tang has to make them fail at this objective. However, this huge chunk in the middle of the film could've been cut down from 45 minutes to 15 without any loss to the storyline. Of course, the raincoat crowd would've been disappointed (EROTIC GHOST STORY was a huuuuuuuuuge hit when it came out in 1990) but I would've enjoyed more ghostly magical scenes delving into the Chinese folklore and myths concerning fox spirits and Wu Tang etc. I must be getting old. Anyway, for a dopey risque Chinese ghost movie nudie cutie, EROTIC GHOST STORY has enough to keep anyone interested in this genre of Chinese ghost films interested. After all, there's always the fast forward button.

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