Saturday, October 31, 2009

Louis Koo - Photos and Film Reviews

Like a cheap George Hamilton knockoff, for years Louis Koo was best known for his perpetual tan but he has moved steadily ahead in his career from television to low budget films to co-starring in many of the top films in Hong Kong these days. That may be a mystery to some but his classic clean cut good looks and a sleepy-eyed masculinity has gained him some box office appeal. Sometimes he can be reasonably effective, other times he can just be awful – The Protégé in particular comes to mind. Back in March I was perusing through vast amounts of plastic containers in the Hong Kong Photo Shop when I came across an actor who looked vaguely familiar but I was unable to quite place him. Then I saw some more recent photos of this star and realized with some amusement that it was Louis Koo. Wow, what a makeover from his early television days. In those days – early 1990’s - it appears that he was going for a very different persona then he does now with ghostly pale skin, long flowing hair and a bookish prissy demeanor. Then he decided to get a tan and the world was his to conquer. Considering that he spent some time in jail for robbery pre-career, you might have to wonder where he stole that tan. As you look at these pictures of him you may see what I mean.

In honor of Halloween and the goblins, hobgoblins and little pink bees trolling through the streets tonight for sweet candy and sweeter blood, here are reviews of two Koo films from his days doing lots of low budget horror. I am sure he is happy that those days are in the past. Both of these wee slightly better than I expected even if chills were rare – maybe it was seeing them soon after A Wicked Ghost that made them seem worthy. I have a few items after the reviews as well.
Director: Ivan Lai
Hong Kong
Duration: 87 minutes

It is always good to see an “end of the world is coming right around the corner” film some eleven years afterwards when you don’t have to worry they may be right. Now of course we have the film 2012 coming up which foretells the end of earth based on the Mayans of all people. Geez, now I have to start storing food supplies again. Anyway, the oddest thing about is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the Internet but it does have a solid cast and is a mishmash of guilt, sex, religion, death and the supernatural that should have been much sleazier than it was. Based slightly it seems on a true mass death incident in Kowloon, it begins with the discovery of a small group of dead people found in an apartment. They were members of a weird Christian cult and were going through a mystical ritual to extend their lives. It clearly did not go quite as planned as it appears they were poisoned and the money being used for the ceremony was stolen (try dieting and exercise next time). One woman named Ching (Zuki Lee) is still alive and Officer Chan (Louis Koo) hopes he can get some answers from her.

Chan brings Ching’s roommate Ying (the delectable Grace Lam who has issues keeping her clothes on in most films) to the hospital to look after her and in the best scene of the movie Ching starts having visions of snakes and goes into a violent frenzy until all her blood arteries pop and she dies. Ying says that her friend was a disciple of the Church of True God headed by the charismatic Pope (Andrew Lin Hoi) and that she will pretend to join them and spy on them. Sure – you are cute, you are hot – so why not, says Chan in his usual clear-headed manner. He goes to another officer for advice – of the supernatural kind. Every morning Officer Chiu (Anthony Wong) has fellow officers lined up outside his office seeking his fortune telling skills – such as one guy who shows Chiu a picture of the girl he wants to marry and Chiu tells him that because “she has an ass like a duck, she will kill him with constant sex” and by the way, what’s her telephone number. An ass like a duck. I have to remember that one just in case.

The film swishes back and forth from present to past as Chan wrestles with demons from his childhood, Chiu wrestles with guilt for not having stopped another cult like madman (Mark Cheng) before he killed years ago and Pope is predicting the end of the world on 01/01/99 and telling his followers that all will be forgiven so they may as well have an orgy now. Cult leaders have all the fun. Emily Kwan also shows up at his disciple who has to hook to make enough money to pay membership fees and takes out her frustration on her husband and son when clients complain about her proselytizing during intercourse.

Koo goes through much of the film with a blank stare but I expect this was intentional to show his character’s traumatized soul – or maybe he just wasn’t getting enough sleep. Kind of by the numbers but with just enough jolts of violence and nudity to keep you mildly interested; it was a film that came and went in the blink of an eye.

My rating for this film: 5.5

Troublesome Night 4
Director: Herman Yau
Hong Kong
97 minutes

I took a gander at HKMDB and noticed that there were 19 films made in the Troublesome Night series between 1997 and 2003. Whoopee, so many more films for me to look forward to! Ok, not really. Somewhere after the seventh or eighth I stopped watching them as they began getting cheaper and cheaper. Before that though there were some enjoyable moments in the films and I was surprised to realize that I had missed the fourth in the series from one of my favorite directors, Herman Yau, who can go like no one else from exploitation trash to serious social films at a moments notice. He is also the only Hong Kong director I have had dinner with and he came across as a really funny swell guy. So I am a fan, but he makes films at such a pace that I can’t even come close to keeping up with his output. My guess is that if Lincoln Center ever does a retrospective of his career (fat chance), Troublesome Night 4 will not be among them. It is fairly mild medicine comprised of three tales of which two don’t have any sting and the third is much more comical than scary. In truth, it looks like Herman used the film as an excuse to vacation in the Philippines and to meet some soft core Filipina actresses who agree to shed their clothes on celluloid. For a Troublesome Night film, this has a surprisingly amount of nudity and Herman seemed a lot more interested in that than he did in creating chills. But who can really blame the guy?

Troublesome Night 4 has three of the stalwarts of the series – Louis Koo who appeared in the first seven films in the series before he learned how to say “No”, Wayne Lai also managed to find himself in seven of the films – but both these guys are pikers compared to Simon Loui who seemed to show up in nearly every low budget horror film of the period – he was in thirteen of the Troublesome Night films and is probably wondering where his career went. Of course one of the fun things about those early TN films was the large casts that were needed in order to make three separate episodes. Many of these were up and coming actors - some who went on to bigger careers but most of them fell back into working in television once the low budget horror films ran out of gas.

Venturing out of the safe confines of Hong Kong for travel to Southeast Asia has never been a healthy thing in Hong Kong films though it is generally Thailand that brings on death or curses, but occasionally the Philippines gets in on the act – Fatal Vacation where a group of Hong Kong tourists are kidnapped and killed, Marianna where Sally Yeh is terrorized by zombie lepers and even Leslie Cheung’s luck ran out there in Days of Being Wild. A planeload of passengers from Hong Kong are on their way to Manila – two of them are on their honeymoon (Louis Koo and Pauline Suen), one fellow (Timmy Hung, son of Sammo) is unknowingly delivering an urn with a girl’s ashes to her home, a businessman has brought his secretary along for some fun (Raymond Wong and Karen Tong in a running gag where ghosts keep interrupting their tryst) and the rest are part of a tour group led by Emily Kwan. Three of these (Simon, Wayne and Cheung Tat-ming) are friends going for the whoring and are pleased when Emily informs them that “guns and whores are commonly found here”. And finally U2 and K2 are along for the ride to it seems promote their workplace, the infamous China City Club where they are hostesses. Since neither of them (Marianna Chan and Joey Choi) have any particular involvement in any of the stories, one might guess they are either just in it for the eye candy or are friends of Herman.

The first two stories have zero bite to them. Allan (Timmy) begins seeing the ghost of the dead woman (Via Veloso) that he is carrying to her home which isn’t all that bad since she is naked some of the time and in the second segment the newly married couple has a falling out after she suspects him of having a fling with an exotic dancer (Anna Capri). But the film hits comic gold in the third piece. After a few frustrating days the horny threesome decide that tonight they are finding some girls to whore with but they get much more than they bargain for in a finger chopping night of ghosts and zombies who judge them for their wicked whoring. It is like the Three Stooges trying to get laid and is quite loony and funny. The extremely well-built (the “oh my god” expression on Wayne Lai’s face when he sees her naked charms is hilarious) Filipina in this one is Aya Medel and to say she is an eye full is total understatement.

My rating for this film: 6.0

This being Halloween, here are ten pretty good Hong Kong horror films to watch alone in the dark sometime.

Possessed II (1984) – an outlandish tale of possession that will reach out and yank you by the hair until your scalp bleeds.

Love to Kill (1993) – here is a good one to watch with the family. Psycho Anthony Wong tortures and maims . . .his wife. Now get me a beer.

Run and Kill (1993) – another family oriented film of psychotic intentions and terror with Simon Yam creeping it up.

Red to Kill (1994) – this queasy gut churning film puts a serial rapist among a mentally disadvantaged housing group.

Intruder (1997) – the adorable Wu Chien-lien sneaks into Hong Kong like a deadly virus from China and shows her colors as a cold blooded killer in this very suspenseful tale of fear and loneliness. A Handover warning.

Erotic Nightmare (1999) – a fast paced, erotically charged thriller that straddles the line between being a mystic horror film andr being a perverse Japanese fetish film.

Horror Hotline (2001) – following in the urban legend footsteps of The Ring, this is a surprisingly effective creepy film that is nearly all suggestion and atmosphere.

The Eye (2002) – the Pang Brothers hit gold with this eerie tale of a woman who gets back her sight from an eye-transplant and begins to see things she would rather not.

New Blood (2002) – Director Cheang Pou-soi has gone on to bigger films since this low budget horror film, but this one certainly showed his potential with its dead serious ghost revenge plot of bad things happening to good people.

Going Home and Dumplings (2002/2004) – these two stories were the Hong Kong segments from the two Extreme films and they both are similar in the sense that the horror stems not so much from traditional scares but from the true horrors of life – getting old and being lonely – both are filled with yearning melancholy and are brilliant.

Non-Asian Film Review

Here is a film that I have wanted to see for ages and I found it in of all places the Brooklyn Library. It is Lady for Day from Frank Capra made in 1933. It has a small connection though to Asian films since it has been remade twice to my knowledge – first by Jackie Chan as Mr. Canton and Lady Rose in 1989 and then again recently Bollywood made a version with Singh is Kinng. It has all the characteristics of the Capra films to come – a sense of miracle and a belief in the innate goodness of people if you dig deep enough. A tough leader of a gang shows his soft spot for an elderly apple seller named Apple Annie whose apples have always brought him luck. In Mr. Canton it was roses of course but this change may have been made so that Anita Mui could sing Rose, Rose I Love You. Apple, Apple just wouldn’t be the same. Apple Annie who is dirt poor has been fooling her daughter, who has been brought up in a convent in Italy, that she is wealthy and lives in a fancy New York hotel. She receives a letter that her daughter is engaged to the son of an Italian count and that they are all arriving in a few days to meet her. Well, since Duke feels Annie is his good luck charm he and his gang along with his tough wisecracking singing moll, Montana, set up an elaborate charade to make the fiancé and father believe Annie is who she claimed to be. With the cops thinking something is up and hounding Duke’s footsteps it looks like the air will come out of this fantasy balloon but as in all Capra films the goodness of people comes to the forefront and all ends happily. It stars Warren William who I have always previously seen in negative roles as a snide unscrupulous type as the Duke, May Robson as Annie and one of my favorite character actors Guy Kibbee as the pool hustling pretend husband of Annie. The film also has one of the earliest homosexual references that I have come across when Annie goes in for her makeover and one man follows her in to her bedroom. Duke barks out, “Hey no men allowed” to which Montana says “It’s alright Duke”. “What do you mean it’s all right?” “Duke believe me there is no problem”. “Oooh, it’s Pierre. I see what you mean”. I also enjoyed the thought of one of his gang pretending to be the King of Siam in their rehearsal. Funny sweet film that was nominated for four Academy Awards.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gigi Lai - Photos and Film Review

Next up is the very cute Gigi Lai with her bright eyes and adorable anime features. She never quite hit the big time but certainly appeared in loads of films from the early 1990’s on – slowly moving into television as did so many others as the film industry dried up. Most of these films were definitely second tier films - youth oriented or horror – but a few of them certainly had a degree of popularity. Her biggest success was as Smartie in the first three films of the Young and Dangerous series. A couple other films of hers that I would recommend are To Live and Die in Tsimshatsui (though this is primarily a Wu Chien-lien vehicle), Ninth Happiness (again primarily a Wu Chien-lien film) and Okinawa Rende-vous (Faye Wong being the principal female star in this one). But her best role in my opinion was in a small independent film called The Accident (1998) in which she finally had an opportunity to take on a grown-up complicated character and did a terrific job. I perused her filmography and much to my shock and awe I counted up 25 films of hers that I have seen – that is probably more than she has! In a lot of those of course she was a minor character. So that left only one film of Gigi's among my collection that I hadn’t seen – the great, the stupendous, the truly awful A Wicked Ghost from 1999. My guess is that if she was a Smartie, Gigi skipped this one as well!

Gigi Lai Photos – 1, 2, 3, 4

A Wicked Ghost
Director: Tony Leung Hung-wah

Here is a nifty after dinner treat that may have come right out of a Martha Stewart Entertain at Home book. Have a few of your closest friends over for a cozy meal around the dinning room table. After everyone finishes eating and wants to digest for a bit, get a large glass bowl and fill it with a few cups of room temperature water and place it in the middle of the table. Then get a sharp knife – not too large – just big enough to make a sharp quick incision. Have each of your friends take the blade in turn and serrate their index finger allowing just a few drops of blood to slowly ease their way into the bowl. Then stir and serve. Each person takes a deep sip and then sits down at the table and holds hands. A communal moment. Then proceed to a few invocations to invite a ghost to come visit. Oh, but before doing so, be sure each of your guests has life insurance because they are sure going to need it.

This is what these good friends decide to do one evening at the apartment of Rubbish (Tang Chung-him) and before you can say boo, good old Rubbish is good and gone – scared to death. Annie (Celia Sze), Big Bee (Man Yeung Ching-wa), Biggie (Lam Suk-yan) and Ming (Gabriel Harrison) are certain something bad is going down but no one else believes that the death was caused by a ghost. Not even after two more of them soon die mysteriously and violently. Ming was the only one of them who was sanitary enough not to drink the blood that night but his girlfriend Annie did and the ghost has been kind enough to give her a three day deadline . . . to live. So Ming along with his drama teacher friend Mr. Mo (Francis Ng) rush to get to the bottom of why this ghost is seeking revenge before the three days expires. Ming’s sister Cissy (Gigi Lai) is a reporter but along with her boss/boyfriend Jack (Mok Ga-yiu) are probably the two worst journalists in Hong Kong as both seem to think this is all co-incidental and no big deal. Now, the long-haired female ghost I could believe but two Hong Kong press people not splattering this story all over the front page to sell newspapers – that stretched my credibility beyond the breaking point.

This was made in the midst of The Ring frenzy when there were enough bad imitations made to add to Hong Kong’s ever increasing landfill. This is just low-budget awfulness if there is such a word. The scariest thing is probably Francis Ng lecturing his class on acting and how to “feel” a picture of a horse running. His time would have been better spent teaching his fellow actors a few things. Ng just looks so miserable to be in this misfit of a film – made in the same year he appeared in The Mission, Bullets Over Summer and H.K. Triad – and at times it looks like it is all he can do not to break out laughing. You have to pay the bills I guess. Amazingly, there was to be A Wicked Ghost II and III, so what do I know? By the way, the elderly actor who plays the key to the mystery is Lui Tat, whose filmography goes all the way back to 1952 and is credited on HKMDB with appearing in over 160 films with Wicked Ghost being his last one. Some of the films he appeared in - usually it seems in very small roles are great ones - The Wild, Wild Rose, Sun, Moon and Star, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, My Young Aunty, Legendary Weapons of China, Royal Tramp, The Eternal Evil of Asia, Young and Dangerous and Sex and Zen II. Pretty amazing.

My rating for this film: 2.0

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yvonne Yung Hung - Photos and Film Reviews

I have had a chance to scan in a few of the pictures that I picked up at the Photo Shop in Hong Kong, but I thought this time I would use them as a kick in the pants to watch some older musty Hong Kong films. I have loads of DVDs and VCDs of Hong Kong films never opened, never watched and literally gathering layers of dust. This is mainly middling fare of films made from the late 80’s/ to the mid 90’s when HK was producing a couple hundred movies a year. But of that large output, perhaps 20% were pretty good leaving a massive jumble of truly average films that few watched then and certainly no one is watching now.

In a way it is rather sad that there is so little talk on Asian film forums about the HK movies of yesteryear – they had their little bubble of interest and now not a lot of people seem interested any more. Sure, there will be discussions on the latest Johnny To film and a few other action movies that excite action fans – but there is zero interest in anything else. I mean when was the last time anyone ragged on Michael Wong? It feels like light years. Or talked about the Troublesome Night series or discovered a hidden jewel like Task Force. Or argued about the merits of The Young and Dangerous films. So I thought that this time when I put up some actor's photos on my site, I would first dredge through my collection and see if I could find some unseen films of that actor and watch one or two of them and write reviews. Yes, I understand that there is little if any interest in these films any more, but what the heck – I have them, I may as well watch them!

The first actress up is Yvonne Yung Hung. I have to admit that I have never really given her much thought even though she was a celebrity of sorts for a few years in the film industry around the mid-1990’s for her risqué roles. I had come across her in a few films – the best known being Chinese Torture Chamber Story (1994) and then in the quite awful The Romance of Vampires (1994). Upon looking at her filmography, I realized that I had also seen her in smaller roles in Lover of the Last Empress (1995), The Hero of Swallow (1996) and Walk In (1997) but I have no particular recollection of her in those films. From what I can gather off the Internet she has had quite an interesting life. She was born in Beijing in 1968 and studied dance (her flexibility proving valuable in certain sexually difficult positions later on that would put some of us into traction). At the age of twelve, she and her family managed to get to Hong Kong. Like all good girls she decided that entering beauty pageants was a viable road to fame and she did very well – runner-up in the Miss Asia Pacific contest, HK’s candidate for Miss World and the winner in 1989 of Miss Asia. Many HK actresses – Maggie Cheung, Michelle Reis, Christy Chung and Nina Li to name a few – have used success in beauty pageants as a springboard into show business and Yvonne tried doing the same. But films like Pizza Lover (1992) and Freedom Run Q (1992) didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Then in 1992 Amy Yip dropped out of the film business for the convenience of being a kept woman. This created a vast void in the Cat. III world of well-endowed actresses willing to show a lot of skin and perform acts of simulated sex with sweaty often unattractive men (with the likes of Kent Cheng and Elvis Tsui). Looking at her wilting career, Yvonne decided to try and step into the shoes and bodice of Amy and though not quite up to the Yipster’s proportions (few are), she certainly had cleavage to spare and the same sort of pookie innocent face that Amy Yip made good use of. She became sort of a Junior Amy Yip but by this time Cat. III films were becoming much more salacious and Yvonne had to go beyond anything Amy Yip had to do – namely show her points in their entirety – something Amy never did. The first film in which she threw down the gauntlet as well as her clothes was the 1993 Can’t Stop My Crazy Love for You in which she plays the obsessed target of total perv Simon Yam. It got her the attention she was hoping for and over night she became a sensation in the gossip magazines. After this she appeared in a mix of Cat. III films and regular fare, but there were really no films of any note (other than a cameo in Drunken Master II).

Where she found success was in of all places television where apparently her Cat. III image did her no harm. She is still acting in television and not too long ago had her first child. So seemingly all has turned out quite well for this actress. I discovered that I had six unseen films in which she appears and though the films themselves were only so-so, she is really quite watchable from a male perspective – not just her body parts though that doesn’t hurt – but she exudes a very cute personality in which her pout is almost as big as her breasts. No one would have accused her of being much of a thespian back then, but she is more than adequate for the under developed and under-dressed roles she took.

Here are a number of photos – most of them from a pictorial book that I found in the Photo Shop. It is surprisingly modest (disappointingly so I must confess!) – sexy but chaste and I have included a few other pictures of her that I found on the Internet that I wanted to give a good home to.

And here are reviews of these six films.

Freedom Run Q
Director: Allan Fung
Viewed on Mainland DVD

Freedom Run Q stars two of Hong Kong’s dweebiest male actors – Alfred Cheung and Lawrence Cheng – in a rather bland buddy cop comedy that comes to life only when Yvonne Yung Hung pops in to show her winning smile or during the very solid action scenes. The action choreography comes from Dion Lam who was also involved in the action work in some terrific films – Shanghai Shanghai, The Stone Age Warriors, The East is Red, Black Mask, Storm Riders and Red Cliff – the action here is basic but quite enjoyable. As to Yvonne, this was before she jumped bosom first into Cat. III films and she is remarkably cute and graceful, showing her dance training to good effect in her martial arts moves. If she had perhaps been mentored in the same way as Chingmy Yau by Wong Jing, she looks like she may have done well in many of those silly romantic or kung fu comedies that he produced – but the bright lights of Cat. III beckoned.

I have always found the films of Alfred Cheung and Lawrence Cheng a bit of a chore to sit through – often playing bespectacled yuppie nerds - and having the two of them together feels like a joke in itself – especially as tough (though not particularly competent) cops chasing after drug dealers. They meet cute as both go undercover and try to sting one another in a drug deal – Alfred in cringe worthy melting black face. After this they team up to find the source of Angel Dust that is coming into Hong Kong. They and their female supervisor (Elizabeth Lee) suspect a Mainland martial arts troupe from Yunan may be smuggling the drugs in. The Master of the troupe is played by the great veteran Lam Kau and one of his disciples is Yvonne, who is an expert in throwing knives and other sundry martial arts skills. She is planning to defect and meet up with her brother but she attempts to do so right in the middle of a drug deal that becomes a drug bust when Alfred and Lawrence charge in. She unknowingly ends up with the bag of drugs and both the cops and the bad guys are after her – all leading to a few well played out action scenes and some cute chop stick battles between her and her kung fu brother. This was fairly average stuff back then and didn’t exactly bring in hordes of ticket buyers. It is helped a bit by the presence of some other veteran actors – Bill Tung as Lawrence’s wealthy father and the wonderful Jeanette Lin Tsui as Alfred’s mother who just wants her boy to become a doctor.

There are also some pointed critical references to the impending Handover and I believe Alfred Cheung, who co-wrote the script, has been a staunch advocate of political freedom in Hong Kong.

My rating for this film: 5.5

Can’t Stop My Crazy Love for You
Director: Hon Wai-dat
Viewed on Ocean Shores DVD

Let me put this out front as creepy as it may make me sound. The sex scene between Simon Yam and Yvonne Yung Hung is one of the steamiest and erotic that I have come across in a Hong Kong film. Why creepy, you may ask? Well, because it begins as a rape, there is a dead cop on the floor next to the bed, Yam has killed her boyfriend and she has sworn revenge. But if you put these small facts aside (!) - and it seems the director has as he allows Yvonne’s character to appear to get very much into it, then it is a pretty hot scene and quite an introduction for actress Yvonne Yung Hung into Cat. III films. This is no tepid tiptoe entry into this sleazy world for the former Miss Asia, but a high double flip dive into the deep end. Her Cat. III career was only to last for a few years before she moved primarily into television, but it certainly created the boost to her celebrity that she was looking for.

To his co-workers Fred Suen (Simon Yam) appears to have it all – handsome, suave, well-dressed, single and a well-paid executive at a Security company. He is the sort of fellow who his male co-workers can talk to about their “dickie’s” and jokingly ask “how big are your mom’s tits”. But like so many of us, he has a hidden side to him – in this case quite a unique one. He likes to dress up as a woman – o.k. no big deal – he has a blow up doll at home – again no big deal – but in this case he sits it at the dining table and has lengthy conversations with it in which he pours out his longings and has it read the newspaper at breakfast. He tells his rubber friend that he has done as well as he can sexually during their 3-month relationship but it is not enough. So he takes up another hobby – peeping through a telescope at his obsession – newswoman Kitty Wong (Yvonne) who forgets to close the blinds when she undresses.

Years ago Simon Yam went through his psycho stage in films with movies such as Dr. Lamb, Full Contact and Run and Kill and he performs each of these roles with gleeful relish. Interestingly, the other two main actors who got stuck with a number of crazy roles back then were Anthony Wong and Francis Ng and all three have gone on to distinguished careers and are considered three of Hong Kong’s top actors. Maybe psycho roles are good training – it allows the actor to let it all out and to play with a role outside conventional boundaries. At any rate, Simon appears to be having loads of fun with his character here in a maniacal eye popping grinning performance.

Fred goes from peeper to stalker and beats up four guys, who give Kitty a hard time, but when he meets her in person he is tongue tied and socially inept – so he takes on the persona of Mr. Puppet and makes obscene phone calls to her. Things get nastier when he discovers that she has a boyfriend (Michael Wong) who has it all. The violence ratchets up – with at one point Kitty doing a Chow Yun Fat by hiding weapons all over the house for easy reach – and ending with the infamous line “You shot my dickie!” Other characters are played by Helena Law Lan as Kitty’s aunt and Vincent Wan as a cop. Reasonably good fun but primarily known for the unveiling of Yvonne.

My rating for this film: 6.5

My Pale Lover
Director: Chow Jan-wing
Viewed on DVD

This is an extremely harmless and rather pointless exercise primarily interested in displaying numerous women without their clothes on. Which in itself is not really a bad thing, I admit. A plot may have helped but that was clearly more trouble than the producers wanted to go to. Oddly, even though this was made shortly after Yvonne Yung Hung’s Cat. III coming out party in Can’t Stop My Crazy Love for You, she is about the only female in the film who doesn’t get too revealing – having only a rather sedate, uninspired and generally covered love making scene at the very end.

The film wastes no time in jumping into the sleaze as it opens with two topless women gyrating on stage in a small squalid bar causing the patrons to have nose bleeds in the fine tradition of Hong Kong comedies. The women (who are apparently Thai from their language) then proceed to another long quaint tradition – pulling razor blades out of hidden places and opening a beer bottles with body parts that would make watching football at home on a Sunday much more interesting. Nike (Chiu Wai) works in the bar as a bartender and is involved in a relationship with the bouncer Dick (Gung Fei) and the two of them have numerous sexual escapades involving masks, alley ways and slapping. Other folks working in the bar are doing much the same sort of thing – one amusing episode being when the owner thought he was having oral gratification from his girl (Ying Siu-liu) under the desk only to finally realize she was standing by the door and it was his pet dog doing the duties. At least that passes for amusing in this film.

Across town, Nike’s friend Rose (Yvonne) is a psychiatrist with a motley group of clients with sexual issues. One of them is an obsessed suitor who hates cats and attacks her stuffed Garfield toy. For some reason not quite explained, the two women switch jobs and lives – Rose begins serving drinks in the bar and Nike begins counseling men, often naked as is the nurse and a bunch of other folks. Rose moves in with Dick and romance blooms. That is the film in a big fat nutshell. Absolutely pointless but mildly entertaining – kind of like an old episode of Love American Style with loads of simulated sex and large bosoms.

My rating for this film: 4.5

Ancient Chinese Whorehouse
Director: Ivan Lai
Viewed on DVD

Not withstanding the title of Ancient Chinese Whorehouse, this is a fairly benign Cat. III period piece which doesn’t have much of a bite to it especially if compared to Yvonne Yung Hung’s more famous period film that she was in during the same year – Chinese Torture Chamber Story. The resume of director Ivan Lai is littered like a mangy junkyard with many forgettable films, but he did strike gold on occasion with the loony Blue Jean Monster and the unnervingly distasteful Daughter of Darkness. He was also behind the Diana Pang Dan film, The Imp. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bring much of that same perversity to this film, which basically plays it for comedy until near the end.

Siu Ching’s (Ching Suet-aan) family is deeply in debt and so of course they rent their most valuable asset – their demure virgin daughter – to the proprietress of the local whorehouse. By contract, Ching is the property of this abode for five years and is informed by Yat (Dick Lau) that this equates to approximately 5,475 beddings over that period. Not exactly thrilled with the thought of becoming a human mattress, Ching tries to escape but is caught and brought before Madam Ng (Yvonne Yung Hung), who as far as brothel owners go (in movies anyway) is very kind to her staff – but business is business and so to encourage Ching to perform her duties she is put in a vat of squiggling eels who seem to be looking for . . . let us say a warmer climate to move into. This is all the incentive Ching needs to begin working with an auction set up for her virginity disposal.

Other members of this happy household are Sister Bamboo (Yuen King-tan) whose gigantic breasts have frightened off her customers for months and she is desperately in need of business. There is also Kong (the portly Kent Cheng) who is the genius behind all the various sexual devices that the clientele like so much. He also enjoys peeping in on Madam Ng when she is taking a bath. Plot points concern a foreign prostitute who works on a huge stuffed cock (the bird kind of course) and is taking away all of their business with a guarantee to make every man orgasm in a few minutes or money back. There is also a love affair that begins to bloom between Ching and Yat and finally a rapist (Elvis Tsui) begins stealing the girls and has to be stopped by a kung fu Madame Ng. The late Shing Fui-on appears as the Marshall looking for the rapist but is much more interested in looking at Madame Ng. There is a respectable amount of nudity – thankfully not from Yuen King-tan! – and Yvonne has two sex scenes – the one with Kent Cheng being kind of touching and gymnastically absurd at the same time.

My rating for this film: 5.5

The Power of Money
Director: Cheng Ming
Viewed on VCD – no Subtitles

It is odd that Yvonne Yung Hung appeared in this low budget straight to VCD film following her recent Cat. III success. Perhaps she had already made it before Can’t Stop My Crazy Love or had already signed up for it – or as things went back then – was persuaded by some triad wannabe film producer to show up for work. But it really has absolutely nothing much going for it until a fairly well-done scene at the very end with Yvonne trying to decide between money and love with a gun in her hand. She looks great in the film, but keeps her clothes firmly in place.

The film begins with a Mainland gang headed by Victor Hon-kwan robbing a place of business and making their get-away after a shoot-out with the cops. Their transport back to China falls through though and they have to hold up in a rundown shack and turn to local kingpin Cheng Chu Fung for help. Even without sub-titles it doesn’t take long to realize that Cheng is a bad boy – he enjoys lolling about on a couch and has his girlfriend/assistant crawl on the floor bringing him his shoes in her mouth. Always a sign of a bad upbringing in my book.

Two cops are after the gang and Cheng – Jackie Lui (who was to gain some fame years later as one of the bodyguards in The Mission) and Terence Fok. They are friends off-duty as well but between them comes Fok’s torch singing chanteuse, Eve (Yvonne). She and Fok argue about money matters – not enough of it naturally – and when she turns to Jackie for advice, Fok thinks the worst of his partner and this woman trouble leads to betrayal all-around – finally leading to Eve eying her wounded boyfriend and a suitcase of money and trying to quickly decide which one she wants more.

My rating for this film: 4.0

Spike Drink Gang
Director: Bosco Lam
Viewed on VCD

From reading a couple other reviews of this film it seems fairly clear that this VCD was badly censored, excising all the naughty nude bits – though all reviewers agree that Yvonne Yung Hung’s clothes stay intact throughout – so it’s impossible to judge this film fairly. But what it still has going for it is a distinct grungy street level feel and much of it is shot on various outside locations around Hong Kong. Otherwise though, it strikes one as truly klutzy directing with lots and lots of over acting. Director Bosco Lam did better work in Underground Banker and Chinese Torture Chamber Story.

Based I believe on a true crime case, a rather dim gang of four begin drugging those cardboard drinks in convenience stores by injecting a sleeping potion into them. They then follow the victim out of the store and rob them or rape them or kidnap them or the trifecta. In the film of course all the purchasers of the drink are well-endowed women and one can only guess at what the gang did if either a man bought the drink or an unattractive female. The first victim is our very own Yvonne – Mrs. Tsui – who falls asleep on a street in Sheung Wan and wakes up hours later to find herself on a bench on the boardwalk along the harbor in Tsimshatsui and has no idea if she was only robbed or molested as well. The cops are not initially interested but her husband Butcher Tsui (Elvis Tsui) certainly is as he goes nuts in worry that his wife was raped – not for her mind you – but because all the neighbors are making fun of him and he compares his wife’s chastity to a clean toilet bowl. So he tries tracking down the gang and of course gets the wrong fellow (Yu Kwok-lok), who he tortures by cutting off his massive chest hair and face hair with a broad sword.

Meanwhile, more of these robberies occur – finally with a young girl being kidnapped – and the cops (Chan Kwok-bong and Lee Siu Kei) decide to use Mrs. Tsui to find them. So they drug her again and have her retrace her wobbly steps to their lair. Heading this gang is Lo Meng of Venom fame and he is the only one here to put in a performance that even feels mildly real. Yvonne pouts throughout and Elvis gives one of his more over the top performances ever. Not really worth 90 minutes of your life, but again this version was censored. A Wong Jing Production.