Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Return of the Perils of Pauline

I have been spending so much time looking at naked women in order to see these Pauline Chan DVDs that I feel like I need to confess my sins. Is there a Blog confessional that I can visit? Pauline’s breasts by now are basically imprinted on my soft and mushy brain. But as I said to YTSL, some one has to do the dirty work and it may as well be me. At my age how much damage can it really do? I am confident my neck twitch will go away soon though I am not so sure about the stammer I have acquired. And I think I probably had this heart murmur already. Though the Cat III films of the early 1990's are not mentioned in polite company any more, in their squalid way they too are a part of the legacy that was once the most exciting film industry in the world. They should not be forgotten.  Anyway, if you dare - three more from Pauline Chan.

Erotic Ghost Story III
Director: Ivan Lai
Year: 1992

As in her life, Pauline Chan had so few happy endings in her films. If she played a prostitute as she did so many times, she usually came to a bad end. If she played a villain or a witch she always got her just desserts. If she played an avenging sister, she still came up short. Maybe she had her fate written on her face. It was a sensuous yet slightly libidinous and scornful face that would always end up on the wrong side of the tracks. It was the kind of face that men might lust after, but rarely love. So it was nice for once to see Pauline Chan smiling at the end of this film – having sex sure – naked, of course - but still smiling.

This is the third in this film series dealing with the supernatural and sex and sometimes supernatural sex. The first two films had some connection but this one seems to be unconnected to those – more along the lines of Chinese Ghost Story but with a lot more writhing and moaning. What all three films share are solid production values and a story of good vs. evil in the supernatural world that spills over into the real world. Chu Chung (Cheung Ging-fa) is wandering the land with his betrothed (his family’s choice, not his) following him in men’s garb wherever he goes. It appears that he is doing his best to escape marriage and his family, but he has to come to her aid when a group of men realize that she is in fact a she and attempt to rape her. The two of them find refuge in an old forlorn and forsaken temple where they find a miniature monk (Shing Fui-on) trying not to become a dog’s dinner. They save him and help restore him to normal size. The woman Hsia-hui (Chik King-man) goes off to take a bath making most male viewers wonder to themselves – why on earth is he trying to run away from those – I mean from her.

Inside the temple Chu spots a painting of a woman on the wall and is instantly smitten. No, this is not a remake of Laura – not even close. The monk – Reverend Wick – tells him that the girl in the painting is in a way station between heaven and hell and he can help Chu get there but that he must be back before the incense burns out or he will be stuck for eternity. Sure why not. Inside he finds a glamorous setting – a sexual Disney Land with dwarves and nightly entertainment included. Everyone is getting it on and eternity doesn’t seem like long enough, especially when he meets the lady in the painting – I-Meng (Pauline) who beds him faster than a meal at Burger King. But like Disney Land there is a dark side beneath all the frivolity – her Ladyship (Otomo Rena) who wants to get the power to break out of this place and conquer the world. And Chu is just a mere pawn in her terrifying hunger for power - and the meat of her enemies. At one point to weaken her Ladyship, Reverand Wink does a Fantastic Voyage by getting small and going up her um um you know um. Oh, never mind. For this sort of film, this is highbrow stuff – every one glistens and shines – the colors are bright and cheery – and with Phillip Kwok doing the action choreography the fighting and wirework is better than one might expect in a film that is primarily a sexual romp.

My rating for this film: 6.0

Escape from Brothel
Director: Johnny Wang
Year: 1992

To be honest Escape from Brothel is a bit of a schizophrenic hoot that I enjoyed quite a bit. It jumps around from sex exploitation film to slapstick comedy to melodrama to sadistic violence to brutal action like a freewheeling pinball with no rhythm or reason. One minute a transvestite peeper in the women’s locker room, the next hung up like a piece of meat and being strangled. You try not to think about it too much and just go along with the ride. Director Johnny Wang is best known as an action actor, showing up in loads of Shaw Brother films, almost always as the heavy, but I notice in looking at his small filmography as a director that he was behind two other low budget action films that I quite enjoyed – Widow Warriors and The Innocent Interloper. So even though Escape from Brothel is known primarily as a Cat III bump and grind show, the action is very solid and very rough. As is the sex now that I think about it.

Pauline Chan doesn’t even get through the opening credits before she has to show her money makers to the audience and the same goes for her co-actress Murakami Rena who stares at her nude reflection in a mirror in the same way I look through a window at an Indian buffet – with pure delight. Hung (Pauline) and Ann (Rena) are practitioners of the noble art of making a man happy – in other words prostitutes. They work for Mama Suzi (veteran actress Pak Yan) who introduces them to Mr. Chou (Stuart Ong) one night as an airline hostess and a secretary who need a little spare cash. He happily obliges and takes them both for the Charlie Sheen like price of HKD 50,000. He brings along a sex book so that he doesn’t forget what to do – sort of like Sarah Palin having to write “Energy” on her hand so she won’t forget what she is supposed to say – a cheat sheet of sorts. Among his bag of tricks is the “Pushing 2 Carts” position followed by “Graceful Ladies Sitting Like Buddha” and finally “Hero Raising Arms to Drum” Exhausting work for all. Later when he realizes that the two girls are just ordinary low paid working girls, he reaps his revenge by having the two girls work each other over with a baseball bat – internally if you get my drift.

Hung has a boyfriend Sam (Alex Fong) back in the Mainland who has no idea what she is doing – but this changes when he is tricked by some friends to sneak into Hong Kong and participate in a phony robbery/insurance scam. Everything goes wrong though with a foreigner being killed and Sam on the run – not just from the cops but also from Billy Ho (Billy Chow) who set the whole thing up and now wants to clean up the entire mess. We were earlier introduced to Billy in one of Hong Kong’s more infamous action scenes. He is in bed with Sophia Crawford (one of the gwielo action actresses who came to HK in the 80’s and 90’s for work) when her “husband” and a friend come in and demand payment. Not from Billy Chow – one of the really terrific underrated action figures of this period – he demolishes the two men and then has to deal with a nude leg kicking Sophia. I wish I had been a fly on the wall for that scene. Sam shows up at Hung’s apartment and hides in the closet only to realize very quickly what his girlfriend does for a living – in the most graphic of ways – but Billy tracks him down leading to a simply splendid furious final fifteen minutes of pounding, gutting, burning, falling and more pounding. Good to the last drop.

My rating for this film: 7.0

A Man of Nasty Spirit
Director: Jeng Wai-lung
Year: 1993

You know that a film is confused when Pauline Chan is the only person who keeps their clothes on and when actor Dennis Tang plays the good guy. Having Pauline stay fully attired in a Cat III film goes against the grain of common decency – that is why we are here. It is like going to a Clapton concert to listen to the bass player. And Dennis Tang always plays the bad guy in films; either a Triad snake or as in Behind the Pink Door, a sleazy rapist. This film made little sense in general but this role playing switch threw things into total confusion for me. There is really nothing much that comes to mind to recommend this film to anyone who has a life – fortunately I don’t so I plodded along till the end. There is a fair amount of sex but its so low budget all they could afford were women with small bosoms! They must charge by the ounce over there. Here is the plot as best as I could figure it out.

The maniacal Pope is the head of the Happy Religion. In truth though only he, his henchwoman (Lau Hoh-man) and his two henchmen seem to be happy because they are having sex most of the time. As part of the sex ritual, the henchwoman does a nude snake dance that was not quite up to the standards set by Waheeda Rehman in the film Guide. The other followers don’t look all that happy at all, but this being a cult they still follow the orders of the Pope. There is some nonsense at the beginning of the film where the Pope steals the top half of a book that will give him immense powers, but the bottom half of the book is retained by Dr Yue (Jack Lung) who then writes it in with invisible ink on the back of his master’s little girl, Bao. Later Bao is kidnapped by Pope and taught by him to fight and fly and is kept a virgin in case of emergency. But he is unaware that her back contains the secret for world domination because it is invisible of course!

You see Pope has a little vitamin deficiency. If he doesn’t have sex with a virgin every full moon he will age rapidly and die. The nearest village has to provide these girls but they are running low. When the Pope has sex with them, he transfers all their life force to him – leaving them dead of course but he is revitalized and always gives a cheer like a college frat boy in his first drinking contest. One such virgin has been chosen but the night before her rendezvous with destiny, her boyfriend comes to her and says he wants to die too, but she says well since I am going to lose my life tomorrow why don’t we do it – and he sensibly says “ok. That would be better than me dying”. So Pope gets spoiled goods – where is the Consumer Protection Agency when you need them – and has to take one of his stocked virgins instead. Ok – so where are Pauline and Dennis in all of this you may wisely ask. Pope has an inner evil woman and every now and then he manifests himself as a female – Pauline, who for reasons known only to herself dresses like a British Magistrate or Christopher Lee in Jess Franco’s The Bloody Judge. Dennis just shows up and falls for Bao (Chan Choi-lan), who has grown up to be quite the poppy strumpet and has big goo-goo eyes for Dennis. This is probably not a film that anyone involved chose to include on their resume.

My rating for this film: 3.0


Steve said...

Pauline certainly had a tragic arc; I wonder if there's something in the Chinese/HK culture which leads to what seems like a high number of suicides by performers (mainly actresses) over the years.

Glenn, kenixfan said...

Wait. Alex Fong was in a Cat. III film? I was going to say the "clean cut" Alex Fong but they're both pretty bland, aren't they?

Some of the first "real" HK films I watched were Cat. III: Crazy Love, Cash on Delivery, The Fruit is Ripe, The Fruit is Swelling.

How sad is it that I knew who Elvis Tsui was before I knew who Andy Lau was?

Brian said...

Steve - it seems so though perhaps if you went thru Hollywood you could find lots of tragic endings as well. Maybe its the sensitive artist thing going. Like that fashion designer the other day. Whether it may be cultural I would not want to suggest since I don't really know enough to hazard an intelligent thought.

Glenn - lots of HK actors were in Cat III films back in the 90's - some of the best - Francis, Anthony and Simon come to mind - but I can't think of any that Andy or Leslie were in. They were just part of the working landscape and the guys really didn't have to show much - just look sweaty, laugh like a maniac and do some fondling of female parts. Of course Alex does show everything in Escape from Brothel - very graphic and up close. Not really. I am just saying that to get YTSL all hot and bothered! She is like the only Alex Fong fan in the world.

Steve said...

Leslie was in Viva Erotica (1996). Watching Shaw Brothers films, the biggest surprise was Yueh Hua showing up in some such movies. OTOH, he was also in some musicals, so I guess he was game for anything.

Brian said...

I think if you worked for the SB you didn't have much choice really. I guess VE is Cat III but to me it is an art film, not in any sense an exploitation film. That reminds me that I should get up the soundtrack - I love the surf guitar bits.

Kingwho? said...

Brian, I love the Pauline Chan retrospective. I was thinking about doing something similar in the near future but you beat me to the punch.....and it looks a heck of a lot better than anything I would have done. I'm planning on putting up a few film posters of Pauline Chan. When I do so, would you mind if I put up a link to this post? Thanks.

YTSL said...

No way am I the only Alex Fong fan out there! And yes, I know of another Category III movie he was in: "Gigolo and Whore 2" (the movie that's better known for starring Simon Yam, Rosamund Kwan and Veronica Yip)! ;b

YTSL said...

P.S. Bland? Alex bland??? Have you seen "Portland Street Blues", Glenn?! :O

Brian said...

YTSL - poor Alex, he gets no respect!

KingWho - sure - do you have a Blog or site already up?

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