Before the German Nekromantic became a cult favourite, Shaw Brothers ventured into necrophilia with Corpse Mania, a sordid tale about being intimate with the dead and the rotted and a brothel madame who, in her own way, is rotten to the core. Stephen Tan shifts through the maggots and worms for a steady gaze.


The old Shaw Brothers could even be ahead of their time if they wanted to. Take Kuei Chih Hung's Corpse Mania (1981) for example. This film about necrophilia is years ahead of the better-known German cult movie, Nekromantic (1987), by Jorg Buttgereit but unfortunately, being a Shaw movie, it doesn't go far enough.

Set at the turn of the century, rich layabout Li not only has strong feelings for one of the prostitutes at the local brothel but also has a messiah complex where he wants to redeem as many of the girls as possible. Unfortunately, the prostitute he redeems dies (presumably of tuberculosis) and Li does the next best thing - he gives himself into his urges and has sex with the dead. A delivery boy stumbles upon Li and reports him to the authorities. Li is then sent to the asylum. As the story opens, Li has just been released.

The discovery of rotted female corpses in the town's vicinity points to Li and the police begins a manhunt for the man. Meanwhile brothel owner Tanny Tien Ni, who appears to be stalked throughout the film, finds herself being forced out of business when her girls either start dying or are leaving her. An attempt by inspector Wang Jung to flesh out the killer fails and ends in the death of Tien's adopted daughter, Yu Tsui-ling.

If the notion of necrophilia is not controversial enough (remember this is in the early '80s and just before "video nasties" were big news in the United Kingdom), viewers are actually treated to intimate scenes of sex with the dead. Not only does Lau have his way with the recently deceased, he doesn't seem to mind if his partner is rotted beyond recognition. This is where the squeamish in the audience can close their eyes. While the shots are not lewd, it must be said that it certainly takes a lot for the actress to have her bare body covered with wriggling maggots and worms. If you really need to ask, most of the female nudity in the film is masked by the maggots and the make-up but there is a medium shot of a rotted body with the crotch rather prominently shown.

Director Kuei is no stranger to the horror and exploitation genres. His films at Shaw's included Bamboo House Of Dolls (1974) and The Killer Snakes (1975). With its rich atmosphere, Corpse Mania is closer to Hex (1980). Like the latter, Corpse Mania is basically a whodunit where it is finally revealed that Madame Tien, guided by lust and greed, is involved in a nefarious swindling scheme. Throw in some graphic and gory killings (what's a Shaw movie without that famous Shaw blood) and you have an exploitation movie of the first order.

Note: Corpse Mania is released only on VCD and is not available in $ingapore.

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