The story of Golden Lotus is so well known that it no longer works as a morality play. Viewers now want to see the naughtiness the seductress is up to and veteran filmmaker Li Han-hsiang obliges - his Lotus Pan movies are nothing but excuses to move from one sex scene to another. Stephen Tan reviews.


The Amorous Lotus Pan (1992), based on a classic Chinese tale, has all the ingredients for a potboiler - adultery, sex, murder and revenge. The premise of the tale is attractive enough that veteran director Li Han-hsiang has made (practically) the same movie at least three times.

Pan Jinlian (Huang Mei-tsing) is told by wine-stall owner Madam Wang that her brother-in-law, Wu Song, has just been released from prison and advised Pan to leave town as she murdered Wu Song's elder brother, the biscuit seller Da Lang. Pan then recalls her beginnings, especially her introduction to sex. If the name Wu Song sounds familiar, it's the same character - the tiger killer - from The Water Margin (Outlaws Of The Marshes aka All Men Are Brothers).


Pan was a 14-year-old maid working in a rich household. One day she discovers her mistress having sex with a male servant and devises a way to extort money from her mistress. Left on their own, Pan ends up having sex with the servant as well. While asleep on the bed, the old master enters the bedroom and is quickly turned on especially by Pan's bound feet, and thus starts a long liaison between the two.

When the mistress finally discovers what's happening, as a punishment, she offers Pan to Da Lang, an ugly-looking midget who sells biscuits in the market. The marriage could have worked if Da Lang was as virile as Pan wanted it - when it came to sex, she was insatiable at this stage. As things go, Da Lang was finished just as Pan was beginning to get aroused.

Wu Song turns up one day for a visit and Pan is totally smitten by the strong and good-looking man. That night, Pan slips into Wu Song's room. As Wu Song was asleep in a drunken stupor, Pan climbs onto him and works herself into a frenzy. But Wu Song wasn't that drunk and the two end up having the sex of their lives before Wu Song finally regains his senses and throws Pan out.


Back to the recent past and Pan catches the attention of playboy Xi Menqing. In one of the film's highlights, Xi is drunk in bed and Pan decides to take a bath.

To arouse herself (after all, what else can this lonely woman do?), Pan gives new meaning to the term "rimming it" with the bathtub. Out on the street, Wu Song hears that Pan, who is indentured to Madam Wang, can be bought for 100 teals of silver in marriage. On the day of the marriage, Wu Song has Pan and Madam Wang brought into his room. Instead of the expected bridal chamber, the two women find themselves before Da Lang's altar.

Li Han-hsiang made The Golden Lotus in 1974 and one can imagine the sexcapades involved since it starred the leading sexpots of the day - Tanny Tien Ni, Chen Ping and Hu Chin. But that is probably considered pale next to Li's 1991 remake, The Golden Lotus: Love And Desire. This shot-in-Taiwan movie is nothing but an excuse to move from one sex/nude scene to another. The 1992 version, though it bears the Shaw Brothers presentation logo, was probably shot in Taiwan too and one gets the impression that it was as if Shaws were helping Li out by distributing the film! (After all, Li was financially down at that time.)

Apart from the source material, both the '91 and '92 films have Tan Lap Man in the leading role. In fact, Tan played Wu Song and Xi Menqing in the 1992 movie, not that the noted Hongkong musician made any strong impressions. Where the films differ is that in Love And Desire, the focus is on Xi Menqing and, in The Amorous Lotus Pan, the focus is on Pan Jinlian. As the seductress, Huang Mei-tsing doesn't add too much to the role - she only has to drop her clothes at the opportune moment (which happens rather frequently), and there is no great drama involved. But for a Shaw movie, there is a good amount of sex and nudity - much more than what viewers would see in a Liu Kei production.

But no amount of heaving breasts, (faked) moans, bare buttocks and even a glimpse of pubic hair was enough to entice viewers to flock in droves to this relatively studied remake of an erotic classic. By the time The Amorous Lotus Pan rolled, Hongkong viewers were already extolling the virtues of Amy Yip who was so enticing in 1991's Sex And Zen.

Note: The Amorous Lotus Pan DVD (Celestial/IVL) is banned in $ingapore.

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September 26, 2006

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