ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
James Bond's From Russia With Love (1963), which probably did
for belly dancing what Saturday Night Fever did for disco, belly
dancing has made several appearances in Shaw movies, one of which
is Lo Chen's Raw Passions (1969).
sequence is featured practically in full and, for many viewers
at least, the breasts and crotch shots of belly dancer Suzy Meng
Li are definitely the money shots in this film. For a movie that
is billed as a thriller, there are two bonus but very brief nude
shots of Meng Li which makes this an erotic Shaw film of sorts.
But that is jumping the gun, which is what the film does. Instead
of following in the footsteps of those western or Japanese sex
films popular in the '60s, it appears that Lo Chen is more inclined
to walk in the shadows of Hitchcock. (Lo was also the director
who made the popular 1963 musical, The Shepherd Girl.)
opens soundlessly (which is a nice touch) with panning shots of
a secluded house next to a stretch of water. Moving into the house,
a murder is taking place with belly dancer Meng Li stabbed to
death. Next, it's flashback time where the action (so to speak)
moves into a nightclub with married couples Kao Yuan and Ivy Ling
Po and Wang Hsia and Li Hsiang-chun watching Meng Li gyrating
away. After her act, Meng Li comes to their table and flirts with
Kao Yuan, much to the chagrin and suspicions of wife Ling Po.
As the story unfolds, Kao originally had a relationship with Meng
Li but had broken it off to settle down with Ling Po.
It then transpires
that Meng Li is having an affair with Wang Hsia and that she is
three months pregnant. After a night of sex (hence the nude shots
in the film), Meng Li tries to pressure Wang to leave his wife
for her. When Wang cannot agree to the divorce, Meng Li tries
blackmail and asks for HK$200,000. In the meantime, she meets
up with Kao Yuan and tries to blackmail him as well.
Kao Yuan's birthday party, Meng Li appears to sing a birthday
song and shows off a diamond necklace given to her by Wang. While
Meng Li attempts to intimidate both men, her actions backfire
and she is killed by a masked stranger. Meng Li's brother then
appears and demands compensation money from Kao Yuan for his sister's
death. Ling Po and Kao Yuan next find themselves blackmailed by
the mysterious Ku Feng. But when Ling Po visits Ku Feng, she finds
him stabbed to death.
As to motives
for the killings - these are tried and tested reasons. Clearly
Meng Li was killed because she could disrupt what appears to be
happy households. Then there is the loss of face and shame of
scandal should the two prominent businessmen be linked to the
dancer. And what of the child born out of wedlock should news
of Meng Li's pregnancy surface? Naturally, Ku Feng was killed
as he knew too much; and was too greedy and wanted to cash in
on the action himself.
As a whodunit,
Raw Passions is par for the course, especially on a slow day.
After all, there is already promiscuous sex, illicit love affairs
and blackmail. The main characters are introduced early and, at
first, it does look as if any one could have been the killer.
But then the filmmakers chickened out. It's as if making then-leading
lady Ling Po the killer a grievous crime in itself. That would
have to wait till the following year when she made A Cause To
Note: The Raw Passions DVD is available in $ingapore. It is
rated NC16 and has very brief frontal nudity where the nipples
can be glimpsed.
+ + + +
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