The road to Hell is certainly paved with good intentions as Li Ching discovers in this melodrama where she promises sexual favours in return for monetary help for her ailing sister, only to find unhappiness and madness waiting for her. Stephen Tan reviews.

THE ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW

Cinema-goers would have been forgiven if they thought they had wandered into the wrong cinema when watching Lui Kei's Sexy Playgirls (1973). If not for the Mandarin dialogue, the widescreen and colour, the first 10 minutes of the movie is a throwback to those black-and-white Cantonese melodramas of the '60s.

As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Li Ching promises on her mother's deathbed to look after younger sister Chen Ping. Then it was discovered that Chen is suffering from cancer and requires a costly medical treatment overseas. Steps in Li Ching's boss who offers to pay for the treatment. As is typical in such films, there is always a catch behind such generosity, in this case, he wants Li for himself. Li gets cold feet on the "wedding night" but discovers that the old lecher not only requires love potions but is a voyeur who gets his high watching others have sex. But on this occasion, the old man, who is always wearing shades, gets chauffeur Lam Wai Tiu to warm up the intoxicated Li before moving in himself. When Li wakes up in the morning, a look at her dead boss without his shades - if you are kind, you'd say he kind of reminds you of a panda; otherwise, it's as if he had the living daylights knocked out of him - drives her over the edge.

When Chen returns to Hongkong, she finds Li on the verge of recovery but is told that any further aggravation would destabilise Li. Meanwhile, Chen meets singer Tsung Hua and introduces him to her sister. In her depressed mood, Li had listened to Tsung Hua's songs and, through the meeting, fallen for the singer. With her wealth, she buys out Tsung's contract and practically makes him her boy toy but his heart is still with younger sister Chen. One night after an argument with Tsung, Li, in her deranged state, decides to have an orgy with her driver and four other men. Still not satisfied, she takes out her anger on her sister by getting the men to rape Chen.

For a start, don't be fooled by the film's title. These aren't your usual playgirls in the traditional sense. This is not a film with a lot of free-and-easy bed-hopping. In fact, one would hardly call them "playgirls" by any stretch of the imagination. In a strange twist, sexbomb Chen Ping is the innocent who gets pawed and groped, but true to form, she does have a nude scene. Compared to Adultery Chinese Style and Sexy Girls Of Denmark (all made by Lui Kei in 1973), the one and only nude scene in Sexy Playgirls is judiciously photographed and one wonders if Lui was being coy or was he testing the limits.

The film's biggest tease must have been "Baby Queen" Li Ching starring in an erotic film. One can say she has a couple of sex scenes, with an orgy thrown in, and does a fair amount of moaning and groaning. But all the while, she has her clothes on, and probably her knickers too. Even a scene in the bathroom where she is being photographed by her lecher boss isn't revealing at all. On the other hand, Li does get put through the acting grinder. Demure and innocent one moment, she turns fiery and deranged the next. Like Chen Ping in Kiss Of Death, Li gamely goes through the paces and while she hardly shows the acting range she is capable of in most of her movies, Sexy Playgirls is a good reminder of what a fine actress she can be.

Note: Hongkong's Celestial Pictures, who are behind the current Shaw reissues, probably feel that the movie doesn't have drawing power and only reissued it on VCD and not on DVD. The VCD was released in $ingapore though it is hard to find.

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Love Swindler
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Sexy Girls Of Denmark
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