ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
The Sugar Daddies (1973) opens eye-catchingly enough - the credit
sequence being shot against a photo montage of nude women. Dashing
Tsung Hua might look like a mild-mannered office worker but he
has one ambition - to strike it rich. He might not have fast hands
- his attempt to pocket his roommate Ricky Hui's money is easily
foiled - but he has a quick tongue and is equally quick to swindle
his friends and colleagues.
Tsung runs into former girlfriend Eva Lin but the latter, fed
up with being poor, spurns his request for sex by demanding hard
cash for the act. Tsung soon realises that he can earn some quick
bucks by setting himself up as Lin's pimp. His plan is to run
a lottery where the winner gets to spend some time with Lin. Tsung's
boss, Wang Hsia, who is a womaniser, is interested, not so much
in the scheme, but in Lin herself and buys up the remaining lottery
tickets. The plan works and, before long, Lin is playing mistress
not only to Wang but two of his friends.
At a nightclub, Tsung meets Betty Pei Ti (who shot to fame in
the previous year's Intimate Confessions Of A Chinese Courtesan).
After a drunken night of sex, Pei, who is in need of money, discovers
that Tsung is not rich despite his flashy ways but still finds
him attractive enough to go along with his plan. Before long Pei
is servicing Wang and the other wealthy men. Of course, all good
things must come to an end and Tsung's plans misfire when one
of his "clients" mistakes Tsung's fiancee as his pick-up.
Kei, whose erotic/soft-porn Shaw movies are by equal measures
tame and melodramatic, Sun Chung's efforts are relatively bold.
The opening montage is promising and both Eva Lin and Pei Ti are
not averse to disrobing as and when the scene requires. Even Pei
Ti's maid has enough nudity to shame any of Liu Kei's films. Again,
unlike Liu's movies, there is a certain naughtiness or kinkiness
here that adds a bit of sparkle - one of Tsung's clients, Law
Hon, puts on psychedelic music, and works himself up with a tooth
brush (which has to be seen to be believed) and water spray while
his own boss, Wang, has his own perversion involving a red underwear.
Still, Sun cannot shy away from some stereotyping - for example,
a dripping faucet to show male impotence (a type of visual shorthand
favoured by veteran Shaw filmmaker Li Han-hsiang).
In many ways
a straight-forward movie whose comedy arises due to mistaken identities
and the inability to keep all the balls in the air, so to speak,
Tsung Hua's Xiao Hu (Little Tiger) character stands out from among
the various heroic figures he has portrayed. Unlike the heroes
in the wu xia (swordfighting) movies, Xiao Hu is amoral
to the extent that he is a mercenary by virtue of the fact that
he cares only for money. While he does not want to lose his fiancee
(petite Liu Wu-chi in nothing more than a whining role), Xiao
Hu makes no effort to give up his philandering or swindling ways.
As a comment
on unbridled materialism, both Eva Lin and Betty Pei Ti shine
out in their roles. These are women with nothing left to fall
back on, except their bodies which they are willing to sell. As
shown, sex is nothing sacred, only something to do in order to
get what they want. It does not even offer solace or release -
often the girls appear bored and exasperated by what is expected
of them. And, as in this movie, the men hardly contribute anything!
Director Sun Chung is better known for his wu xia movies
such as The Avenging Eagle (1978), The Deadly Breaking Sword (1979)
and The Kung Fu Instructor (1979) than for his erotic films though
Big Bad Sis (1976) seems to have better word of mouth than Sexy
Killer (1976). As a way to cash in on Betty Pei Ti's popularity,
The Sugar Daddies is pleasant enough diversion but what seems
more telling is that it acts as a precursor to Games Gamblers
Play the following year. Michael Hui's film adopted the gambling
motif but it piles on the social commentary. Plus the fact that
it's in Cantonese - a dialect with bones, as they say - certainly
helps. It's rich comedy but without the sex. In Sun Chung's case,
what can go wrong in a Hongkong movie about gambling and sex?
Not a thing. After all, it's only pragmatism gone haywire.
The Sugar Daddies DVD (Celestial/IVL) is banned in $ingapore.