A dead man returns to find out how he died and a haunted guildhouse may be enough to fuel some horror movies but as Li Han-Hsiang's Sensual Pleasures is laced with nudity and sex, thanks to sexbombs Chen Ping, Shirley Yu and Shaw Yin-Yin, it can be a potential heartstopper. Stephen Tan reviews.


Like many of classical director Li Han-Hsiang's erotic movies for Shaw Brothers, Sensual Pleasures (1978) is made up of three separate stories.

When Zhao Shi-Yi dies, he is sent to a way-station to await reincarnation. Like the way-station in Heaven Can Wait (the Warren Beatty version), it is run in a bureaucratic manner, where in this case, the officials are a parody of Mainland Chinese officialdom with a disdain for superstitious beliefs!

Before the story focuses on Zhao, this way-station preamble focuses on a few individuals; for example, Meng Fei, who loses at gambling, wishes that in his next life he would be the old receiving money instead of dishing it out. He turns out to be a beggar. David Chiang, who is killed in the prime of his life, wishes that nothing can harm him. What follows is a sequence drawn from David Chiang movies where is he shown to die - being split apart in The Heroic Ones, stabbed and slashed in Vengeance or blown apart in Mercenaries From Hong Kong. A voiceover said that David Chiang has been reborn as a movie stuntman. Two mute girls wish they could talk forever - they end up welcoming and thanking customers at a Japanese department store!

Back to Zhao who is questioned as to how he died. Zhao thinks he died of sickness and is sent back to "earth" to determine the truth. Waking up in a coffin dressed in funeral garb, Zhao decides to go home to break the good news that he's back. As he stands outside his home, he hears his son and daughter-in-law talking about his promiscuous stepmother (Shirley Yu) and how his insurance money has come in handy to help them start a new business. Zhao then sees Shirley Yu and his best friend having sex. He also hears how his best friend is also sleeping with his cousin, who happens to be the wife of his ex-boss. Realising that he has been duped and probably murdered by his wife and lover, Zhao retreats to the funeral house seeking comfort in his coffin.

The second story has Yue Wing as a student coming to the city for his exams. To cut down on his expenses he stays at a haunted guildhouse looked after by an aged caretaker (veteran actor Yeung Chi Hing). Disturbed by some noises as he is about to go to bed, he sees Chen Ping and Shirley Yu having sex (which involves some heavy duty tongue action) in the building next door before the two are what looked like being forcibly raped. Braving whatever supernatural elements there are, Yue soon finds out that buxomy-but-a-bit-thick Shirley Yu is a dominatrix who enjoys lashing out at her lover or naked girls and that the local warlord dons himself up as a sex maniac before raping his wives and concubines.

In the third story, philandering Ku Feng (who has a jolly good time with prostitute Shaw Yin-Yin) and his brother runs a winery but because of his spendthrift ways, the company is broke and the second brother drowns himself in a vat of wine. Ku Feng then gets his nephew, Ng Ming Tsui, to nail up the vat but being unscrupulous, he sells the wine from the vat which turns out to be popular with the customers. While trying to silence his nephew over the misdeed, Ku Feng gets drowned in a vat of wine instead. It is then revealed that what had just transpired is nothing but a story concocted by a rival wine maker!

The cover artwork and stills section of this DVD probably come from a different movie (featuring Hu Chin, who is not in this movie). Sensual Pleasure's original poster features a topless Shirley Yu in S&M garb. But Sensual Pleasure fares somewhat better among Li's erotic movies, as the film is fairly literate, with the opening story having a melancholic feel, and nice play of words throughout (with the usual foreign "devil" being accrued to Americans and Russians). While S&M elements are not new in Li Han-Hsiang movies, there is a nice gay gag here involving Zhao Shi-Yi. Typical of the dead in Hong Kong movies, they are shown with red lips and have rouge on their cheeks. Made up as such, Zhao is hit on by a bunch of male prostitutes!

Sensual Pleasures is not moralistic as some of Liu Kei's erotic movies are but they do point out the foibles of human nature - greed, drink, gambling and womanising.

But what really makes Sensual Pleasures unforgettable is the no-holds barred lesbian sex scene between Chen Ping and Shirley Yu, which starts with Shirley Yu slowly removing Chen's clothes. This scene appears at a moment when viewers least expect it so it becomes doubly pleasurable! While the scene is erotically charged, the same can't be said for the sequence showing the campy Shirley Yu as an S&M madam, even if she is in the nude! But then these are the money shots.

Note: The Sensual Pleasures DVD (IVL/Celestial) is banned in $ingapore.

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March 11, 2007


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