Pros: Amy Yip. Very funny in places (maybe not intentionally).
Cons: Not that great fighting.
Erotic Ghost Story starring Amy Yip.
Note: This review is for the region 0 Universe DVD release.
Film and stuff
Where to start with this one. Well this film is claimed to be the film which launched the career of a certain Amy Yip in to Category III stardom. It has become a bit of a cult film as it combines elements of magic, fantasy, kung fu, swordplay, and, of course, sex into one film featuring three rather attractive female leads. One thing is for certain, you are unlikely to see a film like this coming out of America!
A point of note here is that the title is a little misleading, as there are no ghosts in this film. The reason for this choice of title is quite likely to cash in on the success of A Chinese Ghost Story parts one and two. Part 1 of A Chinese Ghost Story, which also was a huge hit, was released in 1987 and part 2 in 1990. This film was released in 1990.
Anyway, the film centres around three sisters, who are infact fox fairies striving to attain human form. They are to be granted human form after meditating for centuries and resisting the temptations of the mortal world. As is the way of things, just as they are nearing the end of their meditation, about 36 days to go to be more exact, one of the sisters, Pai So So (Man Su), encounters a young scholar being chased by a group of thugs. After he falls and knocks himself unconscious, So So comes to his rescue using her magical powers to rid the thugs. The scholar, Wu Ming (Pal Sin), is very nervous around women and does not appear to like even the slightest contact, as he apologisies every time he merely brushes So So. Unable to walk properly So So helps him back to his dwellings, where she comes to an agreement with Wu Ming to bring him food and drink each day so that he can concentrate on his studies.
So So's sisters, Hua Hua (Amy Yip) and Fei Fei (Kamimura Kyoko) notice the differece in behaviour in So So since she met the scholar, but are unaware of the scholar's existence. Wanting to discover what has caused the change in So So, Fei Fei follows her out on her daily trip to see if Wu Ming requires any food or drink. When she is able, Fei Fei sneeks into Wu Ming's hut, in a case of rather bad timing as she sees him bathing. Wu Ming realises this, and being not too pleased about being spied on, he gives her a little bit of a verbal lashing. Back at her home, Hua Hua is told of this encounter by Fei Fei, and being of the rather tempermental nature, states that no one can talk to her sister that way and promptly goes, sword in hand, to teach him a lesson he'll never forget. While teaching him his lesson, things do not go quite as she initially intended, as her chest is splashed with water, making her clothing more see through, evidently turning Wu Ming on a touch, and to cut a story short, the two end up rolling around the ground having sex. In true Amy Yip fashion there is always a strategically placed arm or branch or anything to protect her modesty, so fans of her 36D (I think that is what it is anyway) frame will have to, annoyingly, keep dreaming!
So, upon Hua Hua's arrival back at their house, Fei Fei feels guilty about what she thinks Hua Hua did to Wu Ming, now believing that she owes him an apology. Back at Wu Ming's hut, Fei Fei enters to find him scratched all over, however for reasons still not known to her! She tries to see to his wounds, but clearly feels that the best way to apologise to him is, you guessed it, to sleep with him. Cue sex scene, which is probably the most explicit of all contained in this film. Fei Fei does not leave much to the imagination here.
All this time So So is unaware of what her sisters have been getting up to, thus she carries about her agreement of seeing to any tasks that Wu Ming needs done. It is in doing one of these tasks which she discovers her sister, Fei Fei's hair pin, and confronting Wu Ming about this, she sees the marks left behind by Hua Hua. Shocked by this, she asks Wu Ming why he never did anything like that with her, and while he is answering "Because you are pure, virtuous, chaste..." she promptly strips off, offering herself on a plate to him. Is this one lucky guy or what!
Anyway, soon the sisters confess to each other what they have been up to, and as they are all infatuated about him, they seem to silently agree to share him with each other. As such Wu Ming promptly turns up at their house, and the four start having fun together (Have I mentioned how lucky this guy is yet! Nothing like this has ever happened to me! Oh well...). However, no sooner has their fun started than they realise that things are not going well at all. Having neglected their meditating, and being influenced by outside forces, the three sisters start to change back to their animal forms. This scene I must say is rather hysterical, as to signify them changing back they have what is supposed to be animal fur growing on their chest, right on their cleavage. So if you ever wanted to know what a woman with a hairy chest would look like, you need look no further! To add to the humour value, in this same scene the sisters' mirror reflections show their animal forms, which to me looked like them standing with a big pantomime fox heads on their heads! You'll be in stitches... well I was.
Realising that they have deviated from their path, and that something is wrong, they come to the conclusion that it could only be their encounters with Wu Ming that could have caused the change. With that as their reason they ask him to leave and never come back, if they need him, they will go to him. And it is there that things turn from bad to worse as far as the girls are concerned. Watch the film to find out how! This is where the "horror" element of the film starts to kick in...
So in this film, like I said at the start, you have got elements of kung fu, swordplay and magic. No what you have got to remember when watching Erotic Ghost Story is that these are not the major elements of the film. The film is about the story and the sex. These girls are not fighters, and boy does it show! The choreography is simple, and from the manner which the girls swing their swords about, I'd certainly think that that was complex enough for them. It does make for a good laugh, however, watching them swing the sword around with little technique, and seeing the intended victim run around dodging them. After watching some Jackie Chan or Jet Li it certainly is a break from the norm! The magic effects, too, are quite poor. The glowing that seems to be synonimous with magic is of a mediocre standard, but where the film is really let down effects wise is the switching that occurs which is meant to be a character changing into another form. Take for instance the opening scenes, where the girls are meant to change from gorgeous women to rotting corpses. The director obviously thought that by having a face on shot of the actress, and then just suddenly changing it to a face on shot of a rotting corpse, with it filling just as much of the screen to try to make it more believable, that this would be a good effect. There was no slight morphing or anything like that, just a straight switch. What he did fail to take into account though was that the backgroound should be the same for the two shots. To me, that would make sense - film the girl and the corpse infront of the same background. The director obviously did not think so. In the opening scene when these switches happen not only does the body change, the background does too! The same goes for the face ripping off scene. The dummy that they used to rip the face off of, they could have at least have tried to make it look slightly like the actress that it was supposed to be... These things alone make the film stink of a low budget, but again the effects are not what the director wanted the allure of the film to be!
Well this is a Cat. III film, the strongest rating in Hong Kong cinema meaning adults only (either due to large volumes of sex/nudity and/or violence) , so I'm going to have to mention what the main attraction of the film really is, and that is the sex. First off, this is not a porn film. While I mentioned that the scene with Fei Fei is the most explicit of all the sex scenes, it is still not that explicit. The only difference is that she is willing to bare all for the camera, while So So, is legs and top half only, and Hua Hua is back, legs, slight curves only, everything else is conveniently covered. If you have seen Sex and Zen, I'm afraid there are none of the sexrobatics that take place there in Erotic Ghost Story, it is all simple stuff which I guess is meant to highten the eroticism... I personally just found it very funny, not erotic. Granted all the females in this film are very easy on the eye, and Wu Ming certainly is a lucky bas***d, but I could not help but laugh. It is cheesy, yet fun, sexy, yet comical, but it is completely ridiculous! A good adult laugh.
Audio and subtitles
The audio in this film was cantonese only (a good thing), so there is absolutely no temptation to switch to a dubbed track. Everything about the sound was just plain bog standard. Nothing special at any point. There was no crystal clarity, but no muffled sound, or tinny resonances. The lip synching was slightly off, but then what's new. It should probably just be taken for granted that the lip-synching will be off, that way I don't have to mention it in virtually every review, and I could then get away with only mentioning it when it is particularly good, or particularly bad. Anyway, there is little to comment on, except that it is a purely mono soundtrack.
The same however does not go for the subtitles. Erotic Ghost Story will be far from the biggest release from the distribution company, and as such some elements would not have been expected to be of the same standard as other more prominent films. Despite this, Erotic Ghost Story contains some of the best subtitles of any Hong Kong released dvd I have seen to date. The region 2 released dvds by Hong Kong Legends are the only ones that come to mind as being consistently as good as, or slightly better than this, but they seem to be operating on a reasonable budget - as can be seen by the overall product quality - however, they do shoot themselves in the foot a bit as they frequently Anglisise the translations. In Erotic Ghost Story, the subtitles are a good size, clear bold white text with - very importantly - a perfect sized black border around the text. Why is this so important? Well because of this it is possible to read the subtitles regardless what colour the background is! Without the black, should the background behind the text be white, or even very light in colour, then the subtitles would become unreadable. The positioning too is very good. On the film print enabling the viewer to make the most of the widescreen format of the film, should they own a widescreen TV that is... Spelling is nigh on perfect all the way through. I can only recall seeing one spelling mistake in the entire film. The grammar however, is not as perfect, but still pretty damn good. For the vast majority of the film grammatically it is perfect, but in places some sentences are badly structured, interupting the flow of the subtitles. Fortunately this is infrequent enough as to not become too annoying, but frequent enough to be noticed. All in all though these are brilliant subtitles, which I just wish Universe could reproduce on all their other dvds, and the other companies, save HKL could aspire to reach.
The film print has it ups and downs. Almost constantly throughout the film small speckles flash up on screen in random places. In the most part these speckles are small, and appear to be on screen for a small fraction of a second. But every now and then a much more noticable one would appear which had me thinking "Come on Universe, you did great subs, you could at least have cleaned the print up a bit!" If you get engrossed in the film, then you probably won't notice them that much, I certainly tried to stop noticing them, but as I was watching with this review in mind I was paying a bit more attention than I would have liked in places! On the plus side, the colours do come across as being very vibrant throughout. The three sisters always seem to be wearing a dress of a bright colour, be it purple, green or pink, and the colour really does look good on screen. The detail seemed pretty good, with nothing looking more blurred than I would have been expecting, so with that I was happy.
The disc and extras
As is the case with most Hong Kong dvds, the menu for this film is static, and aside from your usual chapter selections, what you have got here is a rather short Amy Yip biography which if you don't actually know that much about her other than she is very well endowed, you will probably find quite interesting: I did. What was a nice touch with this is that the bio was in both Chinese and English, so I was actually able to read it, unlike with some other dvds I've seen where it is Chinese only! There are several trailers, none of which are subtitled, but that doesn't matter as there is very little speech contained in them anyway. The trailers are for Erotic Ghost Story II & III, Erotic Ghost Story: Perfect Match, Sex & Zen, and Sex & Zen III. There is also the original trailer for Erotic Ghost Story (I). Not too much, but certainly more than a large number of Hong Kong dvds out there.
While clearly being intended for adult audiences, and being primarily about sex, this is an enjoyable film. If you are reserved or a bit of a prude, then I think it is unlikely that you will like it, but for everyone else I'd say give it a watch. It is completely over the top, has crap special effects, but most importantly the story is not bad and it is funny. Just don't mistake it for A Chinese Ghost Story, or you will be surprised!