Posts tagged "Lam Chung"

Little Hero (Review)

Little Hero

aka 諸葛四郎大鬥雙假面 aka Zhu Ge Si Lang da dou shuang jia mian
Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan
1978
Written by Cheung San-Yee and Wu Yueh-Ling
Directed by Chan Hung-Man

This is why Octomom shouldn’t keep her kids!

Polly Shang Kuan beats the fuck out of every phallus in China while transcending gender herself in Little Hero. This statement of fact comes thanks not only to the subtextual and overt piles and piles of dongs and balls, but by her obviously female character entirely referred to as “him”. How much of this is dubbing and how much is present in the original Taiwanese version becomes irrelevant, as we celebrate what the film has become thanks to its transformational event. Little Hero‘s evolution to a perfected form via weird dubbing is not a unique event, but it’s one of my favorite examples of a film improved by the dubbing (this is also conjecture as I’ve not seen the Mandarin-language original, it might be just as fun, but I do not think it can surpass the dubbed version.)

Polly Shang Kuan is no stranger to gender bending cinema, she often plays characters that are disguised as men, are tomboys, and occasionally actually are men. There is even historic precedence for that, with actresses playing male roles in Chinese films and operas since near the beginning of cinema in Asia (and became an interesting parallel to the old opera troops where every role was played by men!) Polly Kuan played characters disguised as men in both serious martial arts dramas and in goofy action comedies. Little Hero leans heavy towards the latter, with increasingly ridiculous villains and gimmicks as the Devil’s Gang breaks out all the stops to try to keep Polly’s character Chu-Kwok Su-Lan from breaking their whole organization.

Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan

I haven’t beat anyone up for fifteen whole minutes!


Chu-Kwok Su-Lan is referred to by every character as a male, despite being Polly Shang Kuan, wearing women’s clothes (and makeup and hair!), and having the male lead obviously attracted to him. It is interesting that Chu-Kwok continually calls male opponents ugly and said other things in regards to their looks, something they wouldn’t really care about unless Chu-Kwok was really a girl. This is one way in which Polly’s character moves beyond gender, he can equally lob insults that would be delivered by a male or by a female, and the villains respond appropriately. The same insults are lobbed at the female villain, who returns the same reaction as the men. The distinction between male gaze and female gaze has been knocked askew. I’m going to follow their examples and be consistent by calling Chu-Kwok Su-Lan male throughout the rest of the review and recap.

Things become a subtext labyrinth when the fighting kicks in. The battles are over two magical swords owned by a family (the magic swords being their own phallic symbols), which involves characters battling it out. At one point the heroes are ambushed by a avalanche of huge stone balls, and some of the huge stone balls have people inside who begin to fight the heroes. And the villains in the balls are crushed to death by other huge stone balls.

Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan

Condorman: The Next Generation!


Another villain takes up the stylings of an elephant, including two huge tusk weapons and a giant elephant head “tattooed” onto his chest. When you see a closeup of the elephant head, it is clearly sporting a giant dong where its trunk should be. At one point Chu-Kwok Su-Lan beats the tar out of him, then becomes angry at his gyrating elephant penis drawing as it moves around when his fat belly breathes up and down, so he stomps on the Elephant Guy’s tummy, gleefully dancing and stomping on this representation of patriarchal penile power.

Speaking of representations of penii, during the final showdown portion of Little Hero, two octopi emerge from the sea to battle Chu-Kwok Su-Lan. Each octopus is obviously a guy in a rubber suit, but are presented as actual trained octopi. And you don’t have to be Freud to understand the eight tentacles the octopi each have are eight nice phallic symbols for Polly Sheng Kuan to battle. And battle she does, stabbing and slicing off several of them! There is even a repeat of imagery where Chu-Kwok stomps on the heads of both octopi simultaneously, their bodies cut off just enough that it looks like Chu-Kwok is stomping on a giant gross ball sack! The octopi exhibit further powers – squirting both water and ink at their enemies (one of Chu-Kwok’s students gets blasted right in the face with ink!) In a final rejection of the feminine way, the octopi begin launching their own children at Chu-Kwok as weapons. This renunciation of motherhood is extreme, the octopi trained to treat their own offspring as expendable, as if they were no better than sperm flying out into the void.

Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan

All right, time to castrate everyone!


Chu-Kwok Su-Lan is awesome and fierce. An orphan child who gets involved in all the martial intrigue has heard of Chu-Kwok before he’s met him, and speaks of him as his big brother. Once he finds out who Chu-Kwok really is, the kid follows him throughout the film, dressing like Chu-Kwok (by wearing male-ized versions of Polly Shang Kuan’s wardrobe!) and declaring he’s going to be just like him. Chu-Kwok has a sort of love interest in Woo Ching Ping, but it is practically platonic (despite Polly Shang Kuan obviously laying on the charm) and he calls Woo Ching Ping his “best partner”.

Little Hero suffers from the plot being hard to determine, even considering that it will be wacky and full of gimmicks. Characters will declare they are about to do something, then do something else before getting around to what they were so urgently preparing to do. The intrigue is complicated, but all boils down to someone being jealous an old guy won’t die fast enough so they can become a legend.

For more fun Polly Shang Kuan films, be sure to check out The Zodiac Fighters, The Eighteen Jade Arhats,Shaolin Traitorous, and the Polly Shang Kuan-centric Infernal Brains Podcast episode!

Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan

My goodness, the subtext, the subtext…


Chu-Kwok Su-Lan (Polly Shang Kuan) – The most heroic of heroes, Chu-Kwok Su-Lan comes to town to beat the tar out of the Devil’s Gang just because he can. Has two students who follow him around and constantly get into trouble. Gains at least one more student by the end of the film.
Woo Ching Ping (Barry Chan) – Martial hero who helps Chu-Kwok Su-Lan investigate what evil stuff the Devil’s Gang is doing. Wanders around and beats up bad guys for most of the film. That’s what real heroes do!
Golden Mask (To tell would spoil the surprise!) – Ignore the fact you can figure out who the main villain is from the cast list and pretend to be surprised when he is revealed! A jealous madman who wants to control the martial world, but doesn’t want to do it fair and square. Enjoys wearing a gold mask and flying around in his flyer when he’s not commanding the Devil’s Gang to do evil stuff. Is constantly getting mocked by Chu-Kwok Su-Lan.
Silver Mask (To tell would also spoil the surprise!) – Silver Mask is totally not an obvious character seen early on in the film. Nope. He’s second in command of the Devils Gang and usually killing characters right before they talk and give away the whole plan.
Octopi (Themselves) – Two octopi that attack Chu-Kwok on the beach. Are pets of Golden Mask and vile tools of oppression.

Little Hero Polly Shang Kuan

This is the weirdest gym machine I’ve ever seen!


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 13, 2014 at 8:50 am

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Erotic Ghost Story (Review)

Erotic Ghost Story

aka Liao zhai yan tan

1987
Directed by Ngai Kai Lam
Written by Chang Kwan


Erotic Ghost Story is a classic Hong Kong Cat III film, it is the second most popular with only Sex and Zen being a greater influence to Cat III erotic films. Part of what made Sex and Zen so classic was previewed here, including one of the stars.

The film has its origins as a tale from Liaozhai Zhiyi aka Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio aka Strange Tales of Liaozhai, written by Pu Songling (1640-1715) during the early Qing Dynasty. This is a collection of 431 stories written in classical Chinese (not the usual form for the time.) The earliest existing printed version dates to 1766, but it may have been published earlier. Pu Songling was a former scholar himself, which may explain why a scholar becomes the central figure of some many of his tales. Stories from Liao zhai Zhiyi have inspired countless Chinese films and television shows. Painted Skin, Tsui Hark’s A Chinese Ghost Story, and several TV shows with fox spirits. You can read many of the translated tales here. Many stories are short, as what was important was the emotional response, not the details.

The three main characters are fox spirits who are trying to become human. This can be accomplished by meditation and prayer, but takes hundreds of years. If they deviate from their path, they will revert back into animals.

Erotic Ghost Story‘s Chinese title is Liao zhai yan tan, which betrays its origin as coming from the Liao Zhai stories. It is a highly eroticized version of the tales, and many other movies and shows reference the work by having Liao zhai or liu chai or liu jai in their Chinese titles. The Witches of Eastwick is largely listed as another inspiration of Erotic Ghost Story, and it got another lucky strike as A Chinese Ghost Story was released the same year. A Chinese Ghost Story had made ghost lover stories incredibly popular. Add that to the fact that Erotic Ghost Story is very well made despite its role as an exploitation film, and you have a recipe for success that made Erotic Ghost Story a classic film that has several sequels and imitators. Maybe we will get to a few of them someday.

Another important factor in the success of Erotic Ghost Story was the presence of Amy Yip Ji-Mei. Amy Yip (aka The Yipster) was at one point the most popular sex symbol in Hong Kong cinema, and pretty much any book you read on Hong Kong cinema written from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s will have at least one chapter dedicated to her. Some authors were disturbingly obsessed with her, but creepy movie books is a subject for another article. She was propelled to stardom with this film, and to super-stardom after Sex and Zen. Amy Yip’s claim to fame was her gigantic rack, and her ability to keep from showing the essential elements of said rack. This was called her “Yip tease”. She revealed things only once, in Sex and Zen, and this was rumored to be because one of the producers was a triad gangster who threatened her. Like most Chinese actresses, she retired and dropped off the face of the Earth after a few years. So let’s meet her and the rest of the cast:

Hua-Hua (Amy Yip Ji-Mei) – Her name is Hua-Hua in subtitles, but Fa-Fa is what is spoken in the Cantonese version. I will be using the subtitle names for everyone, which I believe is derived from the Mandarin names. Oh, well. Played by Amy Yip, Hua-Hua is the middle sister, and her color of choice is purple.
Pai So-So (Man Siu) – So-So is the average one. Okay, now we go the obvious joke out of the way, let’s then reveal that So-So is the oldest sister. She helps guide her two younger sisters in their quest to evolve from fox spirits to human beings. At age 50, foxes can choose to become human or spirits. I bet you didn’t know that. Well, Chinese mythology knows it, so you better buy the Cliff Notes! Her color of choice is pink.
Fei-Fei (Kudo Hitomi) – The youngest of the three sisters and the most easily given to temptation. Sister number three is also the most exposed of the three. Kudo Hitomi seemed to vanish after this role, but I suspect she was a Japanese AV star that I just can’t find any information on because everything focuses on newer actresses. Her color of choice is Lime Green.
Scholar Wu Ming (Tan Lap-Man) – A shy scholar who is also a ladies man and lothario. He gets chased by bandits at one point, and has a terrible, terrible secret….
Wutung (Tan Lap-Man) – This demon is the true form of Wu Ming. Let that be a less to you: All scholars are secretly demonic monsters. The next time you see a scholar beat him upside the head with his books. Wutung is the God of Carnal Desire. He has no clan as far as I know.
Hsuan Kuei (Lam Chung) – A taoist priest who recognize the girls for what they are, and helps them defeat wutung. Lam Chung usually plays sleazy characters in films, so this turn as a Taoist priest is a departure. He will fill the role of Lam Ching Ying for this film.


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 31, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Categories: Movie Reviews, Ugly   Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,