Erotic Ghost Story (Review)

Erotic Ghost Story

aka Liao zhai yan tan

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.

In Ancient China, some male harassers at a local bun stand get a face full of umbrella from Fei-Fei, who ain’t putting up with their “missing buns” crap. One thing I have learned over the years from Kung Fu movies is Ancient China was filled with women wandering the roads by themselves, only to be attacked by dozens of bandits who will get beat up. The bruised goons go to get help in harassing fine Fei-Fei, but instead they find Hua-Hua, who informs them that she has four other sisters, so all five men can be serviced. In the sexual way. By sex. Hence the “Erotic” part of the title. This frolic of sex sexiness comes to a screeching halt, when the hot chicks the goons pick up turn into decaying corpses that leak white fluids from their eyes and mouths (the oozing is the best effect!) and soon all men are running away, probably to never have sex again. Hence the “Ghost” part of the title.

Fei-Fei and Hua Hua congratulate themselves, then wonder of the whereabouts of their third sister, So-So. Those other girls you saw briefly will never be seen again, so never think of them. So-So is visiting the shrine of Wutung, the god of fertility. The shrine is where barren women go to pray. So-So thinks the many-faced statue of Wutung is handsome, and soon gets a weird feeling punctuated by shots of some eyes blinking, because Wutung is watching her. A Taoist priest named Hsuan Kuei knows she had nasty thoughts and isn’t quite human, so she attacks him with 1960’s video technology and then a sword. It is good for her that the priest is only trying to help and tells her to visit him at the falls if there is any problem, and he flies off.

All three sisters at home now, we find out that in 36 days they will become human, but things will come to tempt them, as things often do. Mrs Wang the neighbor bursts in to be nosy, and leaves just as fast. Annoying nosy neighbors are as universal as the remote I am using on the DVD player and TV. Mrs Wong is played by Ha Chi-Jan, who was last seen here in Angel Enforcers. Her husband is played by Manfred Wong Man-Chun, best known for writing the Young and Dangerous films. While meditating, the two younger sisters (Hua-Hua and Fei-Fei) both have disturbing dreams with the same mysterious guy in it. Their Buddha statue falls, because the movie really wants you to think something creepy is going on. That night, Hua-Hua is tempted by yowling cats in heat (buh?), only to find Fei-Fei naked in the pool bathing and touching herself. Hua-Hua steps in and soon they are tonguing each other’s ears and other things lesbians do.

Oldest sister So-So does not approve. She’s one of those people who ruin all the good shows on TV by complaining about “wardrobe malfunctions”. The next morning, So-So goes for a walk and sees a scholar getting chased by some evil dudes, so she smacks them away!

The guy she saved is Wu Ming, a typical shy scholar who must stay away from women. Only in the movies, folks. He is also hurt, so of course So-So wants to help him. She takes him back to his messy place, she uses magic to put everything away (Trumpy! It’s called evil, kid.) She offers to take care of him with meals every day for cheap, he is hesitant but she is insistent. So-So later lies to her sisters and doesn’t mention meeting him. Secrets secrets are no fun, secrets secrets hurt someone. The next morning, So-So leaves early and is dressed up, so Fei-Fei follows her to see what is up. So-So leaves house quickly, as the scholar Wu Ming is still shy. Fei-Fei sneaks into house, sees him bathing, and he yells at her so she runs back home.

Fei-Fei relates this story to Hua-Hua while in tears, this ticks off Hua-Hua who goes to chop Wu Ming with a sword. The fight is one-sided, but it soon turns into animalistic lust. Yes, that is right: sex sex sex sex sex. And more sex. But as this is pre-Triads forcing Amy Yip to strip, we are stuck with the famous Yip-tease and don’t get to see anything. Back home, Hua-Hua says words to Fei-Fei about how the guy has now suffered enough, making Fei-Fei think she killed him. Fei-Fei goes to check, and sees his back covered with clawmarks. She naturally thinks he was injured by fighting and not wild sex with a fox spirit, so insists she must dress his wounds. Dressing wounds means undressing her clothes, I guess. Which means more sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex.

Hey, kids, did you ever want to learn to be a gynecologist? Because you can thanks to the wonderful camera angles they are using on Fei-Fei! See every square millimeter of Kudo Hitomi’s labia. Any wonder why this film was so popular? The next day, sister number three (So-So, for those of you keeping track) comes over, and you’d think it would be her turn, but she finds Fei-Fei’s hairpin in the bed! So-So’s ticked off, especially when Wu Ming lies to her at first. But he pours on the charm, and soon they are going at it like humper monkeys who hump and are monkeys, who hump. Like monkeys. Who hump.

The action continues and So-So gets all sweaty, the film has some erotic charm in it, living up to the title. Compare this scene to any random scene from the ~2000-era Cat III films and their DTV cheapness. At home, the sisters confront each other, but everything is okay when Wu Ming shows up, and all three girls embrace him at once. Soon they are frolicking in fields together. This will end badly, even if he wasn’t secretly a horrible lust demon.

All four are bathing together, which Mr. Wang notices, enraging Mrs. Wang. Her complaints are responded to by magic revenge thanks to Wu Ming, who gives her a plum-puking fit and then makes her super-randy, causing her to sex up her protesting husband.

The film gets weird (weirder than puking plums?) as Wu Ming is now old, because three women will do that to you. He sends a cartoon butterfly to get him a woman before he gets really old, it does, and soon he is sexing up some random clothes-washing girl. She is played by Kamimura Kiyoko who is sometimes miscredited in the Fei-Fei role. Back at the sister’s home, they discover, to their horror, that they are reverting back to animal form. We see them with hairy chests and fox reflections. They go to confront Wu Ming on why he is stealing their fox spirit mojo, and sneak into his house. Luckily for them, he is in the back room Hulking out, where they can see he is really a monster.

Wu Ming’s multiple faces somehow can’t see the three girls obviously looking at him, and instead he goes to terrorize the clothes washing girl, who is tied up and naked. She is deadified as he absorbs her life energy. Remember when this was “Erotic” Ghost Story? Stay away from anyone who only watches the last 30 minutes of this film. The girls panic, and rightfully so. What would you do if you found out the shy scholar you were dating with both of your sisters turned out to be a three-headed monster who eats women’s life energy? Probably introduce him to Red Bull, which will reenergize you and doesn’t have the nasty side-effect of murder. So So-So goes to get the Taoist Priest by the waterfalls, allowing me to begin a sentence with the “So So-So” phrase I had been waiting for.

The three sisters will defeat him…by making bread! Huh? Oh, it is a voodoo dummy made out of baked dough, with sewed clothes. No wonder people keep calling this a rip on Witches of Eastwick! The best part is the little hat for the voodoo doll. The girls beat the frak out of the doll and stab it with hairpins, all of which happens to the real Wu Ting. He screams and calls forth a thunderstorm, and then goes fox spirit hunting. He is now demon as can be, and has a lightning whirlwind travel method, three faces, and claws.

The battle is on – swords, wrappings, Ghostbuster effects, all useless! Can nothing defeat this Wutung demon? He hypnotizes them, strips off their clothes…but then the Taoist Priest Hsuan Kuei blasts in and attacks. This guy is good, he chops off one of the three faces and blasts it to pieces with his brush thing. One thing I learned from all those Mr. Vampire films is you don’t mess with Taoist priests. He uses his Flying Sword on the Wutung Demon and it explodes. Take that, Wutung!

The girls thank him, and he flies off. The end. Remember, this was back in the “no resolution” days of Hong Kong cinema, so we don’t know if they ever became human or not. The Wutung demon shows up in at least the first sequel (Played by a different dude if I remember right) and there were countless imitations to this film. But those are other articles for other times…

Rated 8/10 (Smacked, Statue, Nosy Neighbor, Soon to be dinner, What happens when you eat too much cauliflower, Doughboy, Eye-smoke rings?, Gandalf can’t match these shapes!)

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