Sex & Zen III (1997)

Directed by Aman Chang (Cheung Man)

Produced by Wong Jing

Starring Karen Yeung Kar Ling, Tung Yee, Jane Chung Chun, Elvis Tsui Kam Kong, Tim Shaw (Siu Chuen Yung), Noelle Chik King Man, Ronald Wong Ban, Ricky Yi Fan Wai, Kong Hiu Wan, Lo Meng

Sex & Zen III

In the absence of the first sequel (that benefited from the gorgeous Shu Qi & Rachel Lee), I'm going to run with my recommendation for the first film and quietly suggest that if you're any sort of aficionado of these things to simply go out and buy this one too! No one, but no one, seems to produce the stylishly glossy variety of soft porn that Hong Kong manufactures with such relative ease. With this third outing director Aman Chang has managed to capture the outrageous spirit of Michael Mak's original without veering sideways into "Erotic Ghost Story" territory as Cash Chin did with the second episode of the series (sadly unavailable on disc as of this writing).

Plotwise, it is Sung Dynasty period China and war is waging across the land, leaving the country's economy in poor decline. Women have naught but two lines of employment to pursue: servants or prostitutes. Enter stage right Susan (Yeung), Fanny (Tung) and Chunyin (Chung), three young women from impoverished families who have been sold into Tall Kau's (Chik) brothel, Fragrance House, for the paltry sum of forty taels.

Trained in the pleasures of the flesh by Madam Kau, the girls are introduced to the season's new customers (as well as old regulars) with the high price of their virginity the bidding fee. Visiting scholar Chu Chi Ang (Shaw) falls for the delightful Susan, as does frequent customer Lui Tin (the ever-reliable Tsui). Having become firm friends over copious drinks, Lui outbids Chu for Susan's virginity, then offers his new friend the honour (wish some of my friends would be so generous!) taking Fanny as consolation. Unfortunately, Fanny had set her own sights on Chu, and she's the vindictive type, hence there's trouble a brewing.

Chu is cast from Kau's house of ill repute as soon as his scholarship money dries up, leaving him destitute and pining for Susan. Lui returns to Kau's favour, buying Fanny's freedom, taking her as his concubine with the ulterior motive of a second visit to claim Susan's hand as his first wife. Chu happens across forest dwelling kung fu master Hung Chi (original "Venom" Lo Meng) (did these guys grow on trees in those days?), whilst on the run from gay bandits, who teaches him the Thirteen Tricks of the Virgin Book. Lui, meanwhile, has achieved his goal of Susan's hand in marriage, much to the disgust of Fanny who hatches a plot not-too-dissimilar to that of "A Chinese Torture Chamber Story" with the inevitable results.

Will Chu be reunited with unrequited love Susan? Will Fanny finally get her man? Will screenwriter Wong Jing throw in more "exploding penis" and ejaculation jokes? Will Lui conquer the entire female cast with his penchant for sodomy? Will the outrageous sex scenes quota to running time ratio blowout before the climax of the film (sorry, couldn't resist that one)? The answer is a big fat "Yes!" to most of these questions (except the bogus one), but happily not in the way you would expect. Saying any more will spoil all of the surprises�J

Wong Jing's (gee, I'm seeing that name a lot here!) script shamelessly reworks his own 1994 effort "A Chinese Torture Chamber Story" into the structure of the best "Sex & Zen" episode since the original. On board for this outing is his in-house director (and former Cinematographer) Aman Chang, who unfolds this tale with a visual palette that is best simply described as "eye candy". From the splendid costume design, down to the gaudy colour schemes, the film never looks anything less than beautiful! The sexual escapades are lusciously executed (and quite explicit! Although, I can't see the final scene getting past the BBFC unscathed�not with their present attitude towards "female ejaculation"), but as word of warning, when the aforementioned torture scenes arrive they are handled with an equal amount of gusto. A shocking sequence with a frog and a spread-eagled female may have some viewers gagging in disgust.

After a credits sequence that put the fear of God in me (all soft image and colour bleed), the print on this disc settled down within a few minutes to become passable as quite exceptional. There are some motion artifacts and grain present, but as long as you are willing to overlook the usual transfer issues of Hong Kong discs, then Universe's transfer is really pretty spanky (no pun intended!). There are a myriad of spelling errors present in the subtitles, but these too are more an issue best addressed by an audience used to discs mastered by those whose second language is English. There are also a couple of dialogue passages rendered almost incomprehensible by the new streamlined English translation, which is a bit of a fizzog for non-Cantonese speaking viewers. All up though, a nice presentation only occasionally marred by the usual hiccups present in a majority of Chinese discs. Extras are pretty much the usual: the original cinema trailer (featuring a couple of moments deleted from the final cut), cast biographies, and attractions trailers for "Sex & Zen", "Erotic Ghost Story" and "Erotic Ghost Story 2".

Well, there you have it, another impressively outrageous taste of Eastern erotica. Believe you me though, the above description only scratches the surface of what there is on offer in this film and fans would do best to seek this one out to discover all of the delights, and hearty chuckles, that space (and good taste) didn't allow me to even touch upon! It's fun, it's steamy, and (as Kenny Everett used to say) it's all done in the best possible taste (not)! Whoa mama, all of this Asian soft porn has left me with a slight case of double vision, so I'm off for a bit of a lie down. In the meantime, give "Sex & Zen 3" an Uncle Merv (Aussie rhyming slang)�you'll make an aging sleaze fan a very, very happy man! Oh yeah, and remember the words of the great Hung Chi "A hardened dick is really furious!"

Review by M.C.Thomason

Released by Universe Laser & Video
Category III - Region 0
Audio - Dolby digital 1.0
Ratio - Widescreen 1.85
Running time : 100m (packaging lists running time of 96m)
Extras :
Star files; Trailer; Attractions trailers

� 2001, Icon In Black Media