Sex & The Emperor (1994)

Directed by Sherman Wong Ching Wah

Produced by Wong Jing & Lee Siu Kei

Starring Yvonne Yung Hung, Leung Sze Ho, Sung Poon Chung, Jimmy Wong Shu Kei, Julie Lee Wah Yuet, Yuen King Dan, Stuart Ong (Yung Sai Kit), Chin Kwan

Sex & The Emperor

After the surprising box office of his earlier (by a few months) Category III hit, "A Chinese Torture Chamber Story", Wong Jing delved further into China's historical past to propagate this enjoyably lurid rendition of the last days of Qing Dynasty emperor Tung Chi before his death at the age of nineteen from syphilis. Palmed off in some territories as a sequel to Wong's preceding film, "Sex & The Emperor" is actually a closer "prequel" to Andrew Lau's "Lover Of The Last Empress" of the following year, acting as it does as a bridge between the stories of Tung Chi and the Empress Dowager (who appears briefly here) and their place in the Imperial court of the Forbidden City. But hey, you aren't all here for a history lesson, and if you were I'd be pointing out the implausibilities of the jumbled mess of history that Wong Jing's blender-driven script surmounts. Anyway…you're here for the sex, right?

It's Qing Dynasty China, and the plot follows the sexual awakening and exploits of last emperor Tung Chi (Sung), a zesty youth with a boyish interest in the opposite sex. His confidante is Imperial eunuch, Li Lianying (Leung), who is neither as emasculated as his fellow eunuchs, nor all that he first appears. Plum in the middle of this lusty tale of the Forbidden City is powerful ruler Empress Dowager, and her right hand man, head eunuch On Dehai (Ong). Together they rule the city with a veritable campaign of terror and torture. As fortune would have it, one glorious day Tung happens across chambermaid Guilian (Yung), who soon becomes the attention of his teenage passions. Meanwhile, Li is planning the secret life of a married man with his own maid (Chin). Once Guilian is sold into the services of Imperial brothel Madam Hongyi (Lee), Tung becomes desperate to find her and offer her his heart. But with political unrest breathing at the door, the Imperial Court is not about to entertain such dalliances lightly. Could this be the end of the blissful, sinful life our two heroes enjoy? Erm, well it certainly isn't pleasant for them…

Working from a crazed script by the prolific Wong Jing, director Sherman Wong (who previously helmed the delightful sex comedy "Unforgetful Holiday") layers his film with enough lust and lunacy to keep the viewer riveted in slack-jawed disbelief. The cast are uniformly attractive, all wildly overacting per Hong Kong sex comedy standards, and the pace of the piece rarely lets up until its bittersweet, tragedy-laced finale. In amongst all of the guffaws and usual entourage of heaving bosoms, the disgust factor is given gruesome reign with shocking Imperial torture, nasty rape scenes, a mean-spirited abortion, and tear-inducing castration footage. Ah those crazy Chinese, they'll laugh at anything! My favourite uninhibited Cat III girl, Julie Lee (who commenced her Cat III career in her late thirties), bobs up as brothel Madam Hongyi in the film's riotous show-stopping setpiece. Ever seen a Madam school her girls in the ways of the trade ably assisted by wires and sharp kung fu choreography? Didn't think so. Overall, it's a very funny film that manages to achieve an even balance between steamy sex scenes, lowbrow comedy, grueling gore and high camp melodrama. Nice to note fleeting Cat III sexpot Chin Kwan in a minor role here too, even if she isn't quite so "surgically enhanced" here as she was in the later "Rebekah '96".

Universe's releases of "A Chinese Torture Chamber Story 1 & 2" had raised my hopes that they would be the company who would release this sordid little gem on DVD, but sadly aspirations never came to pass. Mei Ah's disc is lacking on all counts where Universe's discs succeeded, which is a massive shame considering the cult potential this film offers. The image displays an inherent softness throughout, never achieving pin sharp DVD clarity, or definition, once in its duration (well, that's a bit of an exaggeration but those moments are so few and far between as to be negligible). Colours range from miserably washed out to oversaturated in orange hues, hence skintones rarely achieve true fidelity. Bit of a shame that, considering the amount of bare flesh on display! If I didn't know better I'd surmise that this is a ported laserdisc transfer. Burned-in theatrical subtitles whiz by with an abandon all too familiar to those of us who spent years watching these things in cinemas. That was a warning, by the way. Audio is the plain old 2-channel mono you've come to expect from Eastern erotica that has gone the digital route. And guess what? Yep, zippo in the area of extras, not even a trailer! But then, I paid $8.00AUD (around 3 Quid) for this, so what's the point of complaining? You can't buy VCDs for that price!

I have a big soft spot for this (bogus) historical sex opus, and if you enjoyed the similarly themed "A Chinese Torture Chamber Story" or "Lover Of The Last Empress", then there's no reason you shouldn't also get a kick out of this. It has also been released in the UK by MIA's Hong Kong Classics label (probably in a marginally better print) but the upshot of Mei Ah's release is that it is completely uncut (big thanks to the BBFC for quelling a minute of the nasty stuff from the UK release!). Go on, give it a gander! You know you want to! :)

Review by M.C.Thomason

Released by Mei Ah VideoDisc Co.
Category III - Region 0
Running time - 92m
Ratio - Widescreen 1.85
Audio - Dolby digital 1.0
Extras :