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CHINESE TORTURE CHAMBER STORY (1995)
Published by Film Fanaddict on 2008/7/27 (8676 reads)
Directed by Bosco Lam
Review by Aaron W. Graham
Released by Discotek Media
Running Time: 92 minutes
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: Dolby Digital 2.0 / English and Hong Kong Subtitles
Region Code: 1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
16:9 Enhanced: No
Special Features: About the Actors; Photo Gallery; Theatrical Trailers
Trailer Online: Yes
Psychotronically-inclined filmgoers everywhere will relish Discotek Media’s release of this insanely hyperactive Hong Kong “Category III” picture (an adults-only class of film that teeters on the brink between soft-core eroticism and hardcore pornography). Bosco Lam’s fantastically depraved S&M film brazenly delves into ancient sex toy and torture devices, spirited sexual partners who copulate high up in the forest via wirework (with frenetic oral displays of sex instead of traditional attack moves), and an unconventional romantic entanglement involving a youthful scholar (Lawrence Ng), his cheating wife (Ching Mai), their hopeful concubine/current housekeeper Little Cabbage (Yvonne Yung) and her enormously-endowed husband (a character largely mined for laughs, as evidenced by the ridiculous jingle-jangle soundtrack cut that signals any and all of his appearances).
The film uses a courtroom-framing device to relate its flashbacked tale of the smitten Little Cabbage and her insinuated adulterous partner, the scholar, who are both put on trial for the murder of Little Cabbage’s husband (his death due to an overdose of an aphrodisiac, resulting in a fatal loss of blood due to an exploding penis). Both Little Cabbage and the scholar are ruthlessly tormented, whipped and flayed (along with infamous bamboo chutes stuck in-between their fingernails) as the unrelenting, venal court system (revealed later to be corrupted) wait for them to give up the goods and confess. With no such luck, their stories are tenuously unfolded with enough sexualized digressions to make one wonder if the jury’s not getting hot and bothered by Little Cabbage’s in-depth testimony about whose anatomy went where and with whom, as she posits herself as a qualified voyeur in her related tale of living amongst the scholar, his wife, and their other helpers. Little Cabbage’s eyes are always on the libidinous action -- with a delicate licking of her fingers, she tears holes in the paper that restricts her vision in the dwelling, spying on the nude figures tirelessly gyrating instead of doing her chores.
Lam’s rambunctious approach and accompanying camerawork imbue the proceedings with a madcap sense of humor, and it’s this very flippant tone that saves the film from wallowing too much in its degenerative excesses. Partaking in such a traditional climate in Chinese history (its subtitle being THE TEN MOST SEVERE PUNISHMENTS OF THE CHING DYNASTY, which dates the film’s period somewhere in-between 1644 and 1912), there are enough generalizations and stereotypes in social roles to perturb the most casual of viewers, with the women uniformly worshipping their male partners. Still, any film with a comic demonstration of the sloppy pottery scene from GHOST with an unseen erect penis in place of the unformed cascading bowl (complete with muzak version of “Unchained Melody”!) should not be taken with a straight face. A subplot featuring a wet nurse with tiny breasts who undergoes a number of crude enlargement treatments is also another hint at where this film’s unusual, over-exaggerated heart is at.
The DVD is presented in an agreeable transfer in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. A Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is the only sound option, with English or “crazy” Hong Kong Subtitles (as the menu puts it) being the dual choices in that department. Extras are almost non-existent, with some badly written actor biographies for both Lawrence Ng and Yvonne Yung, a photo gallery, and a smattering of upcoming trailers for other phantasmagoric Asian releases from Discotek (including an exceptional one for 1974’s ZERO WOMAN RED HANDCUFFS, also on the company’s release slate).
Discotek, a relatively new DVD distributor specializing in similar inimitable and categorically indefinable Asian films, redeem themselves admirably with this challenging and fun release. Leave your preconceptions at the door, and, at the very least, marvel at the high-flying sexcapades between Elvis Tsui and Julie Lee or the “lustful devices” of the Dwelling Bells, Orgasmic Armor, Mr. Horn, and the Sheep Eyelids. There’s nothing else quite like this heady mix that can best be described, simply, as a fantasy of larger-than-life perverse eroticism with a complimentary hectic, yet nuanced abandon in the way of stylistics.
A CHINESE TORTURE CHAMBER STORY 2 followed in 1998.
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