A Chinese Torture Chamber Story (1994)

Directed by Bosco Lam Hing Lung

Produced by Wong Jing

Starring Yvonne Yung Hung, Lawrence Ng Kai Wah, Tommy Wong Kwong Leung, Ching Mai, Wong Tak Bun, Yuen King Tan, Elvis Tsui Kam Kong, Julie Lee Wah Yuet, Oh Yin Hei

Chinese Torture Chamber Story

If you thought "Sex & Zen" was a hoot, wait until you see this! But before you rush out and buy this one, my big word of advice is "be forewarned!" Although the sexual high-jinks are both incredibly funny (and downright steamy), they are juxtaposed against scenes of brutal (though respectfully curtailed) physical torture. There's plenty of "Eeks" and "Ouches" to go with your "Oohs" and "Aahs" in this one. But to be perfectly honest, the amount of naked flesh on display completely outweighs the amount of stage blood spilt. However, if you're prudish enough to be offended by the spillage (and spurtage) of other bodily fluids then you'd best go back to watching "Big Brother", or whatever else you were doing beforehand. Be advised, "Chinese Torture Chamber Story" takes to ejaculation jokes with a zeal that makes "Something About Mary's" "hair gel" joke seem like the pinnacle of conservative restraint! But anyhoo, on with the show…

Purportedly based on an actual historical adultery case "Chinese Torture Chamber" kicks off in grand (guignol) fashion. Before the credits have even rolled we are treated to a handful of historical torture methods (including the now obligatory castration footage) that grabs your attention by the short'n'curlies, and then twists. Little Cabbage (Yung), is the daughter of a poor silk merchant who, unable to keep up with provincial taxes, allows her to enter Scholar Yung's (Ng) house as a servant. Before long Yung makes his true intentions clear to Cabbage, much to the dissatisfaction of his wife (Ching). Whilst away on business Yung's jealous wife marries Cabbage off to Chiu Dai (Wong), a labourer renowned for his endowment (all two foot of it), once she stumbles across her secret seamy affair.

In his travels Yung befriends…erm, "kung fu master" Win Chung Lung (you'll see what I mean) (Tsui) who takes him as a brother with the promise of aiding him should he ever need help. Once home, Yung is outraged at his wife's discretion (whipping her bloody for her troubles), but determined to regain his tiny-footed princess, a spoken-for woman or not. Much to everyone's horror, the old green-eyed monster raises its head, and Yung's wife conspires to see Chiu murdered, Cabbage framed, and Yung implicated in the plot. It's now up to the Imperial Court to determine the truth, to the tune of the torturer's rack if needs be.

Bosco Lam's film is the undisputed successor to Michael Mak's classic "Sex & Zen", buried under some of the most outrageous sexual exploits committed to the Jade Screen in decades. There are all manner of horny highjinks on show but nothing tops the showstopping excesses of Elvis Tsui & Julie Lee's amazing aerial sex scene. If "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" introduced you to Eastern wirework, then this will take you to the art's most giddy heights. Trust me, you've never seen anything like this! Screenwriter & producer Wong Jing has filled the proceedings with plot-points of all the subtlety of a bunch of sniggering school-boys, poking fun at popular Chinese character Judge Pao, "wuxia" stories, and even poor old Jerry Zucker's "Ghost" along the way (snigger, snigger). The photography is lush, and the naked flesh on show extremely attractive. As previously mentioned, there are three very messy ejaculation jokes thrown in, and these will certainly test the depths of how lowbrow the viewer will allow their comedy standards to sink. I laughed…a lot, so you can all start drawing up the lawsuits now!

For a film creeping up on nearly a decade old, "Torture Chamber" looks just great in this DVD presentation. As Hong Kong is notorious for its lack of film storage ethics, the quality of the print used herein was something of a revelation. The last time I saw it looking this good was on the big screen back in '94, and even then the imported print wasn't in the best of shape! Colours are exceptionally rich and vivid, which is just extraordinary considering the amount of red present in the film (primarily costuming and set decoration). The disc even boasts a Dolby 2.0 stereo track that was definitely not present when I first saw this one theatrically in '94. Unless you're a completely fussy bastard, there's not much to fault with Universe's transfer, as it's quite splendid. A fine transfer is aided and abetted by a satisfactory smattering of extras. There is the mandatory Cast Biographies that make for an informative read, and best of all there's the original theatrical trailer. The trailer is unique in the fact that it contains absolutely no footage from the film, but features all of the historical torture devices used in the film with a narrator detailing their use (in Cantonese without the aid of subtitles…sorry!).

If you loved "Sex & Zen" as much as I did, then you would do very well to invest in this hysterically funny, though sometimes grim, slice of Asian erotica. Hong Kong most certainly does not (sadly) make 'em like this any more, which is a crying shame. And if it doesn't amuse you as much as it does me, you can always use the disc for the rather shifty alternative that I have used it for on one or two occasions. It clears unwanted houseguests who have outstayed their welcome with undue speed! Trust me…

Review by M.C.Thomason

Released by Universe Laser & Video
Category III - Region 0
Audio - Dolby digital 2.0 (Cantonese & Mandarin)
Ratio - Widescreen 1.78
Running time : approx 93 mins
Extras :
Trailer; Star files