Sunday, September 25, 2016

Meng gui jia ren (1989)

... aka: Chinese Ghost-core
... aka: Ghost Girl
... aka: Romantic Ghost Story, A

Directed by:
Wen Hua

Japanese tourist Lisa (Mai Hayami) is vacationing in Hong Kong when she's involved in a horrible car accident. She awakens on the beach and then is chased down by two jester-looking guys with dunce hats, fuzzy sticks and tongues so long they hang out of their mouths about a foot. She's captured and brought to a female “guard” who tells her she's arrived at the “Gate of Death.” Fortunately for her, a consultation with the “Book of Life and Death” reveals Lisa's name is nowhere to be found. (I guess because she's from out of town?!) Lisa is shown a huge cemetery that's the “World of the Ghosts” where everyone is treated equal and then the guard, whom she later refers to as her "Ghost Auntie," encourages her to head down to the city and have some fun. Meanwhile, the nightmare-plagued John (Denis Fan) has visions of Lisa's car accident and her going to hell all set to music from Charles Bernstein (stolen from A Nightmare on Elm Street). Afterward, he and his fast-living friend / co-worker Jim go to a sleazy, red-lit bar looking for “pussy” and watch a pair of Caucasian dancers in thongs (one male and one female) do some silly routine to an instrumental version of Blondie's 'Rapture.' What in the hell am I watching again?

John owns a studio. Jim is his photographer. Both work on what they call “figurative art,” which is what the rest of us would call naked, smutty pictures. When one of their models doesn't show up, the guys go to lunch and spot Lisa while they're out; little realizing that they'd already met her the night before when John accidentally pissed all over her head (!) in an alleyway. They give her their card and she calls the studio. John is instantly smitten with the mysterious Japanese beauty and would rather date her than put her in a magazine. Now without a model, Lisa promises to coerce their secretary Sue into doing it instead. Lisa uses her ghostly powers to make the conservative girl do a nekkid photo spread but when she finally sees the pictures she can't even remember posing for them. Figuring something sinister and otherworldly must be up, Sue consults a shady sorcerer / exorcist / drunkard and has him meet Lisa. After he determines the life line on her palm is broken, she scares him off by flashing her demon face at him.

The photography business isn't doing too well, so Lisa goes to her Ghost Auntie for help, gets her hands on some very valuable antiques and soon she and John have a room full of money to play around with. She also helps Jim out with his crush on Sue by taking possession of her and making her have sex with him. When Sue awakens, she starts punching him and accusing him of raping her. Back to the exorcist they go. This time he promises to “chase her back to hell” with his arsenal of weapons and magic trickery that includes a magic sword, a Buddha statue and dog's blood. In the meantime, he gives Sue about 500 spell papers to plaster all around her apartment.

Nothing really seems to work on Lisa since she's not technically crossed over to either heaven or hell yet and all anyone does to ward her off only accomplishes pissing her off further. After Jim and Sue ruin her relationship with John by revealing what she truly is, things only get worse when she decides she wants revenge. Ghost Auntie, who sometimes boasts a skull face but usually just looks like an old woman, helps by taking on the exorcist. She tricks him into drinking water that's actually serpent embryonic fluid and he proceeds to throw up a bunch of snakes. The wizard isn't up to much though and is easily taken out of commission with a red chain and a knife. Everyone else who tried to cock block our love-struck lady ghost also ends up paying for it, as well. It's all topped off with a lame and stupid “Was it real or just a nightmare?” type of ending.

Most HK ghost movies from this same time look stylish, have decent special effects and have a few scenes/moments that are memorably crazy. This one has none of that. It's filled with impenetrable night scenes, ragged editing, amateur acting and laughably cheap / shoddy fx and makeup. Since they clearly couldn't afford any visual or technical perks, they try to make up for that by displaying as much bare female flesh as possible. There's full frontal nudity from both lead females and each has their own nude modeling / photo session montage plus a soft core sex scene with the Jim character. Hayami, a pinku girl who had appeared in a half dozen or so rape / bondage / fetish soft core movies in Japan, was brought over to play her role. Other than her and the male lead, I did not recognize any of the other actors. Listed director Wen Hua also is a complete unknown. Either that or he's someone else using a fake name.

I found next to no information about this obscure title online. None of the major Hong Kong movie databases even list it and, though there's an IMDb page, it only lists the director, two actors and the alternate title of Chinese Ghost-core (an English translation of the Japanese title). It was made for the Hong Kong Man Wah Film Company, which does not appear to have released much else though I recognize the logo, has a 1988 copyright date, was theatrically released in February of 1989 and is classed as Cat III erotica. The copy floating around (taken from a Japanese VCD release) is in Cantonese with burnt-in English and Japanese subtitles.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Treasure of Abbot Thomas, The (1974) (TV)

... aka: Ghost Story for Christmas: The Treasure of Abbot Thomas

Directed by:
Lawrence Gordon Clark

Wealthy Lady Dattering (Virginia Balfour) hasn't quite gotten over the death of her husband and as a result conducts a séance every evening in hopes of contacting his spirit. She's even invited a shady married couple; Mr. and Mrs. Tyson (Frank Mills, Sheila Dunn), to come live with her. The Tyson's possess what they call “the gift” and claim to be in tune with the spirit world. Lady Dattering's bright, clever, college-aged son Peter (Paul Lavers) suspects the couple are a fraud leeching off his gullible mother's hospitality, so he goes to the church and asks friend and mentor Reverend Justin Somerton (the excellent Michael Bryant) to come to one of their gatherings to help prove it. The couple have supposedly been in contact with a spirit guide named Father Dominic who's been relaying messages to Lady Dattering from her late husband by possessing Lady Tyson and using her as a mouthpiece. Using Latin, Justin is able to expose the duo as con artists and they're quickly shown the door. The experience however gets both Peter and Justin more interested in the spirit world and they begin tampering with things best left alone.

According to some old church documents, a 15th century churchman named Abbot Thomas was practicing the black arts and alchemy and was sentenced to death as a result. Rumor has it that before he could burn he was whisked away by Satan himself but not before revealing that he'd hidden a cache of gold somewhere on the grounds of the monastery where Justin works. Teacher and pupil then begin examining the church grounds, starting with taking photographs of an ancient stained glass mural to bring out further detail. In one of the photos they notice a strange black smudge over one of the images that doesn't appear in any of the other photos. Further inspection of the smudge reveals it is one of the many gargoyles lining the church roof. From there, the men start to put together pieces of a very elaborate puzzle, which requires transcribing Latin and figuring out the hidden meanings in the text and images on the mural and using math to decipher cryptograms found hidden behind layers of paint. All fingers end up pointing to an old underground tomb in the church graveyard and exploration of that proves yet again that some riddles are best left unsolved.

This was the fourth of eight entries in the first crop of BBC Ghost Story for Christmas presentations and was based on the M.R. James story of the same name, which was contained in the collection Ghost Stories of an Antiquary published in 1904. Like many of James' stories it centers around academic types whose realist beliefs get turned upside down by a taste of the supernatural. Many of the protagonists in these stories are cynics who happen to have their own spiritual beliefs yet still doubt the potential of an other-worldly evil manifesting itself in the real world and that ends up eventually hitting them where it hurts. This one has all of that, is very well-acted, atmospheric and efficiently directed; adeptly mixing mystery and ghost story in that measured, moody, subtle way the Brits seem to excel at. The 37-minute running time moves things along at a brisk pace and this also happens to have one of the most chilling conclusions of any of these adaptations, which is pretty much the main point.

THE ASH TREE and LOST HEARTS were also adapted from James' Antiquary by Clark for the annual 70s series. When the series was revived in 2005, Pier Wilkie tackled the story Number 13. Prior to the Christmas series, Jonathan Miller had adapted WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU (1968) for the BBC series Omnibus and numerous other stories from the collection were filmed for the Mystery and Imagination (1966-68) series.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Ten Little Maidens (1985)

... aka: Desert sa Slagom
... aka: Sexo na Ilha Fatal (Sex at Fatal Island)
... aka: Suspense erótico (Erotic Thriller)
... aka: 10 Lil' Maidens
... aka: Vergini corpi frementi (Virgin Bodies Quivering)

Directed by:
John Seeman

After some silly narration (“The erotic instinct is basic to human nature, and will always be, no matter what established religion has to say on the matter – or what present or future laws deem as proper.”) we follow buxom mail lady Kitten Natividad around a neighborhood as she does her route. Hearing strange noises coming from one of the homes, she peaks in the mail slot and watches John Orvis (Harry Reems) and his (married) lover Carol Morgan (Ginger Lynn Allen), whose husband is out of town on business, going at it. Afterward, John tosses aside all of the bills and opens the only interesting-looking letter, addressed by one U.N. Seen. Inside is a pair of plane tickets and an invitation to an “all-expense paid erotic orgy” to take place on a secluded island over the weekend. Thinking it sounds too interesting to pass up, the two fly to Marina del Rey and catch a boat from there. The captain takes them as close as he can go and then Renfro (Jamie Gillis), who strangely knows both of their names, shows up on a smaller boat to pick them up.

Upon arriving on Bacchanal Island, they make their way through the woods to a huge estate and meet Renfro's wife Tabatha (Nina Hartley), who works there as a cook and housekeeper wearing a sheer maid's outfit (with no panties). As she's taking them to their room, she informs them that she and her husband were hired just two days earlier, given a list of guests and instructions on what to do but have not even met the man who hired them. While John is busy checking out the grounds (and a few topless sunbathers by the pool), Carol decides to take a shower and gets accosted by another female guest named Charlene (Janey Robbins), who helps her get extra clean before the night's festivities begin. They soon join Charlene's husband Peter (Richard Pacheco) and two other couples; Dick (Paul Thomas) and Candy (Amber Lynn) and Larry (Eric Edwards) and Agatha (Lisa De Leeuw) around the dinner table.

Living up to his reputation of being one of porno's weirdest perverts, Gillis jerks off using a chicken (!) which is then served up to the guests as having been “creamed” (har har) He then jerks off on Carol's salad when she requests “creamy Italian” dressing. (har har har) What follows is a messy food orgy. You probably won't be surprised what they do with corncobs, cucumbers and a hollowed out peach, but you may be surprised seeing Hartley getting screwed by Gillis while covered with a pig's carcass (!!) and perhaps even more surprised (or grossed out) watching Gillis alternate performing oral sex with chewing off a piece of the pig's snout. The host (who imitates Alfred Hitchcock) has provided some cassette tapes to be played at certain times. On the first, he informs the guests that he and his wife won't be able to attend but they'll still feel his presence. On the second tape he tell them “payment is due” and that none of them will make it off the island alive. Why? Well, because they've all lived “erotically immoral” lives. Soon after, a series of murders begin and after each death one of ten statues in the dining room is found smashed.

I figured SEX WITH A STRANGER (1986) was an anomaly being a hardcore spoof of Agatha Christie's famous and oft-filmed mystery novel Ten Little Indians but, as it turns out, it actually ripped off this earlier film. Both are a mix of X sex, terrible acting, extremely dumb humor and silly sex-oriented deaths. There are some nods to mystery movie cliches like a black cat lurking around, eyes spying from behind a painting and a bad Peter Lorre impersonation, plus death by arsenic-laced vagina, someone suffocated with a rubber duck placed over their dick, a drowning in the pool, someone crushed by a bed canopy and two of the women getting electrocuted by a double-sided dildo. They even thrown in a bizarre POV shot from inside a vagina.

For what it's worth, this has higher production values having been shot on film instead of video, a better variety of sex scenes (including some kinkier stuff if you're into that) and more weird (and tasteless) moments than its predecessor, though the two are otherwise pretty much the same. This supposedly played adult theaters in the U.S. and in Spanish-speaking countries, though the only theatrical poster I could find was a Yugoslavian one under the title Desert sa Slagom. It was financed and distributed by Excalibur and is available on DVD (though you can probably tell from the screen caps that I watched a VHS version).

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