Erotic Ghost Story (1990)

Directed by
Barely delivers what the title promises
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-09-02

Three fox spirit sisters are close to achieving immortality and permanent human form after many years of practising the Tao. They find a secluded home in which to complete their studies, but after the older sister meets a scholar living nearby and takes a shine to him, her youngest sisters notice her odd behaviour and various misunderstandings and mishaps lead to all three sisters becoming "acquainted" with him. All this extra-curricular activity doesn't seem like it will help either their studies or his.

Hong Kong had a fairly long if not terribly prolific history of erotic films, starting in the early 1970's, but the introduction of the Cat III classification in 1988 and an official age rating opened the doors for films to target more explicitly "adult" themes. EROTIC GHOST STORY is clearly a riff on A Chinese Ghost Story but shunted in the direction of soft porn. Apparently the plot is borrowed from THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, I don't know it but AFAIK it wasn't particularly pornographic.

The first hour or so basically concocts a series of excuses for its actresses to get naked and frisky, though exactly how naked varies wildly. Amy Yip was clearly on a "no nipples" contract so even though we see lots of cleavage and side-boob it doesn't go beyond that. Man Siu's contract was seemingly allowed for topless scenes, whilst Japanese actress Kudo Hitomi apparently signed up for "anything goes" and is frequently fully nude - including some shots that I'm amazed 88 Films got past the UK censors. Apparently the BBFC doesn't give a fuck anymore - though we're not talking hardcore, all sexual activity is obviously simulated.

This sort of film is supposed to be a kind of middle ground between porn and "proper" film-making with production values, and with Lam Nai-Choi in the director's seat you'd expect it to be well filmed at least, but it comes across as rather cheap with a look more akin to a TV show (before those became mini-movies) and sets that the Shaw Brothers art department would have committed hara-kiri on before they allowed someone to film them. That coupled with the awful acting make it feel closer to a porno than an erotic piece of cinema.

Everything changes in the final act though, when the sisters' lascivious behaviour catches up with them and Lam Nai-Choi is finally unchained, with some wild special effects and high flying action - the whole "ghost" thing suddenly gets a lot more relevant than it's been up to that point (not that there are any actual ghosts in it, still).

The film becomes vastly more interesting then, but it's too little too late. You'd be better off watching a film like The Seventh Curse where Lam Nai-Choi is fully unleashed, then maybe stick some actual porn on if you're feeling horny afterwards. EROTIC GHOST STORY is neither one thing nor the other, and whilst unpredictable genre mashups are one of the delights of Hong Kong Cinema, this isn't mashed up enough to be particularly interesting.

There are much more interesting examples of the Cat III classification being used to unleash the film makers' imaginations, including EROTIC GHOST STORY II if memory serves me correctly (always dubious) or the much higher production values of the supernatural erotica found in Sex & Zen II - and if you specifically wanted to see Amy Yip naked you'd be much better off with the original SEX & ZEN.

This seems like an odd choice for 88 Films to give the deluxe special edition treatment, though I gather it sold well so perhaps it's what the people want. I have a feeling that it's going to leave quite a lot of buyers underwhelmed though, which may hurt sales for the more genuinely interesting films like Robotrix or Story Of Ricky they have coming out soon.