Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (1972)
18 year old Ainu (Lily Ho) is kidnapped and sold to a brothel. Her good looks and wild personality make her very popular with the lustful clients, but also draw the lesbian attentions of brothel madam Betty Pei Ti. Betty teaches Ainu the ways of lust and the ways of kung fu, and Ainu becomes more and more similar to her captor. But rage at her treatment is still burning inside her.
INTIMATE CONFESSIONS... ("Ainu" is the Chinese title) is another wu xia film from ace director Chor Yuen, but this time the exploitation angle often present in his films is brought right into centre stage. Chor Yuen seems to have been fascinated by lesbians, but this is the only film of his that I've seen where he gives them the starring roles. Both Lily Ho and Betty Pei Ti give sterling performances as the beautiful but vicious martial arts hookers, and they're joined by a cast of Shaws starlets in the nude to create a pre-Cat III film that balances action, intrigue and eroticism surprisingly well. The film is the acknowledged inspiration for Clarence Fok's Naked Killer, the ultimate Cat III classic.
As with all Chor Yuen's films, AINU is filmed entirely on Shaw Brothers sound stages, and features his trademark opulent art direction and cinematography. The plot is less labyrinthine than in many of his wu xia works, probably because Gu Long was in no way involved. In fact, the plot is probably too straight forward - the film runs less than 90 minutes, and doesn't develop its characters or situations as much as I would have liked. It still has a certain amount of depth and sophistication that is exceptionally unusual in a film centred around sex.
Yueh Hua has a small role as a hapless police officer, but it's undoubtedly the women that are the stars of the film. Even in the action scenes, which are not the main focus but are a pleasant bonus, it's Lily Ho and especially Betty Pei Ti that dominate. Given that neither of the ladies are martial artists they do a good job in the fights, with stunt doubles being noticable but not distracting. Ultimately its the characters and the situations that make the film interesting, and the art direction, cinematography and naked flesh that make it compelling. I enjoyed the film on a number of levels, and even my girlfriend was positively disposed towards it. I just wish it had been about 30 minutes longer, and spent a bit more time developing its story.