Golden Lotus 1974

Golden Lotus 1974

AKA: Jin ping shuang yan
Year: 1974
Directed: Li Han-Hsiang
Genre: Erotica/Cat III/Drama
Runtime: 111 mins
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Mandarin
Subtitles: English

Peter Yang Kwan … Ximen Qing
Woo Gam … Jinlian
Chen Ping … Chunmei
Tanny Tien Ni … Mrs. Hua
Chiang Nan (1) … Wu Dalong
Tin Ching (1) … Mr. Hua
Dean Shek Tin … Doctor Jiang
Teresa Ha Ping … fourth lady
Lau Ng-Kei
Lau Wai-Ling … servant
Jackie Chan … Pear Hawker
Wong Yu (1) … Qintong
Wang Lai … Mrs. Wang
Chan Shen … killer
Wang Han-Chen … killer
Law Hon … judge

There have been many film versions of “The Golden Lotus”, the most erotic novel in Chinese history, but none have combined artistry with sensuality as successfully as this 1974 classic, featuring three of the screen’s sexiest stars. The director was already famous for his historical epics and modern sex comedies, but here outdoes himself in this recounting of the murders, corruptions, and sexual exploits of a Sung Dynasty lothario 900 years ago.

It describes the exploits of Ximen Qing (Yueng Kwan), a young man of means and power whose main interest is acquiring and amusing himself with additional consorts and wives. Our story begins when he meets Pan Jinlian (Hu Chin), the beautiful young wife of Wu Dalang (Chiang Nan), a dwarf of a man who sells pancakes in the street. Wu Dalang is teased by children for his ugliness and short stature, and his wife is embarrassed when he’s mentioned by others. Conspiring with Pan’s meddlesome neighbour, Ximen arranges his seduction of Pan, leading them eventually to secretly murder her husband.

Their activities don’t remain all that secret, though: they’re observed by a smart-mouthed fruit seller, played by a very young Jackie Chan, before his emergence as a film superstar. The whole town knows what Ximen’s up to, and he gets away with it because of his wealth and position, quickly marrying Pan despite the mutterings of the people around them. There’s also the hanging spectre of the imminent return of her dead husband’s brother, the hero Wu Song. Though this never occurs in this film, it’s treated in detail (and with a lot of overlap!) in Tiger Killer, also directed by Li Han-hsiang. The character of Wu Song can also be found in The Water Margin, too.

Pan is thrust into the Ximen household, competing with the other wives for her husband’s attention (and the maids, and his friends’ wives…). Ximen’s roving eye is forever on the move, and he exerts a powerful hold over the women he seduces, driving some of them to the brink of madness. Desire’s the strong emotion here, and it drives all the characters, though Ximen’s gradually revealed as a cruel and vicious man as the story runs its course.

Though it’s a much more lusty, baser story than the measured, more complicated Raise the Red Lantern, there are some commonalities: we see Pan struggle to maintain her existence in a house where she’s completely subservient to her husband and forced to compete with other women for everything. The film’s well-directed, but felt quite roughly acted: Hu Chin is great as Pan Jinlian, transforming from the demure, embarrassed young wife to the pouting, scowling schemer of the last act of the film. Many of the other characters are not as interesting, and Wu Dalang the dwarf is much better played (and given more development) in Tiger Killer.

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