Women of Desire

The trailer for this 1974 Shaw Brothers film looked kind of naughty and with a title like “Women of Desire” I expected there would be some racy fun and games within, but it turns out that on the titillation scale this was on level with a night out with Al Gore – and as with most politicians there was lots of promise but in the end no execution. For the most part in fact, this was a dull trudge that made staying awake a chore. It’s a shame because it begins enjoyably enough with a big nightclub scene that has a few songs, some intrigues and hints of things to come, but it just never goes anywhere interesting after that.
Tina Chin Fei and Elaine Kam
It may be a possibility – though I don’t know, as I have never seen any other version of this film – that this version may be slightly edited and that some of the more risqué scenes were cut out if only slightly. There have been a few other Celestial releases in which this seemed to be a possibility – Human Lanterns and Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan – but all evidence seems to point to this not being done by Celestial but simply due to the print they received for the DVD mastering. Shaw Brothers often used to make a few versions of their exploitation films in order to meet community standards in differing markets in South East Asia. I only think this may be a possibility because the film is surprisingly bereft of nudity beyond a brief glimpse – even though the film was marketed as a sexy tale and it stars Chen Ping who was only too willing to display her charms in other films. Beyond this there are a few instances in which the film looked to be abruptly edited right on the verge of something interesting happening. Not that all the nudity in the world would have helped this film, but it would have made staying awake a lot easier!
Wong Ping-ping and Maggie Li
Just trying to keep track of all the characters in this film is as complicated as remembering the Roman Emperors post Nero (Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian to get you started!) and one needs an AAA road map to figure out who is married or going out with whom and who is sleeping with whom. The film becomes a roundelay of couples jumping into bed with one another and after a while those squirming bodies started all looking the same to me. The main problem with the film is that it was in such a hurry to get the action started that it never bothered to make any of the characters distinct or at all sympathetic. In deed, by the end of the film you realize that this was intended as a morality tale of sorts because nothing good comes of all this fooling around.
Chen Ping, Woo Fung and Wong Ping-ping
Lets see if I can get this straight – why I bother I don’t know – but here goes. In all begins as I said before in a nightclub where nearly all the main characters are taking up space. Thankfully, the film identifies all the actors as they are initially brought on. There is Maggie Li who is a publicist for a slimy singer and she doesn’t really have a lot to do in this film – but I mention her because she later went on to marry David Chiang a few years later. Over a few tables is Chen Ping who is married to the creepy Wang Jung – who explains to his friend the singer that having sex with Chen is like “squeezing the fruit of all the juice”. Now oddly this isn’t registered as a compliment, but as a complaint – because after being squeezed he has no juice left to fool around. In particular, he wants to share his juice with another singer – credited here as Elaine Chin Yen-ling but now known better as Elaine Kam (the gun smuggler in Wild Search and the mother in Tempting Heart). She doesn’t seem very interested in him though and so the friend suggests that old fallback – knockout pills – and Wang assures him that he never leaves home without them. In fact, everyone in this film seems to have some sort of pre-Viagra chemical solution to either wield you unconscious or make you horny. Chen Ping though it turns out is very interested in her husband’s friend so there is clearly opportunity for mutual fruit squeezing here.
Tina and Elaine
Then there is sexy Tina Chin Fei who wears red flashy lipstick like a battle ornament – even to sleep. She has a husband at home (Lui Kei, who also directed this) but he is a cripple and so she has begun an affair with a stockbroker who enjoys nibbling on her ear when he isn’t showing her how much she has excited him in cheap hotel rooms. She seems to enjoy the hotel rooms primarily for the vibrating beds. Throw into this rowdy mix Woo Fung who is a respectably married doctor but is seduced by siren Wong Ping-ping with the help of some of that love potion that she slips into his tea after he has changed into a negligee and seven pairs of different colored panties. Of course, the fact that she decorates her bedroom with stuffed toys and posters of naked women should have clued Woo into realizing that something wasn't quite right here. If you already own this film and have no intention of really watching it – you at least have to go to the seduction scene and Woo Fung’s strip tease – it is the only highlight of this film and is very funny. Of course, the fact that a Woo Fung strip tease is the highlight in a film populated with a number of attractive women may be more than a little scary to some!
With all this going on you would think that this might be fun, but it is poorly paced and just feels so painfully slow. The film jumps so quickly back and forth between different characters that you feel like you are on a merry-go-round and none of the stories seem to really matter – it only gets mildly interesting in the end when things start falling apart for everyone and a lesson is taught to all of us about the evils of messing around! The director Lui Kei has a very lengthy filmography as both an actor and as a director – but his latter duties seemed to have been focused on films with at least erotic titles – The Seductress, Sexy Career Girls, The Stud and the Nymph, The Foxy Ladies, Starlets for Sale and Girls for Sale among many others. I can’t say there is much here to want me to run down his other films – but I have to give him credit for at least attempting to film things from odd positions – he seems to love filming through lampshades, legs and circular art to give his films a real avant-garde edge!

My rating for this film: 4.5