The Golden Lotus (1974)
By: J.R. McNamara on May 18, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Siren Visual Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 2.35:1 (Non-anamorphic). Mandarin DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 111 minutes
The Movie
Director: Han Hsiang Li
Starring: Peter Yang Kwan, Hu Chin, Wang Lai
Screenplay: Han Hsiang Li
Music: Chen Yung-yu
Country: Hong Kong
AKA: Jin Ping Shuang Yan

The Shaw Brother studios output is nothing short of phenomenal. Founded in the 30s, they have been the hosts of some of Asia's finest talent, and have created some masterful films, in all genres, although mainly involving wuxia or wushu elements. This film, The Golden Lotus aka Jin Ping Shuang Yan, was directed by Li Han-Hsang, who was well renowned as a director who used his camera as a brush, painting beautiful set and staged environments, which were more often than not interiors. This probably came from his artistic background, which led him to direct many Chinese operas on film.

The classic tale of The Golden Lotus tells us about the life of Eastern lothario, Ximen Qing (Yang Chun) foot fetishist and businessman, whose money and power allow him to take any woman he desires. Already he has several wives and concubines when due to an accidental meeting, he adds more to his household. After she accidentally drops a bamboo pole on him, his attentions are turned to the demure Pan Jinlian, (Hu Chin) who proceeds, with the assistance of her interfering neighbour, Madam Wang (Wang Lai), to murder her husband, a pancake selling Dwarf, so that Ximen Qing can take her as one of his wives. Things are fine at the house of Ximen Qing, until his attentions leave that of Pan, and are led to the lovely Li Pinger , which causes Pan Jinlian to become jealous and bitter, and the spirits to be angered which leads to the eventual downfall of the small empire Ximan Qing has built.

This film is based on the Chinese text, Jin Ping Mei, which literally means 'The Plum in the Golden Vase', and whose name is derived from an amalgam of three of the female leads names (Pan Jinlan, whose name literally mean The Golden Lotus, Li Pinger and Peng Chunmei, one of the house maids), and is considered the fifth Chinese classical novel, one of which is Journey to the West, the tale on which the TV show Monkey was based. Jin Ping Mei is considered an important part of Chinese literature as it was the first to portray sexuality in a graphic nature, including the description of various acts and sex toys as well. Unfortunately, as titillating as that sounds, the movie, while still receiving an R rating, is no where near as risqué or sexy as what you would think.
The image is crisp and bright and only suffers from the very occasional artifact, which barely even bears mentioning.
The movie is in Dolby Digital stereo, but when you consider it is a sexual drama, it doesn't matter too much, the only real sounds are the speaking and the music, which are both clearly audible throughout.
Extra Features
Shaw Bros Star Profiles is a text piece of the body of work produced by some of their stars.

This disc features trailers for four other Shaw Bros. Productions: The Heroic Ones, Heroes Two, The Master and The Trail of the Broken Blade.

Featurette: The Servant: Li Han-Hsang (15 minutes 31 seconds) is an interesting documentary about not just this director, but also the Hong Kong film industry in general.

Documentary: Kung Fu. (47 minutes 27 seconds) is a fascinating, if not out of place on a film such as this, look at the Kung Fu influence on Western cinema.

Photo Gallery (2 minutes) is a silent slide show of 20 images from this film.

Original Poster (20 seconds) is a look at the original promotional artwork for this film.
The Verdict
The only real problem with this film is its age, which hasn't been kind to it. It is beautifully filmed, but the performances are at times comical, and the sex is not sexy enough. One thing the film has of note is a very early appearance of Jackie Chan, who features as a local pear seller. This film would really only be interesting only to Shaw Brothers or Jackie Chan complete-ists or who have an interest in Chinese literature.
Movie Score
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