Review A Chinese Torture Chamber Story


Member: Rank 4
Is anyone still interested in Monday's review? In any event...

I'm planning to watch Sex & Zen and Erotic Ghost Story, but I haven't gotten around to them yet. Which Cat III films would you recommend from the "laugh-out-loud guilty pleasure" category?
Well! I'm glad you asked.

A Chinese Torture Chamber Story (1994)
Directed by Bosco Lam
Starring Yvonne Yung Hung, Lawrence Ng, and Kwong Leung Wong
In Cantonese or Mandarin with English subtitles
Film: 5 stars (out of 5)

I’m going to start off by quoting the blurb on the back of the DVD case and then tell you why you should not let it put you off watching this film.

Chinese had various forms of torture in ancient times. The film illustrates one of the cases which employed extremely cruel methods to torture the accused. A young concubine was accused of murdering her husband and had been severely tortured.
Wow, that sounds like a real winner, right? A History Channel documentary for the sadistic.

But what if I told you that after the first 20 minutes or so, A Chinese Torture Chamber Story makes a 90 degree turn into the land of comedy and erotica (including slapstick, parody, and sexual hi-jinks)? What if I told you that ACTCS was produced by Jing Wong, the same mind who gave us lesbian assassins in the delightfully over-the-top Naked Killer; sexy vengeance in Raped By an Angel; erotic fantasy in the Sex & Zen sequels, as well as literally hundreds of other highly entertaining films starring the likes of Jet Li, Stephen Chow and Yun-fat Chow, among others?

What if I told you that behind all the Category III spectacle there really is a compelling story with characters you truly care about? There is betrayal, intrigue, lust, and adulterous affairs. Also tons of nudity of various sorts (erotic, comedic, some light S&M and bondage, and I guess you can’t have a film like this without some bare-bottom spankings thrown in).

Do I have your interest yet?

ACTCS does start off pretty grim. We are treated to a voice-over explaining the types of torture used to extract confessions out of accused criminals. It seems that during the Ching Dynasty the accepted courtroom protocol was to torture first and ask questions later. Evidently you aren’t allowed to sentence someone without a confession, but there is no limit to what you can do to get that confession. Hence the prodigious use of torture.

Which brings us to our story. Little Cabbage (played by an absolutely fetching Yvonne Yung Hung) is hauled in front of the judge, accused of murdering her husband. The modus operandi? Overdose of aphrodisiac leading to penis explosion. Her supposed accomplice and lover, Scholar Yang Ni-mu (played by Lawrence Ng, he of the infamous transplant gone awry of Sex & Zen), also stands accused.

Without going into too much detail, Little Cabbage and Scholar Yang are the victims of a frame-up orchestrated by Scholar Yang’s wife and her lover. The actual story is told in flashback as the details of the case are brought up in court.

We learn that the scholar’s wife first tries to get rid of Little Cabbage (who was their housemaid) by marrying her off to Got Siu-ta, known throughout the countryside as having the largest cock in the land. Getting married to the man from Outer Schlongolia should be enough to kill any woman. But the tables are turned as Lord Uberschwantz turns out to be a pretty nice guy and doesn’t want to hurt poor Little Cabbage. This leads to some frustration on his part and some hilarious scenes as they try to work something out. However, Little Cabbage is not so frustrated to succumb to the overtures of her sexy sister-in-law, which is too bad for the sister-in-law (and for the viewer as well!). For that, there’s always Erotic Ghost Story III, I guess.

Anyway, once the scholar’s wife figures out that Little Cabbage and Phallasaurus Rex are getting along okay, she decides to escalate the plan. So Sifu Hugedong ends up dead, Little Cabbage ends up framed, and it all comes to a head back in the courtroom.

Look, I know that by giving this a 5-star rating, I’m opening myself up to “how could you give a piece of trash like this 5 stars, the same as you would give Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero? How can you equate A Chinese Torture Chamber Story with award-winning cinema?"

Well, of course I’m not doing that. Of course this movie is trash. Wonderfully, over-the-top, extremely silly, Hong Kong Cat III trash. It knows what it wants to be and does it better than most others of the genre. If you are not a fan of the genre, there’s nothing I can say or do to make you like or even tolerate this movie. But if you like the genre, and can get past the first 20 minutes or so, perhaps you, too, will appreciate the wild and goofy movie this is.

I would be remiss if I did not mention a cameo by Category III staple Elvis Tsui. Words do not do it justice, so suffice it to say we learn that fighting with swords is not the only thing Chinese martial arts/wuxia masters can do flying through the treetops!

Previous reviews:
2/13: A Tale of Two Sisters
2/20: Comrades, Almost a Love Story
2/27: A Chinese Tall Story
3/6: The Mystery of Rampo
3/9: Clean
3/13: The Bride with White Hair
3/20: No Blood, No Tears
3/27: Angel Dust
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Member: Rank 5
Is anyone still interested in Monday's review?
Of course, I read your reviews. I just couldn't keep up with your pacing so there's little possibility I have seen or will see in the near future the movies you review because I still have to include it in my watchlist. Just keep 'em coming.


Member: Rank 5
Is anyone still interested in Monday's review?
I am. You may not see a lot of action on them in the immediate, but I think it's great to have them around to attract others and for us to refer to when something might come up with regards to them. I need to get off my butt and post some of mine, and I still want to get some "Director Love" threads going: Yuki Tanada, Ryuichi Hiroki, Kwon Chil-in, Yong-Joo Lee, Keisuke Yoshida, to name a few.


Member: Rank 3
This movie has some of the most hilarious scenes I've ever seen. I purchased the DVD a few months back but have yet to watch it again. I wonder if it will captivate me like it did when I first saw it back in the late 2000s.


Member: Rank 4
This movie has some of the most hilarious scenes I've ever seen.
Well, I'm glad I'm not alone! Sometimes HK silliness just has to be seen to be believed.

I appreciate the feedback from y'all. I certainly don't expect my reviews to be interpreted as some sort of "watching assignment." I'm mainly trying to introduce some items to either spur discussion or bring others out of the woodwork who might have seen the movie, and maybe have a different (or similar) opinion. And possibly to drive some traffic to the forum. Something like:

You may not see a lot of action on them in the immediate, but I think it's great to have them around to attract others and for us to refer to when something might come up with regards to them.
Even if no one has seen a reviewed film (and likely won't), I hope my reviews contribute some entertainment value. :)