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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Virgins of the Seven Seas (1974) review


Sonja Jeanine (Donna), Diana Drube (Anna), Tamara Elliot (Karen), Gillian Bray (Brenda), Deborah Ralls (Celia), Yueh Hua (Ko Pao), Liu Hui Ling (Ko Mei Mei), Wang Hsieh (Tiao Che), Helen Ko (Tao Fu), Li Ming (Ju Lao), Chiang Yang (One Eyed Dragon), Chin Lap Po (Yin Po)

Directed by Kuei Chi Hung & Ernst Hofbauer

The Short Version: This gloriously atrocious exercise in filth filmmaking is strictly for sadists and trash film collectors of all ages. 'Hill's Angels vs. the Pirates' is one way of describing this hugely enjoyable sex and kung fu nonsense from the Shaw Brothers of Hong Kong and Rapid Films of West Germany. They truly don't make them like this anymore.

***WARNING! This review contains images of nudity and outright tastelessness***

For more behind the scenes photos from this movie click here. For a great pin up of Helen Ko that shows off her best assets, click and scroll down here.

The Bod Squad learn how to do the kung fu and practice the art of the olive pit as a deadly delicacy

Five beautiful women of different nationalities are abducted by pirates and taken to a savage island where they are to be prepared for sale on the slave trade. With the threat of rape and death a certainty, the five women are secretly trained in martial arts to defend themselves. A young woman named Ko tries to help the female captives with the aid of her brother, Ko Pao, in the hopes of escaping the hellish island of the pirates.

The Pirates of Penzance these guys are not

1974 was a banner year for the Shaw Brothers, the mighty moguls of Hong Kong cinema who dominated theater screens for a few decades before packing it in in the mid 1980's and taking over millions of televisions across the Asian continent. With the international box office bonanza that was KING BOXER (aka FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH), numerous other foreign production companies wanted a chance to work with the brothers Shaw. Having previously co-produced many martial arts films with Korea (some of these even had alternate versions created for both HK and Korea), now England, Italy and West Germany (and later, America) were getting in on the act.

Helen Ko as the bizarre transexual swordsman/woman with the bladed fan. They totally altered this sexy Asian beauty into a sex-crazed, pasty faced walking dead; Insert: A close up of what the make up team did to Helen Ko

The two more well known Shaw Brothers, Run Run and Runme knew what audiences wanted both in Hong Kong and abroad and gave it to them with an abundant selection of films ranging between 40 and 50 productions a year. Although their salacious sexploitation wonders seldom get a great deal of attention, the Shaw's really had a unique vision when it came to blatant exploitation. Virtually none of these movies could ever be qualified as "good", but damn if Shaw's didn't know their intended market. With little to no fat, these exploitation pictures delivered the grotesque groceries with a parade of putrescent pulchritude the likes of which you can't find anymore.

"Men are getting weaker and weaker these days"--Brenda

VIRGINS OF THE SEVEN SEAS was one of these low budget, but imaginative co-productions. It was also a joint director credit between Shaw's then rising helmer of crime-horror of the grimiest sort, Kuei Chi Hung (PAYMENT IN BLOOD '73, KILLER SNAKES '74) and Ernst Hofbauer (SCHOOLGIRL REPORT series), a German director proficient in soft core sex endeavors. This kinky collaboration is an expedition into the deplorable showcasing every exploitation element imaginable. Still, there's an absence of extreme bloody violence, but the picture has its fair share of the red splashed around.

This photo and below this paragraph are images of cast members, some of which were dropped from this production for whatever reason.

Production began in the early part of 1974 and it appears to have been a troubled affair at some point. Lo Lieh, Li Hsueh Hsin (Danny Lee), Terry Liu, Ai Ti and Chen Ping were among some of the Chinese cast who seemed to have been dropped from the picture early in the filming. Yueh Hua took over for Lo Lieh, the latter of which was the star of the huge international hit, KING BOXER (1972). Lo Lieh also was one of the leads in the Italy-HK co-pro SUPERMEN AGAINST THE ORIENT and also THE STRANGER & THE GUNFIGHTER (both 1974) with Lee Van Cleef. Possibly, he was removed from the pirate picture to give Yueh Hua a chance to shine on the international scene. Yueh Hua also co-headlined in the nauseatingly awful AMAZONS & SUPERMEN (1975).

Chen Ping would have been a prime choice for a female supporting role considering her breakout performance in Ho Meng Hua's indecorously indecent action film KISS OF DEATH (1973). Liu Hui Ling, who had likewise carved a niche for herself around the same time as a sex starlet, took the role of swordswoman Ko Mei Mei, who strips away her top briefly during one sequence. Oddly enough, Chen Ping ended up in a minor role in THE STRANGER & THE GUNFIGHTER (1974). Possibly the number of Shaw stars were condensed due to budgetary reasons? It's glaringly obvious during the movie that the budget was painfully low and with the film coming out in June of 1974, the production schedule must have been quick.

Behind the scenes photo from Southern Screen, March 1974 showing the foreign actresses learning martial arts for the film

Wang Hsieh (far right), his bumbling, women hungry subordinates and lots of HAIR

Kuei Chi Hung was a brilliant choice as his prior escapade in cinematic debauchery, THE BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1973), an excessively violent women-in-prison picture, had made waves on the international scene. This HK-Euro follow up is very similar, only VIRGINS is a more tawdry outing with the added attraction of low brow humor to go along with the perversion. This movie is also the ultimate in postiche-ploitation. Nearly everyone is wearing an overgrown mop of hair. Resembling the native gut munchers from Italian cannibal cinema, the pirates look suitably neolithic some with the most peculiar facial features this side of a Sergio Leone movie; some sporting garishly exaggerated chompers and others simply looking about as primitive as you can get. There's even midget pirates!

"Yes, if you drive my men that crazy, I'll surely get a good price for you even if you're virgins no more! I will ride you myself and teach you some positions!"--Tiao Che, Pirate Leader

The main villain (played by Wang Hsieh) has the most overemphasized locks replete with a lethal pigtail he uses to sling the protagonists through walls and balsa wood built shacks. Wang was a Shaw contract player whose looks befitted villainy. He did play good guys on occasion in films like the Wuxia horror hybrid THE DEVIL'S MIRROR (1972) and the ULTRAMAN styled THE SUPER INFRAMAN (1975) among some others.

"The guy tried to teach me the 'Chinese Wall' position, but he fell off the ladder in round two."--Brenda

The foreign stars (the "virgins" of the title) are surprisingly adept, some more than others when it comes to their fighting fists and feet. Before shooting started, the five women began learning Chinese dance to better accentuate their fight scenes and some of them look quite good on screen beating the hell out of the thick haired pirate minions. Gillian Bray as Brenda is probably the most memorable of the five. She does nothing fancy, but her sassy and saucy portrayal stands out as does her height; she towers over the rest of the cast. She pretty much dominates every scene she's in.

The old granny, Yin Po teaches the new recruits the art of sex with a Chinese man

The movie itself is one scene of depravity after another. There's rampant misogyny, beatings, degradation, lesbianism (If Helen Ko's character counts), rape and other scenes of moral debasement. With the frequent pratfall humor, you'd think this air of buffoonery would override the roughhouse nature of the proceedings, but it only adds to the overall tastelessness. Some of the highlights include a "sex education" sequence where an old hag teaches the girls how to please a Chinese man; Ko teaches the ladies how to defend themselves by using olive pits as projectiles and the old mainstays of board breaking, iron palm and dart throwing.

Gillian Bray is about ready to toss this little guy through a wall for kicks.....

This kind of thing wouldn't fly today. Haha, there's a double entendre for ya

There's also the requisite slave auction sequence, abundant nudity, midget pirate tossing through a brick wall, kung fu/swordplay action and did I mention how ugly they've made gorgeous bombshell, Helen Ko in this? She looks like a zombie and, while dressed in male attire, has an androgynous look.

The last half of the movie is the big breakout sequence followed by the girls taking a slow motion bath in the ocean while a group of horny and unkempt pirates watch nearby. This leads to the women eventually getting captured again (after Yueh Hua gets his turn at training the ladies 65 minutes into the movie) following a big seaside battle that you would think would be the big finish...but you would be wrong. It's as if the filmmakers decided they needed an additional ten minutes of action. There's a brief amount of torture involving a large wheel and some over-sized lizards before the girls are set free and the fight starts all over again. Whew! Then we see the sun rise while the fighting blares on the soundtrack and Yueh Hua's gang shows up for some 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER "defang the wolves" action.

The bulk of the kung fu takes place here and it's as good as anything else being released at the time, certainly surpassing the lazy choreography in AMAZONS & SUPERMEN. Yueh Hua actually registers a pulse during the sword fights this time. He also gets a love interest in the form of the flexible and lively lovely, Sonja Jeanine. The two engage in a (sort of) tasteful sex scene accompanied by the peaceful, solemn strains of Edda Dell'Orso. As opposed to so many Shaw productions, this one ends on an upbeat note for the main protagonists.

Sonja Jeanine in SEX & FURY mode; Robert Tai would push this kind of thing further in his infinitly stupid NINJA THE FINAL DUEL (1986) where Alice Tseng battles ninjas naked from head to toe

A totally mind blowing experience, if you ever wanted to see topless white women in their panties kung fu fighting horny Chinese miscreants, this is that film. With nary a politically correct frame within its tattered reels, this misbegotten piece of sinful celluloid will remain an astonishing, filthy curio from a time period brimming with wild and wooly movies that no big budgeted major studio effort could ever hope to replicate.

This review is representative of the Camera Obscura PAL region 2 DVD ***NOTE: This DVD is in German language only, but does contain English subtitles***

An original copy can be purchased here at DIABOLIKDVD.COM


dfordoom said...

It sounds incredibly tacky. I want it.

venoms5 said...

Oh, it's tacky, D! Now if we can just get other Shaw Brothers rare films out on DVD, the world will be a better place.

achillesgirl said...

Dwarf tossing is definitely out of fashion in the States but I think it's still fairly popular in Germany. Hence the German copy of this god-awful film? :)

venoms5 said...

lol, what's even funnier in that scene is after Brenda tosses him through the wall, she pushes the rest of it down and a big chunk of it hits her in the head. She plays it off by simply adjusting the hood ornament she's wearing.

This is definitely one of the most bizarre Shaw Brothers movies ever. A clusterfuck of Asian cinema if ever there was one.

I Like Horror Movies said...

If this review had been reduced to midget pirate tossing, I would have already been won over. Way beyond anything I would have sought out on my own, but with your shining recommendation V, who can resist??

venoms5 said...

This was one Shaw Brothers film I thought I'd never see, or at least never see in a pseudo English friendly format. A friend of mine has a German tape of it in German language only.

I didn't mention it in the review, but I got the impression some of the subtitles were made up to be funnier. I can't imagine some of what was "translated" was in the original script, what little script they had for this one.

Jack J said...

I was just in the process of placing an order for Bruno Mattei's LIBIDO MANIA when I saw VIRGINS on the eShop's page and after having read your review I knew I had to order that as well!
xD xD xD

venoms5 said...

I'm well satisfied with the disc, Jack. I'm sure you will be, too! I only wish the translation of the subs had been more accurate. I find it hard to believe that some of the subbed lines were in the original movie.

Jack J said...

Yeah I saw that you mentioned that in an earlier comment. Hmm, that's too bad. I have a fairly good grasp of German so I'll look out for that.

venoms5 said...

It would be interesting to actually see a Chinese dubbed version with HK commissioned English subs as those were often very faithful to the script, at least back then.

Movies on my Mind said...

The bare breasts caught my eye. Very cool ass.

venoms5 said...

Yes, MOMM, it's definitely a trashy treasure! The Shaws sure knew how to please with their sleaze!

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