Scholar Tang isn't content with only eight wives and takes on the identify of Hua An and gets hired as an errand boy in a household full with women...
So obscure it's barely even referenced in any database, there's distinct reasons for it as I'll go into in this review but obscurity is also a motivator to examine this lost gem or rightfully lost 'yet another' from what turns out to be the 80s canon of period sex movies coming out of the likes of Hong Kong and Taiwan. Lust Of The Scholar Tang may have the classical Chinese instrumental score all throughout and pretty paintings for its opening credits but as correctly guessed, it's the extent of what it has in common with a more well regarded Li Han-Hsiang production like Golden Lotus (1974) for instance. The remaining kudos that desperately can be thrown out there when playing the role of a critic is that at least it's all in focus and that the production had a boat. But I'll also be playing the role of attempted scholar on the genre and the fan who's way too interested in the fact that Lust Of The Scholar Tang even exists in the first place! Both characters can co-exist, both kind of say go and watch this movie if you can but only if you're me essentially.
The similarities to work such as mentioned Golden Lotus and the various adaptations of Jin Ping Mei (The Forbidden Legend Sex & Chopsticks I & II for instance) is present as the lead, somewhat unsympathetic but thoroughly evil Tang isn't content with just eight wives and wealth. Holding back on the consumed by lust angle Jin Ping Mei has at its core, that Tang is not painted as THAT evil despite infiltrating the household to steal a woman and in the end feeling distraught about his actions is a conflicting side to Lust Of The Scholar Tang . These sides to the story gets to firmly represent the in general boring and slow handling of the material. Because you may have some rather striking, standing sets, a costume and make-up department to nail the period look but through the camera lens it's very easy to see the flat nature of what could be striking filth visually (Li Han-Hsiang knew how to strike this balance, even in latter work such as The Golden Lotus "Love And Desire"). And then something interesting for the part of the writer that tries to be an authority on the obscure material we're dealing with kicks in...
Despite not being wall to wall sex (it's a very short movie at below 80 minutes as well but reportedly running 100 minutes originally), at least two out of the approximate four sex scenes are a bit too daring if designed to be softcore porn and the incredibly choppy editing (evident visually and aurally as that damn score never stops) distinctly shows evidence of the movie in uncut form featuring hardcore porn. Not the first example during this time to do so, most notably Mou Tun-Fei's (Men Behind The Sun) Trilogy Of Lust (1*) starring Julie Lee and the little seen hopping vampire movie Ghoul Sex Squad, Lust Of The Scholar Tang doesn't revisit this angle in all the sex scenes all throughout (and a latter one is pretty devoid of that full on risque material and therefore runs quite long) so who knows after all?
What one does know is that the time spent with Tang isn't particularly exciting. As portrayed, he's more of a mischievous character wanting a bit of fun and him infiltrating the household as an errand boy sees his influence on the females grow and even the trust of the males. The women want him, despite some recognizing him while one of the male tutors even confides in him about a possible venereal disease. Tang does get exhausted by his excess absence but the at heart not morally upright character still pretty much escapes without a comeuppance. It's the cuter version of Ximen Qing out of Jin Ping Mei essentially.
Dead farce, boring bathing- and peeping scenes later, Lust Of The Scholar Tang isn't THE unknown gem out of the period sex films library but the aspects detailed about its obscurity and the possible hardcore porn angle makes it an interesting ponder for at least me. Where was the market for the possible hardcore version (mentioned movies didn't set the market on fire, only a minor collector's market) but the movie definitely had access to one had it been wiser and designed itself as porn pushing the limits of the soft to the extreme (at least if released a few years later after Sex & Zen broke which it MIGHT have been actually). It would've meant something fun with the right filmmakers at the helm and it should've meant the ultimate tease had Amy Yip been cast. But Lust Of The Scholar Tang operated FAAAAAAR away from even her circles.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) Only available uncut in German and English versions. Category III version is cut and extends the sex scenes with fake slow motion instead. Despite being more depraved, Trilogy Of Lust II was NOT shot as a hardcore porn movie.