Sex And The Emperor (1994)

Directed by: Sherman Wong
Written by: Cheuk Bing
Producers: Lee Siu-Kei & Wong Jing
Starring: Yvonne Yung, Sung Boon-Chung, Leung Si-Ho, Jimmy Wong, Stuart Ong & Kingdom Yuen

Wong Jing in his goofy, vicious, period Category III comedy, melodrama, exploitation, tragedy phase in the 90s produced some rather marvelously outrageous works headed by other directors. A Chinese Torture Chamber Story, Sex & Zen II and to a lesser extent the ambitious Lover of The Last Empress being part of that track record. In Sex And The Emperor we get a look at a director in the form of Sherman Wong who at least on one other occasion (the trashy Queen Of Under World, starring Amy Yip) has put on a rather gruesome, nasty show. It would've been a much tastier cake overall had he narrowed the story- and character focus however.

Essentially it's palace power struggles and forbidden romance as the young emperor Tongzhi (Sung Boon-Chung) falls in love with his chambermaid Guilian (Yvonne Yung). Which is the wrong course action and one of the evil eunuchs in the palace, long tongued On Dahai (Stuart Ong) has his way with Guilian via chains, whips, honey and worms before sending her off to the local brothel. Not cool. Tongzhi's servant Li Liyang (Leung Si-Ho) is not actually a true eunuch and works on making his family line live on as well…

When less shiny as a production (when depicting the happenings in the bowels on the palace), Sherman Wong gets the audiences to react and while he's doing it for pure attention and exploitation, there's no denying there's a gift technically to deliver the gruesome present. Ranging from characters having their limbs chopped off and placed in a barrel, us subsequently getting a look at this vomit-inducing sight, the effect of venereal disease, horrible Stuart Ong torture towards a character that ends up cutting her face off etc. The genuine problem is the heavy lean on voice over by Leung Si-Ho’s not quite eunuch-character though. While the story gets a thrust and good pace through the narration, he represents the movie Wong Jing is clearly pushing on Sherman Wong.

Because here the commercial filmmaker and producer displays his agenda and most of the comedic shenanigans are not amusing. Lowest common denominator type of stuff that’s shamelessly fun at many points across many other movies and it is how Hong Kong cinema operates but the further we get into the story of Tongzhi, the less Li Liyang matters. It especially insignificant since we then get a subplot is about him trying to make the love of his life pregnant and how the evil of the palace puts a stop to this.

It doesn't set in motion a compelling cycle of revenge for the emperor and the servant but the basic core of Tongzhi and Guillan is at least basically easy and interesting to follow because it connects back to what effectively punishing, trashy and sleazy celluloid Sherman Wong can actually produce. Sex And The Emperor probably aimed a bit higher but will have no problem etching itself into audiences memories therefore. It's notable in key areas of sex, exploitation but with an elevated type of cruelty not often seen in these films. Wong Jing doesn’t save or add much to the formula by introducing comedy but it’s hard to complain all throughout when Kingdom Yuen demonstrates the Eight Semi Devils sex techniques to Yvonne Yung. It’s the second movie within Sex And The Emperor and for a short while it is also acceptable along with the main one. We like the cruelty and unfairness better though.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson