Temptation Summary (1990)

Directed by: Ho Fan
Written by:
Chiu Wing-Hing & Woo Yan
Wong Tak-Leung
Mondi Yau, Lee Chung-Ling, Yau Yuk-Yue, Ricky Chan, Chai Hei-Man, Jacky Chan & Lui Lai-Si

An early entry in the 1990s erotic wave of Hong Kong cinema, Ho Fan's Temptation Summary managed to gross over 10 million Hong Kong dollars at the box office (not far behind Nam Nai-Choi's Erotic Ghost Story released the same year) and in 1991 when Sex And Zen nearly doubled those figures. Things were looking up for these adult films. The blend of softcore erotica, comedy, fantasy and true crime that the Category III rating would produce in the wake of this wasn't always well thought out or in actuality good but director Ho Fan at the very least with his background in photography made sure to produce pretty images across his output. He also gave us the eternal image of Lee Chung-Ling as the Category III Superman here in Temptation Summary and a perfectly enjoyable sex comedy (he had an eye for both these elements). Although male lead Lee Chung-Ling clearly generates the most interest out of the story of the brothers, the film is still adult audience friendly and you can understand why it attracted moviegoers. It all starts in "Africa".

Losing their father to arousal during a final erection (yes), he delivers his last will and testament in his dying breaths. Naturally involving his sons Man (Lee Chung-Ling) and Ray (Ricky Chan), the terms of the will is that one of them must marry before turning 35 years of age. If not, all money goes to the other brother. The older of the two, Man, seems like the best and worst candidate. Not only is his 35th upcoming, he's also totally disinterested in women. Being a teacher, he would rather read... by himself. Ray is more of the player but eventually does show care for the well being of his brother and their future. There are also forces out to sabotage this setup...

Even though it’s 1990 and there’s clearly an understanding of the sex comedy, Ho Fan has definitely created better images and comedy before and since. Ranging from Girl With The Long Hair to even the second Temptation Summary film, here we’re given shameless, amusing and efficient 90 minutes though. Because in reality there’s no shortage of quotable elements such as the opening "set in Africa" (black extras, in a hut on a soundstage more like) with a Western nurse (Sophia Crawford) brought in to stimulate the dying man. Yes, the classy photographer Ho Fan isn’t rearing its head here but it’s not easy to forget either and on it goes. Getting good traction out of the casting of Lee Chung-Ling, he isn’t asking the character to hog the screen but rather to gently play up the desire for antiques and reading (he even brings a book on Greek art to a pool party) and a way too external stance that women are troublesome (while his younger brother engages in sexual cosplay echoing the Stanley Kwan movie Rouge). Dressing up his interiors in distinct colours adds a degree of charm and style and certainly evokes the fact that Ho Fan does care for the look as he depicts Man trying to come out of his shell. Ho Fan has time and time again proven that he does not do flat cinema even when it’s not an all out assault or that notable but filmmakers that arrived in the wake of the commercial notion of a Category III movie were never in the same league. Especially not visually so no sex scenes in boring rooms with white walls here.

Ho Fan has often shown comfort when reverting to fantasy and has a lot of fun bringing the buttoned up characters Lee Chung-Ling and Chui Hei-Man portrays into these scenarios. Primarily hers as her sexual fantasy about Man is akin to an opera but she also fancies being saved by said Category III Superman as rapists in wolves masks are having their way with her. If you watch Temptation Summary for anything, it should be for this creative image and costume set to a score clearly ripping off the iconic one from Superman but doing enough differently to avoid a lawsuit. It’s all adult, transparent stuff that’s not afraid to let the sex act as filler and the plumbing accident scene involving Ricky Chan and Mondi Yau nearly gets away with it despite being structured around the fact that her clothes get totally wet and she has no sense to get out of the way of the water. A stale trick and even shooting a subsequent sex scene from under a table, surrounded by colored lights might sound like one but it adds flavor to a film that isn’t proclaiming to be the next coming. 

Although he follows through on structure and focuses on the regrets and change of habits for the younger brother, losing Lee Chung-Ling for a stretch is regrettable. But again, Ho Fan doesn’t abandon his story, he brings a revitalized Man to life, lets us have another view of the Superman of it all and we realize everybody involved meant well. Ultimately, we did get an eternal image out of Temptation Summary and it was because of a costume. Of someone clothed.