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Issue #197a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES February 2nd, 2004

Queen of Underworld
(1991; Jing's Production)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Ye sun wut nui wong: Ha je chuen kei
Mandarin: Ye sheng huo nu wang: Xia jia chuan qi
English: Nightlife Queen: Sister Ha's Legend

Hong Kong cinema's unchallenged "Queen of Bust," Amy Yip Chi-mei, has the title role in this outrageously trashy gangster saga, an instant guilty pleasure for those who relish HK cinema at its most sordid. The film opens in the 1960s, with Helena Wong (Yip) trying to eke out a living as a waitress. Coming to her "rescue" is triad "creeper" Alan (Pal Sin Lap-man, sporting a hilarious wig), who soon has her turning tricks for him. With her zaftig figure, Helena is in great demand but when she becomes pregnant, Alan insists on an abortion, prompting Helena to take up with sleazy cop Crazy Kwong (Blackie Ko Shou-liang). With his backing, she becomes a successful madam but their relationship goes south when Helena catches Kwong at home with one of her hookers. Putting a very permanent end to his sex life, Helena next goes to work for gang boss An (Paul Chun Pui), supplying all of the girls for his parties.

QUEEN OF UNDERWORLD (sic) amps the sex and violence up a few notches (the fact that a movie featuring everything from castration to gang rape to nail gun killings escaped with only Category II certainly says something about Wong Jing's influence in the industry) but is actually a fairly typical entry in the "Hostess" genre. The above synopsis only covers the first half hour but it tells you everything about the plot's structure: Helena gets into a bad situation with her man, he meets an unpleasant end, and she then moves on to someone else. When Gigi Lai Chi enters the picture as Helena's rebellious daughter, the cycle starts all over again with her, while Yip's character desperately tries to preserve the girl’s honor and safety. The downsides of being a gai are briefly touched upon but the film also drifts into triad territory by incorporating a deranged young upstart boss that Helena must try to eliminate personally. Yip does well enough in a role that gives her far more actual acting to do than usual, though Sherman Wong Ching-wah (SEX AND THE EMPEROR) did not let his covergirl star get too "method" with her performance: although over two decades pass during the storyline, the ravages of age are depicted simply by having Yip sport a pair of glasses in the second half. Giving their all in this melodramatic nonsense is a terrific cast, including Ray Lui Leung-wai (reprising his Limpy Ho character from TO BE NUMBER ONE), Ng Man-tat, Pauline Chan Po-lin, Shing Fui-on, John Ching Tung, and Dennis Chan Kwok-san. Incidentally, any semblance of authenticity in the 1960s sequences is torpedoed early on by the appearance of a Playboy centerfold featuring Lynne Austin, who was Miss July of 1986! If that were not enough, the same foldout appears again later in the contemporary sequences!

Cover art courtesy Deltamac.

Amy Yip and Ng Man-tat. Image courtesy Deltamac.

Gigi Lai (left) and Amy Yip. Image courtesy Deltamac.
Deltamac #DVD78196 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional Subtitles in English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)

9 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Letterboxed (1.84:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

92 Minutes

Contains brutal violence, sexual violence, torture, mild sexual content, and coarse language

DVD menu courtesy Deltamac.

Hong Kong: II
Ontario: R [Passed With Cuts] (Brutal Violence, Sexual Violence, Torture)
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]

The print has some minor wear but colors are strong and the image is usually handsome. The audio is not especially dimensional but on-par with a low-budget production from the early 90s. Those who enjoy bad subtitles will be in seventh heaven here as nary a sentence goes by without some egregious mangling of the English language. A long theatrical trailer is the only extra.

QUEEN OF UNDERWORLD is available at Poker Industries.

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