Issue #229        HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES          September 13th, 2004

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Lust for Love of a Chinese Courtesan
(1984; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Oi nou san chuen
Mandarin: Ai nu xin chuan
English: Love Servant New Story

RATING: 6/10


With the box office returns for their pictures suffering a steady decline during the early '80s, Shaw Brothers had director Chor Yuen remake his 1972 hit INTIMATE CONFESSIONS OF A CHINESE COURTESAN (reviewed in issue #217) in the hopes of duplicating its box office success and international sales. The sensual Madam Chun (Candace Yu On-on) indulges in all manner of immoral acts, ranging from acting as a go-between for assassinations to using abducted girls for her brothel. One of her newest workers is feisty young Ai Nu (Nancy Hu Kuan-chen), who manages to escape after being gang raped, only to be recaptured shortly thereafter. When Ai Nu murders one of her customers, Chun feels sorry for her and covers up the crime. However, straight arrow constable Lin Yun (Alex Man Chi-leung), who once gave Ai Nu some food when he found her cold and starving one night, smells a rat. He decides to begin his own investigation, despite having been rebuked by the district's corrupt magistrate. By now, Chun has developed more than a proprietary interest in her beautiful underling and the pair eventually begin sleeping with each other. Ai Nu starts showing an interest in Yun, however, enraging Chun, who orders her male lover, swordsman/assassin Xiao Ye (Chang Kuo-chu), to murder the lawman. Ye is attracted to Ai Nu himself and is finding that his bloodlust has started to fade. Chun and Ai Nu are changing, too, with each now assuming the other's disposition and outlook.

Nancy Hu Candace Yu Alex Man

Everything about the remake seems a half step down but LUST FOR LOVE OF A CHINESE COURTESAN remains above average for Hong Kong erotica and of additional interest for the way it expands upon the original premise. While Yueh Hua's inspector had a distant fascination for Ai Nu in the original, the relationship between her and Chun was the story's primary undercurrent; here, we have twice as many characters lusting after one another. This allows for more development (primarily through flashbacks, which show that Ai Nu and Chun come from similar backgrounds and circumstances) but the largely melodramatic treatment ultimately fails to duplicate the effectiveness of the original's more basic revenge scenario (which still managed to straddle several genres). In its place, we have an equally familiar but less compelling parable about how the corruption of money leads to the loss of one's humanity and capacity to love. The performances are mostly laudable but Candace Yu is unable to duplicate the authority and icy sensuality that Betty Pei Ti so effortlessly brought to the role. However, in all fairness, this incarnation of the character is much more conflicted and the actress effectively delineates Chun's collapse in the second half. The production itself is handsome but not nearly as mesmerizing. Neither the art direction nor the cinematography seem as carefully executed and one misses the more seductive and enveloping atmosphere of the original. In keeping with the times, the sexuality has been noticeably increased, along with an overt equating of sex and swordplay, orgasm and death. The supporting players include Chan Shen (the only cast member to return from the first film, though he has a much smaller part this time), Cho Tat-wah, Lee Hoi-sang, and Yuen Wah (who also choreographed the action with Yuen Bun). Incidentally, while LUST's gross was more than twice that of INTIMATE CONFESSIONS, it was not a success in terms of the adjusted 1984 box office and apparently did not enjoy the same international exposure.

Chang Kuo-chu Candace Yu (center) Nancy Hu


There is much use of filters and other forms of diffusion in the cinematography but this Hong Kong import largely avoids the softness that marred the original's transfer, delivering a clean and colorful presentation. The audio is not as impressive, with the Mandarin version rather thick and flat; the Cantonese track is crisper but marred by omnipresent surface noise. The English subtitles are less than graceful, with frequent use of "ain't" and unintentionally amusing expressions like "Oh heck" popping up at inappropriate times. Supplements consist of two small photo galleries, bios/selected filmographies, and video promo spots for this and other Shaw Brothers titles.

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Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd. #101953
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Post-synced Cantonese and Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.38:1)
  • 88 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Great Britain: 18 (cut)
  • Hong Kong: II
  • Quebec: 16+
  • Contains moderate violence, sexual violence, sexual content, and nudity


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful