Jail House Eros (1990) Movie Review

The excellently titled “Jail House Eros” boasts what may well be the ultimate premise in exploitation cinema, combining the women in prison genre and the wackiest excess of the Hong Kong ghost film. Needless to say, the film was the brainchild of none other than Wong Jing himself, and is every bit as delirious as it sounds, packing in the flesh and frights without even a semblance of common sense or logic. This alone would be enough to mark it as a must see for trash film connoisseurs, though its status is further enhanced by the shapely presence of busty category III favourite Amy Yip, star of such wonders as “Robotrix” and “Erotic Ghost Story”.

Here, she plays the appropriately named ‘Chesty’, an inmate in a prison that is haunted by the nasty spirit of a former warden. Help does materialise in the form of the kindly ghost of a young woman who died trying to escape (played by Loletta Lee, also in “Esprit D’Amour” and who recently returned to the screen in “The Pye Dog”), as well as a female mortician who runs a handy sideline in Taoist magic. Stirring things up are a trio of bumbling male decorators who have been hired to tidy up part of the prison, though who spend most of their time scheming ways to spy on the girls.

Sleaze is very much the raison d’être for the women in prison genre, and sure enough, only three minutes in the caged girls are involved in a mass catfight, the main purpose of which seems to be to tear each other’s skimpy prison uniforms off. Having set out its stall early on the film continues in this manner for the rest of its short running time, and for the most part the proceedings resemble a chaotic brawl, being pretty hysterical stuff, and are all the more entertaining for it. Strangely, despite featuring fairly constant nudity, thanks to the fact that the prisoners never seem to bother with any underwear, the film is actually a rather innocent affair, with no sex or sadism to speak of, and none of the misogyny that might have been expected. This is by no means a problem, and the gorgeous girls certainly provide more than enough eye candy to please anyone after cheap titillation – though it should be noted that as usual, Amy Yip doesn’t actually show much skin herself.

The accent is very much on lowbrow humour throughout, with lots of slapstick and crude physical gags, very much in the usual Wong Jing style. The three decorators are the usual sex-obsessed stooges, and a high percentage of the plot (using the term very lightly indeed) is taken up with their increasingly odd methods of peeping and their less than charming seduction techniques. Thankfully, most of the gags are reasonably effective, and the film is generally amusing, at least by the standards of its peers.

The spooky shenanigans are very much of the standard kind, revolving around scenes of comedy possession, floating objects and other non-threatening forms of mischief. Although there are no real scares to speak of, or indeed any discernable effort to genuinely chill the viewer, there is plenty of supernatural action and the evil ghost herself makes for a suitably wacky villain.

What is surprising is the way that the disparate elements of the film sit together quite well, and although almost too incoherent for words, it never really gets too crazy or surreal. Whilst this may come as a slight disappointment for viewers seeking something truly deranged, this does ensure that the film is not only enjoyable from the point of view of being inspired nonsense, but that it is also quite watchable in a more traditional sense.

Still, this is not to say that “Jail House Eros” is anything less than pure cinematic madness, and it certainly stands as a Hong Kong exploitation classic. Delivering the goods promised by its lurid title in fine and flamboyant fashion, fans of the voluptuous star or of far out films in general are guaranteed a good time and plenty of thrills, all in the worst possible taste of course.

Sai Hung Fung, Jing Wong (director) / Jing Wong (screenplay)
CAST: Joanna Chan … Blackie
Maggie Cheung
Maria Cordero … Big Sister
Shui-Fan Fung … Feng
Chi Chun Ha … The Ghost
Loletta Lee … Jane, the good ghost
Amy Yip … Chesty

Buy Jail House Eros on DVD