Friday, May 14, 2010

Torrent of Desire with Jenny Hu

With the kind of camera angles, lighting, and bits of partial nudity Russ Meyer would approve of, 1969's Torrent of Desire opens with a flurry of action. The sight of Angela Yu Chien doing go-go dances should be enough but we see Chiao Chuang having a wild night on the town. Look fast and there's a montage of real Hong Kong nightclub marquees of the era -- in Wan Chai, I guess?

After the credits, Chiao Chuang finds the remnants of a wild party in his family home and sister Angela Yu Chien in bed with a guy -- a guy Chiao Chuang beats up.

Angela Yu Chien's character has got a connection to the architect played by Yang Fan, who we next see at a fashion show with Chiao Chuang and Ouyang Sha-Fei in attendance.

The very traits that I found so annoying in Chiao Chuang as a leading man in Lovers' Rock (1963) are used to good effect here as he's quite good in this kind of smarmy, smooth talker role.

Architect Chen introduces Chaio Chuang to Danfeng Zhu (Jenny Hu) following the fashion show and I could almost guess the trajectory of this romance before it got underway.

Pretty soon and the inveterate playboy is talking about changing his ways, all due to meeting Jenny Hu's character. At the same time, he's still roughing up the boyfriends of sister Mona (Angela Yu Chien), who -- in typical Angela Yu Chien fashion -- is the slutty sex kitten of the piece.

But the sex kitten has another side as she seems to have a crush on Yang Fan's Chen. The two bond in a nice outdoor scene shot at a dam in Hong Kong -- I should recognize, or at least identify, the place but can't -- as Jenny Hu and Chiao Chuang are getting married.

A film like Torrent of Desire illustrates the strengths of the Shaw studios: a strong set of stars and effective use of them. I mean to say that this film is tailor-made for Jenny Hu. The whole crux of the film revolves around this stylish woman who's returned from studying in France and her effect on Chiao Chuang.

Could any other star of the era have played so this role so perfectly? With her regal bearing and Eurasian looks, Jenny Hu strikes the right kind of graceful notes in the film.

Angela Yu Chien is also at the peak of her sexual playfulness here. In a succession of outfits, she's just stunning. Not only that, she's got at least one scene of real vulnerability here that shows a different side of the actress.

I watched this and wondered if the script was an afterthought after these actresses were put into the roles at the center of the piece?

And Angela Yu Chien's topless scene only shows further that the Shaw producers knew what they were doing. While the scene is almost unnecessary in the plot, it seems to be the ultimate Angela Yu Chien scene; she's gone from harmless sex kitten to very real seductress as she tries to seduce Yang Fan.

When that fails, he reveals his love for Jenny Hu's character.

And that is the drama that the film is looking for; as Chiao Chuang reformed himself for Jenny Hu's Eurasian fashion queen, the drama has to come from some place else.

The plot is secondary here as the real pleasures come from seeing Jenny Hu and Angela Yu Chien at the peak of their star-power. Add to that, a well-cast set of leading men in Yang Fan and Chaio Chuang.

Not to mention that surprising topless scene from Angela Yu Chien!

You can order Torrent of Desire on DVD here.

Since I don't have any more stills from Torrent of Desire, here's a nice pic of Angela Yu Chien from duriandave's always wonderful blog.