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  Virgins of the Seven Seas Sex kittens go kung fu crazy
Year: 1974
Director: Kuei Chi-hung, Ernst Hofbauer
Stars: Sonja Jeannine, Diana Drube, Tamara Elliot, Gillian Bray, Deborah Ralls, Yueh Hua, Lau Wai-Ling, Wang Hsieh, Got Dik-Wa, Li Min-Lang, Kong Hueng, Wang Han-Chen, Law Hon, Ko Hung, Lui Hung, Mars, Chan Lap-Ban, Chu Yau-Ko, Yuen Biao, Keung Hon
Genre: Comedy, Sex, Martial Arts, Trash, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: At the turn of the century, five beautiful English girls: Karen (Tamara Elliot), her sister Dawn (Sonja Jeannine), Brenda (Gillian Bray), Anna (Diana Drube) and Celia (Deborah Ralls) are kidnapped by Chinese pirates and groomed as sex slaves at the Hong Kong brothel run by brutal Boss Chiao (Wang Hsieh). Between being schooled in the art of tantric sex, the girls bond with good-hearted henchwoman Ko Mei-Mei (Lau Wai-Ling) whose brother Ko Pao (Yueh Hua) is back home, having spent two years on an island developing a new kung fu style, so he can kick those scurvy pirates out of town. Eager to escape, the girls convince Ko Mei-Mei to teach them kung fu. After a daring breakout, they join Ko Pao for a beach battle against the villainous Boss Chiao and his pirate hordes.

Shaw Brothers spread their wings throughout the mid-Seventies with a string of international co-productions combining kung fu with Hammer horror (Seven Brothers Against Dracula (1974)), spaghetti western (The Stranger and the Gunfighter (1975)) and superhero spoof (Supermen Against the Orient (1974)). With Virgins of the Seven Seas - a.k.a. Enter the Seven Virgins, The Bod Squad and in Hong Kong under the inaccurate and faintly xenophobic title Foreign Prostitutes - the legendary studio pooled their resources together with those of German producer Wolf C. Hartwig to create a martial arts sex comedy. Glamorous German and British softcore starlets bare plenty of skin whilst Shaw's crack stunt team stage an array of death-defying stunts. In short, a surefire recipe for an easily exportable box office hit.

Things get off to a rocky start as one of the captive cuties proclaims: "All Chinese have the hots for white chicks. Especially if they are virgins." It is surprising to hear such a statement in a Hong Kong movie and given Boss Chiao comes across as more or less the kind of cackling yellow peril caricature one would have thought went out of style with Fu Manchu, all signs seem to imply this will be a dated embarrassment. And yet against the odds, the film emerges a lively, good-natured romp. In the tradition of the subversive women-in-prison films Jack Hill made for producer Roger Corman at New World, underneath all the sleaze lurks an arguably positive subtext as our five fetchingly feisty heroines bond with their Chinese friends, find empowerment through mastering kung fu and ultimately rescue themselves rather than simply waiting for a big, strong man to save the day.

Co-director Ernst Hofbauer, whose infamous Schoolgirl Report films held a more positive attitude towards sex than was common in exploitation films, tempers the nihilistic misogyny that often sours the work of Shaw sleaze specialist Kuei Chi-hung. The film delivers plenty of outrageous scenes to titillate the grindhouse crowd, with the girls strapped onto spinning torture wheels, literally whipped out of their clothes by stock lesbian ice maiden Madame Tau-Fu (Got Dik-Wa) and paraded naked at a sex market before drooling Chinese customers ("What great knockers!"), but the characters remain gutsy and defiant throughout, turning the tables on their abusers. Most of the racier scenes are played for laughs while the one sex scene in the film is consensual and romantic, plus there is even a sweet interracial romance as Dawn and Ko Pao fall in love. Crucially, not all the girls are virgins and the film admirably takes the stance they have no need to apologise for that.

Among the most infamous scenes is a training sequence that finds our heroines practicing high kicks, chopping blocks of ice with their bare hands and mastering the unorthodox art of spitting olive seeds with lethal velocity, whilst wearing the kind of skimpy underwear more commonly seen on Victoria's Secret models than nineteenth century maidens. Though clearly not professional martial artists, the actresses threw themselves into the stunt sequences with commendable abandon, including a topless kung fu battle where veteran Shaw star Yueh Hua remains stoic throughout his swordplay in the face of abundant distraction. Armed with the production values of a proper martial arts epic rather than mere cheap sexploitation, the film has enough visceral action to underline the old adage that the best sex and violence is gratuitous sex and violence.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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