aka 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy (3D Rou Pu Tuan Zhi Ji Le Bao Jian)
Director – Christopher Sun, Screenplay/Producers – Stephen Shiu & Stephen Shiu Jr, Based on the Novel The Carnal Prayer Mat by Li Yu, Photography (3D) – Jimmy Wong, Visual Effects Supervisor – Darkus Yu, Art Direction – Tony Yu. Production Company – One Dollar Productions
Hiro Hayama (Wei Yangsheng), Tony Ho (Prince of Ning), Leni Lan (Tei Yuxiang), Vonnie Lui (Lee Chang Chan, The Elder of Bliss), Saori Hara (Ruizhu), Kirt Kishita (Quan Laoshi), Suou Yukiko (Dongmei), Mark Wu (Tiancan), Tenky Tai Man Tin (Dique), Wong Shu Tong (Abbott Budai), Carina Chen (Maid Xian Lan)
Wei Yangsheng accompanies his friend as he goes to court Tei Yuxiang as a potential bride. However, Yangsheng dazzles Yuxiang with a drawing he makes of her and proposes to her instead. After they marry, she remains sexually disappointed because Yangsheng does not take long in the bedroom. Yangsheng decides to leave Yuxiang and joins the Prince of Ning in his cliffside pavilion where the prince collects the rarest things in the world. There Yangsheng indulges himself among the prince’s many wives and learns much about pleasure. When one of the women refuses him because of his small penis size, Yangsheng decides to undergo an operation to receive a transplanted donkey penis. Yangsheng then becomes caught up in a convoluted revenge plot launched against him by the prince and in various conspiracies to overthrow the prince.
Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy is a revival of Hong Kong’s popular Sex and Zen franchise of the 1990s. The series began with Sex and Zen (1991), a delightful blend of erotica and comedy that was made with considerable style. This was followed by the far more raucous Sex & Zen II (1996), which blended the erotica of the first film into a madcap run through typical Hong Kong Wu Xia fantasy elements, and the subsequent non-fantastical Sex and Zen III (1998). The first film claims a basis in the erotic novel The Carnal Prayer Mat (1657) by Li Yu.
Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy proves to be less a fourth entry in the otherwise unconnected series than it is a loose remake of the original Sex and Zen. Or perhaps more so, it takes the basics of Sex and Zen – the plot involving the scholar who marries a woman, leaves her to pursue his quest for erotic fulfilment, is drawn into diverse adventures, including the comic scene where he has his small penis surgically replaced by one taken from a donkey, and eventually returns to realise his love for his wife. There are also a number of undeniable differences – the character of the Prince of Ning does not exist in the original, and there is no equivalent of all the plotting that takes place inside the prince’s pavilion (which takes up some two-thirds of the film here). Extreme Ecstasy also brings in far more in the way of the regular Hong Kong fantasy elements and fantastical action scenes/swordplay that entered the series with Sex & Zen II – notably incorporating the character of the gender-changing sorcerer who devours the essence of their lovers from that film.
The biggest selling point of Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy is that it comes in the current fad of 3D. It sells itself as the world’s first erotic film in 3D, although this is an untrue claim – such a distinction was held by The Stewardesses (1969). This does perhaps illustrate the principal difference between Sex and Zen and Extreme Ecstasy. Sex and Zen had a genuine erotica to it, yet managed to conduct a delicate balancing act of combining this with a comedy element. On the other hand, Extreme Ecstasy seems pitched down around the level of raucous farce and crude gimmickry. Sex and Zen held moments of genuine imagination – the calligraphy sequence in particular stands out in memory. At most, Extreme Ecstasy seems to work down at the level of a pair of breasts dangling out the screen at the audience. We never get an erect penis poking out at the audience, as I half expected the film would do, although we do get a scene where the severed donkey dick goes flying out of the screen.
In terms of erotica, Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy produces very little that stirs the blood. There are few of the imaginative erotic encounters of the first film – apart from a whacked out sequence with Tony Ho swinging in on a chain and grabbing Suou Yukiko for a vigorous mid-air humping. Most of the film seems crudely directed in its appeal to a coarse sense of humour, missing entirely the original’s delicate poetry. I even found the two leads in this film – Hiro Hayama and Leni Lan – far less appealing as characters than their counterparts in the original.