I wasn’t there when it happened, but I know that the first time that the people who paid for Dragon Pearl to be made saw the finished product, one of them stated what they all must have been thinking: “This really looked better in my head... especially the people.”
Since the video I watched had no subtitles, I proffer an admittedly inept plot summary for your enjoyment. The film follows a scholarly looking guy, a white haired, drunken guy and his servant, a constable, a mole man with inexplicably pointy facial hair, and a chick with her two maids as they wander about attacking each other and looking for a bad video effect called the dragon pearl. At least, that’s what I’m assuming, as the characters seem able to identify each other as they roam about the same couple of locations and occasionally copulate in them. Since I don’t really know anything about the plot, I can only surmise that it works in a manner similar to any other wuxia story -- where every member of the martial world knows everyone else and they all fight each other regardless of whether or not one is famed as the greatest sword fighter or dart thrower or whatever in ancient China.
The thing about most independently made Hong Kong films is that there’s very little information about them on the net, as is the case with Dragon Pearl. In spite of a mostly non-existent budget, this shot-on-video piece of crap tries for the same mix of mostly gentle sex scenes and supernatural wackiness that made Erotic Ghost Story (Lam Nai-Choi, 1990) and Yu Pui Tsuen (Ho Fan, 1986) successful after the introduction of the Category III rating. It isn’t as explicit as actual examples of Hong Kong made pornography. Thankfully, the people behind Dragon Pearl didn't think of shooting actual hardcore. They tried to make a movie like Sex and Zen or Erotic Ghost Story without having anywhere near the talent or attractive people.
It isn’t that the people involved are obscenely ugly; it’s just that they’re very ordinary. And if you haven’t learned it yet, allow me to assure you that unless you are startlingly beautiful, you do not look particularly good while having sex, much less pantomiming it with somebody for a paycheck. If everyone actually knew what they would look like having sex before they actually experienced it, human society would experience a healthy wave of guilty conscience that the Church could only dream of inducing. It would be as though the entire world had read a sex scene from a John Updike -- or better yet, Flannery O’Connor novel without the context and their name replacing that of both characters involved.
As for the movie itself, it doesn’t look much better than a typical Hong Kong television serial. Actually, it looks worse, because of unwanted nudity and none of the skilled screen fighting that was expertly staged in shows like “Reincarnated.” In fact, for every moment where the makers of Dragon Pearl successfully imitate their betters (mind you, I find it hard to believe I’m talking about Erotic Ghost Story as if it’s “better” than anything), they do something that’s either just incredibly boring or nauseatingly bad. I point out the slow motion fight scene, in which one actress attempts to move very slowly while the other guy just runs around her and acts annoying, all filmed in real time with a color-changing edge feather. Say what you will about their goals, but many Cat III films represent a tremendous amount of imagination and were made with real care and almost shocking amounts of money. By contrast, Dragon Pearl has a scene of two scrawny girls bathing in shallow water in which every badly composed shot is repeated for about eight minutes. It isn’t really weird enough to be funny, nor explicit enough for perverts to beat one off to. Troma has made more watchable fantasy/erotic/shot-on-video movies than this.
I read more than a few horror stories about Hong Kong produced porn on various forums, often in topics headed with something along the lines of, “what the hell did I just watch?” There’s one kung fu porno called Kung Fu Cockfighter, although I have not confirmed if that’s the actual title or just what some guy from “teh sc3n3” decided to call it, and another that was described as a hopping vampire porno. I’m not terribly interested in these; they are ugly curios often credited to early Hong Kong’s -- how shall we say -- laissez faire approach to entertainment, but some allege them to have been produced with either direct involvement or help from organized crime. It’s perfectly possible, although I think that organized crime in Hong Kong was more often responsible for “hardcore versions” of movies like Secret Rivals and (I hear) Seven Commandments of Kung Fu. Bits of information like that make me rather queasy about owning any of them, although I think it is fairly safe to assume that the films that were actually produced as pornography rather than kung fu movies spliced with random bits of naughtiness are commercial and not criminal products. Or maybe they are, since I was under the impression that it wasn't legal to produce hardcore pornography in Hong Kong.
It’s because there is so little information about these movies that I don’t mind writing a review of one of them, even if it is a far softer example than the others. Kung Fu Cockfighter has clips uploaded in various places on the internet, and if it’s the same movie that I read about on various forums, the hopping vampire pr0n is called Ghoul Sex Squad (Mah Wu Tu, supposedly 1991), and fairly well represented on the net. Google Dragon Pearl and you’ll be flooded with web sites about tea and otherkin. Consider this an attempt to preserve the memory of this film, and the shame that we should all feel for being of the same species as the people that produced it.
If there’s anything that I appreciate about Dragon Pearl, it’s that it isn’t as explicit as it could be. When it comes to a movie that’s only goal is to facilitate masturbation, that’s not good, and it really puts me off the idea of ever watching Ghoul Sex Squad or Kung Fu Cockfighter or who knows what other bizarre Hong Kong pornos that exist out there.