If you were following me on Twitter on January 5th, you knew this was coming. This was the first thing I tweeted that morning: "Plan for today: watch five hours of Chinese softcore pornography for the future amusement of @MostlyFilm's readers. Wish me luck." Curiously, all the replies that sympathised with my plight came from women, while the only one that took the piss came from a man. (Yeah, @PastryThief, I'm looking at you.)
But it's true, that's exactly how I spent that particular Thursday: I watched two bits of old Chinese porn from my fuzzy collection of VHS tapes, and then one bit of new Chinese porn via the wonders of Virgin Media's FilmFlex service. It wasn't as entertaining a day as you might expect. For full details, you'll need to go to Europe's Best Website, which has today published a self-explanatory piece by me entitled Comin' At Ya! (A Brief History Of Sex & Zen).
Amazingly, despite its subject, the article is more or less safe for work. The rest of this page, though? Maybe not so much.
First up, the original Sex & Zen, released in 1991. This is definitely sourced from VHS, so it looks like crap. But what can you do? (Answer: buy the Blu-ray and grab the trailer from there. But that's not a valid answer in my book.)
Next is the 1995 sequel, Sex & Zen II, which for my money is the best one in the series. (And someone's obligingly done that Blu-ray thing I described earlier.)
Now for one which I mention in passing in the article, but haven't actually seen myself. Sex & Zen wasn't the first time that an attempt had been made at filming classic Chinese grumblebook The Carnal Praying Mat: it had been previously adapted as a pair of films in 1987, entitled Yu Pui Tsuen and Yu Pui Tsuen II. To cash in on the new franchise, Yu Pui Tsuen II was re-released in Hong Kong in 1996, but with the new title of Yu Pui Tsuen. Confused? It gets worse - the legendarily cheeky UK video label Eastern Heroes released Yu Pui Tsuen II under the title Sex & Zen: The Virgin Years, thus giving us a rare example of a film prequel made four years before the original. I think that this is the trailer for Yu Pui Tsuen II (aka Yu Pui Tsuen (aka Sex & Zen: The Virgin Years)), but I might be wrong.
In 1998, the team behind Sex & Zen II (notably producer Wong Jing) gave it another go with Sex & Zen III. Again, I haven't seen this one, so I can't vouch for if it's any good or not.
And finally, eleven years after the last one, the franchise gets rebooted with 3D Sex & Zen: Extreme Ecstasy, which is where we came in. The just-released UK DVD has converted the 3D for use with old-fashioned red and blue glasses: there were plans at one stage for a Blu-ray with proper polarised 3D, but those appear to have been quietly dropped. It can't be good for your eyes, either way...