Blu-ray Review: China Girl

James Hong is a legend in acting. He’s been appearing in movies and TV shows since 1954. He appeared in everything on the dial over the decades including Bonanza, Gomer Pyle, Big Trouble In Little China and Ninja III: The Domination. He’s still going strong with his voice in the Kung Fu Panda movies and Mike Tyson Mysteries and all of his body in The Black List and Rush Hour. This is a career that any actor would dream of experience. He deserves a lifetime achievement Oscar and Emmy. He’s the second coming of Charles Lane. So why exactly in the middle of Hong’s career was he in an X-rated film? The finished version of China Girl is not a mere erotic tinged European import that used to play on Cinemax After Dark. Those films would star Adam West as the inept nerdy guy who never knew that Sylvia Kristel was liberating herself with every other character in fuzzy and discreet steamy scenes. China Girl held nothing back when it was released in 1974.

An evil crime syndicate has been flipping major scientists to work for their nefarious purposes. Teresa Hardgrave (The Grafenberg Spot‘s Annette Haven) is famous biochemist who is next on their list. She thinks she’s being protected by a government agent (Tom Douglass). But she ends up being kidnapped at a Chinese restaurant and taken to a secret location. Madame Woo (Pamela Yen) will break Teresa of her secrets using carnal torture. She has plenty of assistants to overwhelm the brainy girl’s erotic senses. There’s only a limited amount of time since Y.C. Chan (James Hong) is on the way. He’s fixing to use old fashioned torture to break Teresa. The scientist has to resist pleasure and hope her spy pal breaks the crime ring and rescues her before Chan’s extreme methods are applied.

You ever heard a reviewer question if a performer thought they were in a different film? Well it’s obvious on the days James Hong was around, this was a different film. His scenes in China Girl belong to a low budget spy film with all the production levels of a wannabe Man From U.N.C.L.E. Hong must have been led to believe it was an R-rated film. His scenes have a higher production value than the rest of the film. There must have been a touch of deception to keep their star out of the loop. Hong was just coming off a notable role in the Oscar nominated Chinatown. There’s no reason for him to end up in an X-rated film like the drummer from Happy Days or the kid from A Christmas Story. The producers must have met Hong’s day rate and made him think he had a meaty role with plenty of lines. He’s great in China Girl as the heartless enforcer for the evil organization. Hong stays fully dressed and doesn’t appear in any of the orgy scenes so nothing he did was shocking. Thankfully this role didn’t kill his career although it does qualify him for a lifetime achievement AVN award.

Towards the end of the ’80s, Hong would once more appear in another movie called China Girl. The Abel Ferrara flick remained an R-rated film from production to release.

The videos is 1.85 anamorphic. The transfer was mastered off 16mm camera negative. Hong looks great in his scenes. The audio is DTS-HD MA mono. The levels are fine for Hong’s threats of what his torture methods will involve.

DVD has all the features of the Blu-ray.

Audio interview with lead actress Annette Haven (43:44) has her cover her entire career. She’s interviewed by Kevin Heffernan. She mentions that she has an interest in biochemistry so she was familiar with the terms used by her character. She only had one scene with Hong so she’s not sure how he was lured onto the production. She mentions Pamela Yen acted in kid TV shows back in Hawaii.

Original theatrical trailer (2:16) doesn’t hold back letting audiences know it’s a crime thriller and a naughty flick.

Vinegar Syndrome presents China Girl. Directed by: Paul Aratow. Screenplay by: Edwin Brown. Starring: James Hong, Annette Haven, Pamela Yen and Tom Douglass. Running Time: 85 minutes. Rated: X. Released: February 28, 2017.

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