CONTAINS SOME MAJOR SPOILERS AND BLIMEY, CHARLIE, DON'T POINT THAT THING AT ME, IT MIGHT GO OFF
So it's come to this. We've found the level at last. The pinnacle of three-dimensional cinema isn't the finely rendered world-building of Avatar, the giant robot smashy spectacle of Transformers 3 or the constant jabbing of sharp and pointy things in the likes of My Bloody Valentine. No, it's tits. Not only can you get a load of the norks on that, guvnor, you can practically reach out and touch them. Hurrah for technology. Previously, if you wanted to see a woman's rack in three dimensions, you needed access to an actual woman. However, the movie's not exclusively about tits. It's a completely unhinged sexual melodrama about orgies, androgynes, concubines, infidelity, rape, divorce, castration, chastity and penis transplants, cunningly designed as a searing emotional dissection of sexual inadequacy within the marital relationship.
3D Sex & Zen: Extreme Ecstasy concerns a young scholar, Wei Yangsheng (the names from the IMDb appear to be spelled differently in the film's subtitles) who cannot satisfy his beloved bride Tie Yuxiang due to a premature ejaculation and a half-inch knob. He attends the hedonistic anything-goes court of the evil Prince Of Ning in the hope of discovering better lovemaking techniques, and strikes a bargain with the Elder Of Bliss, a woman with a five-foot penis wrapped round her thigh and a disconcertingly deep voice (as if James Earl Jones had dubbed Princess Leia instead of Vader). S/he will teach him how to be a great lover - but first he needs a penis transplant performed by two comedy halfwits in a shack. But there's a darker side to things: in addition to Yangsheng's best friend's seething resentment at not marrying Yuxiang himself, the Prince Of Ning is seeking an elaborate and excessive vengeance against the hapless Yangsheng and the innocent Yuxiang, just because he once referred to the prince as a scumbag in a private conversation with a monk....
Much of it is rather fun in a revoltingly trashy bad taste kind of a way (particularly all the penis stuff - and there's a lot of penis stuff in the movie); you will certainly get your £6 worth, with naked girls writhing away throughout, and much in the way of terrifying overacting and maniacal "Bwahahaha!" cackling. And it's sumptuous to look at, set in the same traditional Old China as the bulk of all those Shaw Brothers movies but far more richly photographed. Sadly, the movie slips up considerably when it resorts to the more hideous sexual violence - two scenes have been cut or trimmed on the BBFC's instruction: to remove the non-consensual elements of the first and to defuse the eroticism of violent sex in the second. Frankly the cuts - even though they total nearly three minutes - don't harm the film and the points (such as they are) are still made clear in the narrative.
The CGI gore is pretty terrible and again makes you wish it was just done with prosthetics, and the subtitling shows the same gloriously shaky grasp of English that we enjoyed so much in the golden era of sub-John Woo heroic bloodshed movies. Sex & Zen: Extreme Ecstasy is rubbish, with a nonsense plot and an underlying message (true love doesn't require sex) that doesn't really sit well with the constant thrusting and moaning and boobs and huge knobs all over the place. As porn, it does gets slightly wearing after a while, to the point of "put them away, darling, I think we've seen enough for now". It's a mess, it's overblown, illogical and doesn't know when to stop, but I'd be lying if I claimed I didn't rather enjoy it as a mad melodrama.
Next year, in the privacy of your own home: