A hit-man, with a fetish for sniffing boiling rice, fumbles his latest job, putting him into conflict with his treacherous wife, with a mysterious woman eager for death and with the phantom-like hit-man known only as Number One.
First up, a disclaimer : The DVD I watched had only Chinese subtitles, so there are certainly details that I missed. That said, it is doubtful there was much in the way of subtle detail here. Hellish Love is perhaps a misleading English title, although several of the characters certainly were dispatched to hell. Allusions to a ghost bride or ghost lover get closer to the story.
Whatever you call it, Hellish Love was one among many Roman (short for 'romance' !) Poruno (soft-porn) being released from the mid-60s onward, and Nikkatsu made them by the truckload. Hellish Love has a number of sex scenes, but they are mechanical at best, with ridiculous levels of mugging as a substitute for passion.
On the plus side, the colour scheme is gorgeous, and the cinematography is excellent. The women are pleasing to the eye without quite being stunning.
The story starts on a grim note and stays there much of the time. A consumptive lady struggles to reach shelter in a rainstorm, where she is handed an umbrella by a kind itinerant scholar. And if you think this is starting to sound like Tsui Hark's brilliant Chinese Ghost Story trilogy, you'd be right - they both eventually trace back to the same Chinese folk tale. Precisely how and why they become lovers is not clear (lack of English subs is telling), but the lady seems to belong to a jealous and cruel man.
My impression is that she starts ill and either dies or is killed violently, rather than being a ghost all along, but it is giving away no secrets that she does ghostly stuff around the middle of the movie - walking through walls and vanishing in the fog after spending the evening with the scholar.
Though things are generally grim, there is a couple of servants whose main task is comic relief. When the wife is not dragging her man onto the bedroll, they goggle at the ghosts' antics and run away screaming.
My research indicates that Roman Porunos tended to be short. Hellish Love clocks in at just 67 minutes, yet it felt longer, even when I started fast-forwarding *through* the sex scenes.
There's no-one famous here, so interest only as a curiosity.
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