Actor Lu Chi was a matinee idol at Shaw Brothers, who appeared in over sixty films before he switched to screenwriting and directing and became the studios’ go-to guy for erotic fare, with movies like Starlets for Sale (1977) and The Stud and the Nympho (1980). With Sexy Girls of Denmark, he concocts a bizarre hybrid of travelogue romance, softcore porn, family comedy and even musical numbers and a spot of kung fu. Yet it’s surprisingly insightful about differing Chinese and Western attitudes to sex.
Inside a high-rise plaza in Hong Kong, a group of respectable, elderly businessmen gather in secret to ogle an 8mm porno film. Marvelling at the outlandish sexual positions on display, avuncular Mr. Fung (Goo Man Chung) brags about all the girls he’ll bang during his forthcoming “business trip” to Denmark, unaware that his shrewish wife (Wang Lai) and lovely daughter Jingyi (Karen Yip Ling Chi) are listening outside. Mrs. Fung ensures it’s their naïve son, Kwok-Chuen (Tsung Hua) who takes the trip to Denmark, where two rival Danish agencies and a Chinese one headed by comely Yang Jiao-Jiao (Li Ching) are vying for a contract with the Fung firm.
Figuring that womanizing must run in the family, the Danish rivals each send a sexpot to seal the deal with the younger Fung, including foxy porn starlet Ann Charlotte (Birte Tove) and buxom Ule (Ule Yeson). Although the latter’s charms prove something of an acquired taste, Kwok-Chuen happily hops in the sack for loads of soft-focus love scenes with Ann. He teaches her some dirty words in Chinese and she leads him through the sexy tourist spots in Copenhagen. Back home, Kwok-Chuen’s decision to marry Ann goes down like a lead balloon, especially after Mr. Fung reveals her presence amidst his porno collection.
The family send Jingyi to talk big brother out of a big mistake. After dallying with some soapy Danish girls in a communal shower, Jiao-Jiao arrives to find Ann is happy leading a porn star life and doesn’t want to settle down. Dejected, Kwok-Chuen joins Hong Kong playboy Daniel (Lee Chun Kit) for a week of wild threesomes and one-night stands, but finds love again in nice girl, Yang Jiao-Jiao. Problems arise when Daniel arrives the morning after their drunken liaison and promptly socks Kwok-Chuen on the jaw. Turns out, Yang Jiao-Jiao is his sister…
Unfolding in English and Mandarin, with a kitsch soundtrack of Cantopop ballads, cheesy lounge music (including a sitar version of Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves”), and acid rock, this segues from bawdy sex comedy to photo-novella romance. Even though he faints or runs away from naked girls, every chick in Copenhagen finds Kwok-Chuen irresistible and the film includes genre staples like shower scenes, slapstick nudity and sexual embarrassment. Slow-dancing with yet another dishy Dane (to a cheesy Hammond organ version of Bread’s “I Want to Make It with You”), Kwok-Chuen suffers a comedy erection - complete with trombone sound effect.
Traditional Chinese values clash with the West’s newfound sexual freedom as Lu Chi satirises Hong Kong bourgeois values. Mr. Fung is happy to ogle Ann in porno movies, but balks at his son marrying “that kind of girl”, while sleazy Daniel boasts he “only messes around with foreigners”, never Chinese girls.
Like many Chinese exploitation movies, this offers a strange mix of the transgressive and the conservative. Things turn rather sour with Mrs. Fung’s explosive tirades against her “white daughter in-law”, and downright offensive when she claims to “hate the thought of a white baby calling me grandma”. Indeed, Mrs. Fung is such a joyless cow she even forcibly shaves off her eldest son’s trendy moustache, for fear it’ll disgrace the family. In suggesting Caucasian girls are an easy lay and perfect to fool around with so long as you bring a nice Chinese girl home to mother, the film regrettably reinforces Mrs. Fung’s values and never deals her the comeuppance she deserves.
And yet, Lu Chi does counterbalance her misanthropy with the two forthright female leads. This includes a disarmingly sweet performance from Shaw’s top Danish import: Birte Tove, who makes a feminist case for not wanting to be tied down, without coming across as callous. Meanwhile, feisty Jiao-Jiao proves Kwok-Chuen’s equal, as illustrated when Lu Chi cross-cuts their intercourse with a martial arts duel, featuring both stars in period costume! She proves remarkably understanding about his past flings and even invites Ann to their engagement party.
It’s actually somewhat strange to find top actress Li Ching in a sexploitation movie. Nicknamed “the Baby Queen” of Shaw Brothers, because she won a Best Actress award for The Mermaid (1964) at just seventeen, Li Ching graced countless classy martial arts epics like The 14 Amazons (1972) and headlined The Human Goddess (1971), which was the studio’s answer to Mary Poppins (1964). She doesn’t perform any explicit sex scenes, but close-ups reveal her very enthusiastically tongue-kissing startled co-star Tsung Hua. The little minx.