Bloody Parrot is not Shaw Brothers’ answer to a certain Monty Python sketch, but the name of a wish-granting supernatural being in this eerily atmospheric gross-out swordplay sex-horror movie. While searching for the Emperor’s stolen jewels, Chief of the Imperial Vault Guo Fan (Kwan Fung) encounters the titular demon and asks to be granted possession of the missing treasure. He gets his wish, but pays the price with the loss of his young son and is driven insane till his wife, Princess Hung (Kitty Meng Chui) stabs a sword in his back then kills herself.
Years later, every martial artist in the world is searching for the legendary lost treasure, while false rumours circulate that dashing swordsman Ye Ting Feng (Jason Pai Piao) knows of its whereabouts. Feng finds himself being pursued by an array of miscreants, including imperial detective Tie Hen the Merciless (Liu Yung) who succumbs to a supernatural attack from the Bloody Parrot itself and makes Feng promise he’ll solve the case. An autopsy on another victim of the demon uncovers a strange glowing red gem. Feng traces its origins to the Parrot Brothel and high class courtesan Xue Nu (Jenny Liang) whose luxurious boudoir is adorned with an erotic mural that seems to exert an unearthly influence on the beautiful, oft-bare-breasted maiden. It seems an unholy trinity, including crazy old witches Madame Li (Wong Mei-Mei) and Madame Song (Teresa Ha Ping) and a creepy hunchback, are intent on ensuring Xue Nu stays demonically possessed.
What the mind-boggling plot lacks in coherence it makes up for with consistently weird and spooky set-pieces. Cinematographer-turned-director Hua Shan was no stranger to outlandish fare, having helmed Shaw’s classic superhero flick Super Infra-Man (1975) though he would perhaps have rather been remembered for co-directing The Criminals (1976) and sequels Criminals Part Two: Homicides (1976) and Criminals Part Three: Arson! (1977), a series of critically-rated crime dramas drawn from real news headlines. Shan’s wild camerawork and breakneck editing imparts an otherworldly atmosphere and he ensures another brilliantly choreographed swordfight breaks out every five minutes. Heroic dollops of nudity and gore (including one seriously yucky autopsy scene and a corpse dissolved with acid in grisly close-up) compensate for the plot’s tendency to keep adding and dispatching characters, including Yeung Jing-Jing wasted in a tiny role as the fantastically named “Doll Face Killer Needle Lady Yu Hung”, who practices embroidery using human skin.
Shan amps up the sensuality that extends to plot points like the magic rock that bestows both immortality and sexual potency, luxurious sets decked out with illustrations from the karma sutra, and voluptuous Jenny Liang performing lengthy dialogue scenes in the buff. Liang debuted in the notorious Hong Kong Emmanuelle (1977) and quickly came to specialise in sexy, witchy roles. She scores points for a truly unsettling sequence wherein a magic pill transforms Xue Nu into a ranting blood demon who writhes hysterically, fondles her breasts then shoves the pill inside her… well, you know. She’s certainly game, though you can understand why Liang never became a legitimate film star and slowly retreated from the limelight.
Co-star Jason Pai Piao remains unflappable throughout. Pai Piao found stardom comparatively late in life when set beside his contemporaries, though by this stage he was one of the studio’s busiest actors and regularly churned out as many as five movies each year. That might explain why ostensible hero Ye Ting Feng is briefly written out of the story, as police inspector Lord Chang Xiao (Goo Goon-Chung) takes up the investigation. However, Chang does not fair nearly as well throughout the finale, which proves the delirious highpoint of the film, where Feng and Nu are trapped inside the villainess’ surreal lair and pursued by poison toads, cobras, demonic mirrors, a laser shooting statue and a crazy cannibal hermit. Quite why Xue Nu disrobes during the chase to run around stark naked, I’m not entirely sure…