Sex comedies proliferated across international cinema throughout the Seventies. Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers studio were certainly no exception, producing the ribald likes of Sexy Girls of Denmark (1973), Girl with the Long Hair (1975) and this cheerfully amoral effort. Siao Wu (Tsung Hua) is a fast-talking scoundrel who ostensibly works as a salesman but has a knack for scamming cash from friends and co-workers and owes everyone in town. His sweet girlfriend Ming Li (Liu Wu-Chi) puts up with Siao even though he’s pursuing sultry Sally (Eva Lin) on the side. But Sally won’t put out unless men pay up. Siao hits on the scam of setting rich old men up with foxy young women, selling what he calls “Lover’s Lunch Lottery Tickets.”
Their first client is Siao’s boss, Mr. Chan (Wong Sam) who humps Sally to pounding prog rock till the camera cuts to a dripping tap accompanied by a “wah-wah-waaah” trumpet. Desperate for more, Chan buys all of Siao’s tickets. The sex lottery becomes a huge money-spinner allowing respectable, rich, married men to indulge weird fetishes, including one man (Law Hon) who likes to scrub girls with his toothbrush. Siao snags disco dolly Ling Ling (Got Dik-Waa) for the lusty Chan, then woos two British business clients by staging a girl-on-girl show. This lands Siao a promotion. It isn’t long before he lords it over his brother Siao Suen (Ricky Hui) and treats Ming Li like crap. He meets his match in the devastatingly sexy Irene (Betty Pei Ti), whose consummate skill in the boudoir earns Siao a tidy profit from which she bags a hefty $15,000 per client. Then it all falls apart when a misunderstanding puts chaste Ming Li in a compromising position with business tycoon, Old Lo (Goo Man-Chung).
The Sugar Daddies was an atypical venture for Sun Chung, one of Shaw’s most gifted filmmakers, better known for dark, stylish period thrillers like Avenging Eagle (1978) and Human Skin Lanterns (1982). A technically proficient director (he pioneered the use of steadycam in Hong Kong cinema), Chung’s skilful editing and lighting tricks lend a degree of style to the sex scenes and he kicks things off with an amazing black and white pop art montage of naked starlets set to a space age electronic score. He also wrote the screenplay but struggles to bring another dimension to the action beyond titillation.
The film cynically posits sex as just another saleable commodity in fast-living Hong Kong, but is tepid as satire and episodic. Amidst the fetching cast, Liu Wu-Chi had a “respectable” career including star turns in The 14 Amazons (1972) and Kidnap (1974) but was no stranger to Shaw Brothers’ sexploitation, having appeared in such films as Legends of Lust (1972) which also featured genre staple Tsung Hua. Sultry co-star Eva Lin was discovered singing English songs at a US Army Club and signed by a New York modelling agency. Upon her return to Hong Kong, Sugar Daddies launched her at Shaw Brothers and she went on to star in the studio’s Sex for Sale (1974), That’s Adultery (1975), The Sexy Killer (1976) and one of their more critically acclaimed sex movies, Young Lovers (1978). However, the biggest star here is undoubtedly Betty Pei Ti. Originally a singer in Taiwan, Betty had genuine acting talent to match her onscreen sensuality and was usually cast as the femme fatale in period martial arts films. She handled all the racy scenes in Chu Yuan movies like Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (1972) and after a run of quality movies throughout the Seventies, retired in 1981.
While most viewers will be longing to see the smug Siao and the unsavoury old men get their just desserts, the moralistic finale lays all the blame on the former and lets the aging adulterers off the hook rather lightly. Since when did dirty old men take the moral high ground?