Madame Wang's (1981)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 6-Feb-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 95:53
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Paul Morrissey
First Independent
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Virginia Bruce
Patrick Schoene
Christina Indri
William Edgar
Susan Blond
Jimmy Madaus
John Parker
Paul Ambrose
Leroy Jones
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Peter D. Kaye

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This film, written and directed by Paul Morrissey, is very strange. It tells the story of a young East German who swims ashore on a US beach. Stripping down to his swimming costume, he uses a switchblade to mutilate his thigh, for no apparent reason. Wandering the streets, he falls in with a streetwalker and her gay pimp who is obsessed with doorknobs. The streetwalker's father is a fat transvestite who spends most of the time talking about junk food and the rest of the time tormenting his adolescent son. Our hero moves into an abandoned building full of strange characters.

    It turns out that the East German is in America to recruit Jane Fonda (who not surprisingly is not in the film) to aid the Communist revolution. Meanwhile, Madame Wang runs the only punk Chinese restaurant in town.

    Paul Morrissey came from the Andy Warhol stable. Originally hired as an assistant,  he graduated to directing Warhol's underground films when Warhol was seriously wounded by a disciple. Eventually he branched out on his own, directing a dismal version of The Hound of the Baskervilles with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Madame Wang's was his first film in three years. While the cover of this DVD says "Andy Warhol Presents", Warhol had nothing to do with this film, as he and Morrissey had parted company in 1975.

    Morrissey has taken a bunch of interesting ideas and put them all together in a stew that does not add up to the sum of its ingredients. It seems as if he was trying for shock value in order to create a cult film with a gay subtext. All he has succeeded in doing is making a dull and lifeless film with some obnoxious characters and no real interest. John Waters has done this sort of thing a lot better. An odd thing about Morrissey is that while a lot of his films centre around alternative and underground culture, he is apparently very conservative and a devout Catholic. If he is is trying to criticise the culture he portrays, it is not evident from the film.

    The acting in this film is very poor. The two leads are wooden to say the least, and the rest tend to overact. The direction is serviceable at best, and the script is somewhat pretentious and incoherent.

    Madame Wang is played by Virginia Bruce. According to every on-line film reference this is the same Virginia Bruce who was a Hollywood star during the 1930s. I am not so sure. This actress looks to be too tall, and there is little resemblance to the original Virginia Bruce, who died the year after this film was released, and had retired in the early 1960s.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video quality of this transfer is very poor.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. I have not been able to determine the original aspect ratio. There are no obvious signs of cropping, so I cannot be sure whether this is a pan and scan transfer or a full frame transfer.

    The video has the look of being transferred from an ex-rental VHS tape. There is considerable grain and noise throughout, so sharpness is reduced accordingly. Shadow detail is not very good, with some of the indoor footage looking quite dark. Colour, though, is not too bad. You can see through the haze that the source film material was in reasonable condition.

    It would not be fair to single out an incidence of aliasing, as every frame has some form of it. There is also a lot of edge enhancement. Film artefacts regularly appear in the form of white flecks, though these only occasionally approach snowstorm quantity. There are also a couple of minor video tracking errors, with short green horizontal lines appearing for a fraction of a second.

    This is a single layered disc and it has no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The single audio track is English Dolby Digital 1.0. The mono soundtrack comes up reasonably well. Dialogue is sometimes muffled and indistinct, but I suspect that this is present in the source material, as it varies during scenes when characters move about the set. Some of the indoors sequences in the hotel have considerable reverberation.

    The music score is credited to Peter D. Kaye, but all I noticed was some instrumental disco and old-time jazz music. If there was original music, it must have been very nondescript. There are several punk acts featured in the latter part of the film.

    No surround information is present on this disc, as you would expect.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    No extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as I can tell, this film has yet to be released in any other region. Apparently it is hard to obtain in any form in the US, a recent Morrissey retrospective failing to include this film. So Region 4 is the "winner" in this case.


    This is a very silly and dull film, presented with a poor video transfer. I could not encourage anyone to waste their money on this disc. The only reason I have not nominated this disc for the Hall of Shame is that although the problems with the video are highly annoying, the film is still watchable and the audio is adequate.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, March 01, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE